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How to Schedule Remote and Office Work

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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 .

Slash These 10 Work-From-Home Habits to Build Productivity

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work from home

Did you know that 16% of companies globally are fully-remote? Even if you aren’t a part of that percentage, there’s a good chance that you occasionally work from home. ‌After‌ ‌all,‌‌62% of employees between 22 and 65 say they work remotely ‌occasionally.

Although WFH can boost productivity and happiness, your habits will determine the success or failure of your ‌experience. ‌Because of this, remote workers need to be on the lookout for unhealthy, unproductive habits. And, more importantly, know which habits to replace them with.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 work-from-home habits you need to slash to build productivity.

1. Taking “flex time” too far.

Often, work-from-home jobs come with more freedom. ‌After‌ ‌all, there’s no set time to show up‌ ‌to work in many cases. ‌So, it’s certainly awesome to have this “flex time.” But you also don’t want to overdo it.

Two possibilities can sabotage your productivity in the absence of a schedule for your work hours.

The first is starting work too late in the day. This might not be a problem if you’re a night owl and working later anyway. But what if you’re a parent? Let’s say that you don’t get into work mode until 11 a.m., but have to get the kids at 2:30? That doesn’t give you much time to get as much done as you would like to — or need to get done.

Secondly, you can lose‌‌ ‌‌your‌‌r downtime ‌‌to‌‌ ‌‌overwork. ‌According to The Economist, people in April and May of 2020 reported working 30 minutes longer than they did from‌ ‌January‌ ‌through‌ ‌March‌ ‌of‌ ‌2019. Over the past few years, working after hours and on weekends has become more common. ‌In addition, those commuting minutes might‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌consumed‌ ‌by‌‌ ‌‌paperwork‌‌ ‌‌or‌‌ ‌‌video‌‌ ‌‌calls.

You need to set regular hours when working from home in either case. This will create consistency and a routine, but it will also help you establish boundaries.

2. Living a sedentary lifestyle.

Even before the pandemic, it was found that, on average, we sit daily for 7.7 hours. The problem has only gotten worse since the pandemic. ‌An Upright Pose survey of 2,000 remote and hybrid workers in the US found alarming ‌results.

  • Since working remotely, 60% of employees have reduced their mobility by over 50%.
  • Remote workers average 16 steps to their workstation from bed.
  • On‌ ‌a‌ ‌typical‌ ‌remote‌ ‌workday,‌ ‌one‌ ‌in‌ ‌three‌ ‌workers‌ ‌sits ‌in‌ ‌their‌ ‌work‌ ‌chairs‌ ‌the‌ ‌entire‌ ‌day, and‌ ‌63%‌ ‌walk‌ ‌only‌ ‌to‌ ‌use‌ ‌the‌ ‌bathroom‌ ‌or‌ ‌kitchen. ‌Additionally, 24% of remote workers never leave the house.
  • Despite the 8,000 steps per day recommended by health experts, nearly half of remote workers take fewer than 1,000 steps during work hours.
  • 50%‌ ‌of respondents report pain in the lower back, 48% in the shoulders, and 52% in the eyes.
  • Around 82% of workers under 35 reported experiencing a physical health issue for the first time over the past year, and 70% of them sought medical treatment.
  • 78%‌ ‌of respondents say they are concerned about the long-term health effects of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

How can you counter this sedentary lifestyle?

Well, the obvious answer is to be more active. “If possible, create a daily routine to become second nature, like brushing your teeth,” suggests Deanna Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief at Calendar. “For example, working out first thing in the morning or going for a long walk after lunch.”

Deanna also suggests the following:

  • Use a sit-stand desk.
  • Stand or walk during calls.
  • Set ‌alerts to remind you to stretch.
  • Make chores, like yard work or vacuuming, more intense by picking up‌ ‌the place.
  • Keep moving‌ ‌throughout‌ ‌the‌ ‌day. ‌You can, for‌ ‌example,‌ ‌do‌ ‌heal-raises‌ ‌or push-ups‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌counter‌ ‌while‌ ‌your‌ ‌morning‌ ‌coffee‌ ‌is‌ ‌brewing.

3. Choosing the wrong workspace.

The key to successfully working from home? First and foremost — choosing the right‌ ‌place‌ to work.

For example, you’ll want a quiet and more private space when taking calls or doing video conferences. If you don’t want to get distracted by others, find a room with a door. ‌Keeping it closed signals to others that you don’t want interruptions. ‌Consequently, you are more likely to go about your day as if you were at the‌ ‌office.

What if you don’t have a spare room for a home office? Could you convert another area in your home into an office? Perhaps the garage or basement would work for a cozy office spot? Do you have a yard to place a tiny house or insulated shed?

If not, there’s nothing wrong with working with what you’ve got—for instance, designating your kitchen table as your workplace during working hours.

Or, consider occasionally getting out of the office. For example, you might get more done if you set up shop in a cafe, library, or coworking space.

4. Multitasking.

Could you talk on your phone and fold laundry or walk the dog simultaneously? ‌Of course. ‌This is probably not a great idea when dealing with tasks like deep work, which are more challenging. ‌You’re in the minority even if you think you’re an expert. Only 2% of people are actually proficient at‌ ‌this.

So,‌ ‌instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌attempting‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌the‌ ‌impossible,‌ ‌‌‌commit to monotasking.

“We’ve been sold the myth that multitasking is a valuable skill, giving us the ability to get it all done – but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” explains business coach Ryan Jackson, author of The Success Rebellion.

“A more productive approach is to devote days or half-days to themes or closely related tasks,” ‌he‌ ‌says. “That way, it’s easier to knock jobs down one at a time, and even if you do get distracted, it’s quicker to pick up the thread again.”

5. Temptation to evade work.

HighSpeedInternet.com surveyed 1,000 Americans ages 18 and older who currently or have worked from home for its report titled Work From Home Wrap Up 2021: The Expected, the Bad, and the Naughty. And there were some interesting findings.

77% of respondents used their work computers to use social media and shop online during work‌ ‌hours. Over half said they played video games or streamed shows ‌instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌working.

Also, inevitable distractions easily lured most survey respondents ‌away‌ ‌from‌ ‌work. ‌When asked what types of distractions they encounter:

  • 29% ‌attributed it to food
  • 23% to entertainment
  • 19% to household tasks
  • 9% ‌to‌ ‌caring for‌ ‌family‌ ‌members‌ ‌or‌ ‌pets
  • 9% to miscellaneous activities
  • 6% to sleeping or staying in bed

Following are some specific types of distractions mentioned by respondents:

  • “I mine for crypto several times a day to give myself a break.”
  • “I eat and drink my fruit punch and play ‘Call of Duty.”
  • “Eating popcorn.”
  • “Wish to abolish capitalism.”
  • “I pretend I’m not home and don’t answer the call.”

It’s not easy to fight back against distractions. But when it’s time to focus on work, turn off your phone and even unplug your TV or gaming console. Also, schedule time to eat healthy meals and snacks, have downtime and attend to your pets and yourself.

6. Working from bed.

“Beds are designed to make you feel relaxed, supported, and ready for rest,” notes Drew Miller for Coworker. “They’re not designed for work or prolonged sitting up periods.” ‌As a result, working in bed may harm your health and well-being in unexpected ways, such as aches and pains. It can also interfere with your sleep.

Moreover, working from impairs your productivity. For example, you may get distracted by having the TV on in the background. Or, maybe, you’re just so comfy that you take an extended nap. And, you also don’t have easy access to the tools you need to get your work done.

In short, work anywhere else in your home except your bed.

7. No transition between work and home.

A commute home or a workout after work would signal the end of the workday — and it also signals the beginning of‌ ‌downtime‌ ‌at home. ‌Unfortunately, today, many people have no‌ ‌such transition‌. ‌That poses a challenge to maintaining your energy.

“Our commutes used to serve as a transition, and now that period of time has evaporated,” says Sarah Ohanesian of SO Productive, productivity coach, speaker, and trainer.

Again, creating a designated “work area” inside your house can also help you separate work from home life. ‌Will your home office resemble a traditional office? Probably not. But keeping all your necessary items in one spot can help you separate your workday from your personal‌ ‌life.

Additionally, you can establish after work transitions, such;

  • Setting up a wrap-up routine like reviewing your schedule for tomorrow or tidying up your workspace.
  • Turning off your work laptop.
  • Creating an evening intention.
  • Listening to a podcast.
  • Going for a walk or exercising.
  • Changing your clothes.
  • Cooking dinner.

8. Being uncalm.

The ongoing pandemic definitely has taken a toll on us. ‌Gallup’s 2021 State of the Workplace report found that 45% of people felt the pandemic significantly impacted their lives. ‌Additionally, 57% reported feeling stressed on a daily basis.

As a result, it’s essential to have some tools to help cope with ‌stress. Examples include deep breathing a few times a day, calling a friend, laughing, or working out. ‌Chronic stress can cause burnout and many health problems.

Observe any tightening of the shoulders or a raised heart rate. And, if possible, relieve‌ ‌the‌ ‌stress. For me, that’s making self-care a priority by scheduling it in my calendar.

9. Poor personal hygiene.

“Remote work offers you flexibility, but some people carry it too far,” says Vartika Kashyap, Chief Marketing [email protected] “Working in pajamas all day long, for example, does no good for your productivity or morale.” Moreover, when sitting continuously for hours, it’s not unusual for remote workers to neglect their personal hygiene.

“You may not realize, but there is a strong connection between what you wear and your mood,” adds Vartika. ‌For example, if you work without taking a bath or wear wrinkled clothes, you feel lousy, unorganized, and unkempt.

How can you slash this unhealthy habit? It’s pretty obvious.

Wake up early, shave regularly, take a bath before you start to work, and put your neatly ironed workwear on,” she recommends. “You will see how it makes a world of difference to your overall mood.”

10‌. ‌Failure‌ ‌to‌ ‌detach‌ ‌and‌ ‌disengage.

If you disconnect from work and ignore the emails in your inbox until tomorrow or later, you will grow as a person and be a better employee. Here is a fascinating study from‌ ‌the Journal‌ ‌of‌ ‌Experimental‌ ‌Social Psychology. The findings suggest that people who can’t stop feeling like they’re being lazy and unproductive while relaxing tend to feel less happy and more anxious, stressed, and depressed.

In other words, leisure and relaxation should not be considered‌‌ ‌‌a‌ ‌waste‌‌ ‌‌of‌‌ ‌‌time. Make sure to take frequent breaks throughout the day to catch your breath. You also should block out your calendar for non-work activities, like yoga or dinner with friends.

And I would also strongly advise establishing “tech-free” zones in your home. Examples could be the dining room or bedroom. These areas should be reserved for undisturbed meals or rest.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thanks!

Slash These 10 Work-From-Home Habits to Build Productivity was originally published on Calendar by John Hall

5 Ways to Measure Remote Employee Productivity

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remote employee productivity

There are countless statistics claiming that remote employee productivity is greater than its in-office alternative. For example, one study published not long into the pandemic claimed as much as a 47% increase in productivity thanks to remote work.

The question is, how do you know that your team has increased their productivity by half? How can you measure the effectiveness of a remote team — at least, how can you do so without becoming an invasive, micromanaging boss?

If you’re interested in monitoring your team’s productivity without compromising their independence and empowerment, here are some tips to help you out.

1. Set Clear Expectations

Expectations are key. If you don’t know what you’re expecting, you can’t judge if something is productive. In a workspace as asynchronous as remote work, personal interactions are few and far between. In that setting, expectations take the place of overseeing an in-office workforce.

Even when you’re operating in person, it’s essential that you communicate how you expect a project or activity to go. If you’re in the same physical space, though, you have the opportunity to update, add to, and even tweak expectations as you go along.

When your workers are laboring in isolation, they often complete a project — or at least put significant effort into it — before their productivity is ever considered. As global HR solution Remote points out, clear, detailed expectations set from the beginning of a project are necessary when managing remote teams. It ensures that everyone starts on the same page and is oriented toward the same end goal.

2. Utilize OKRs

There are many ways to break down expectations. Standard options include setting clear objectives and utilizing KPIs (key performance indicators) to make productivity measurable.

However, one of the best productivity measurement tools out there is OKRs. OKRs (which stand for “objectives and key results”) is a goal-setting methodology that approaches productivity from a holistic perspective. Rather than just saying, “There’s the finish line. Find a way to get there!” OKRs consider both the final objective that you’re working toward and the critical results required to accomplish it. In essence, this brings both goals and milestones together into one shiny package.

OKRs are powerful productivity motivators. They tie goals to day-to-day work and make it much easier to evaluate if work is getting done. For example, if you just set a goal, you may have to wait days or even weeks to see if an employee has accomplished that task on time. With OKRs, you can measure results as you go along.

3. Track Outcomes

It’s tempting to value time over output. That is always a bad idea when remote work is involved. Even if you ask your employees to report time spent working “on the honor system,” you still don’t know what that time looks like. Instead, focus on the deliverables that come from your employees’ overtime.

Every project has deliverables. Those might be a clear, defined item, such as a piece of content or a prototype of a new piece of hardware. However, it could also come from the work process itself. For instance, if you train someone for a position, the deliverable manifests through the learning experience.

Regardless of the project at hand, it’s important to identify the deliverables involved. This gives you an objective way to measure the success or failure of something. For example, you can consider the outcome of an employee’s work, compare it to the expectation (which should be clearly defined), and then decide if they are productive.

4. Use Employee Feedback

Internal feedback is an invaluable resource. Whether it’s recurring questionnaires, real-time opinions, or exit interviews, receiving input from your team can be a powerful refining tool.

It can also indirectly help with tracking productivity, as well. Have your employees fill out surveys asking for honest, anonymous feedback about their coworkers from time to time. This isn’t an opportunity for employees to snitch on one another. On the contrary, make sure to provide questions that don’t evoke charged responses.

For instance, don’t include a question like “Is employee X productive?” Instead, try phrasing the inquiry, “What are one strength and one weakness of employee X?”

This won’t give you a direct way to measure productivity. Nevertheless, it can yield valuable insight into each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, including how productive they are as seen by their coworkers.

5. Ask for Asynchronous Updates

Finally, You can also ask employees to track their own productivity when they’re on their own. Again, never underestimate the power of talking to your employees directly. As you define objectives and OKRs, ask your team to measure how they’re doing every few days or at the end of the week.

Of course, they aren’t machines that will objectively assess their own productivity, but posing the question can lead to insightful conversations. Even if this leads to biased data, it can have a much more powerful indirect impact on productivity.

Asking your staff to evaluate their own output regularly forces them to remain aware of themselves. This can help them stay motivated and focused on KPIs, OKRs, milestones, and whatever other measurable objectives you might use.

It can be an empowering activity when you engage in regular conversations with each employee to assess their effectiveness together. You’re turning the “gotcha” element of the productivity question into a positive, joint endeavor. You’re inviting them into the process of helping them be more productive. But, of course, having open and honest discussions about productivity is easier if you have measurable OKRs and clear expectations in place.

Remote work is here to stay. This makes it imperative to find ways to measure remote employee productivity without overstepping as a manager. Remember, micromanaging often tends to do more harm than good.

Instead, use the tips above to quietly assess your team’s productivity over time. That way, you can identify areas that need to be addressed without squelching existing productivity through an overly hands-on approach.

Image Credit: Ivan Samkov; Pexels; Thank you!

5 Ways to Measure Remote Employee Productivity was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller

How Remote Work Is Changing How We Think About Productivity

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How Remote Work Changing How We Think About Productivity

It has been over two years since we first learned about COVID-19. There are a lot of things we will remember about those first months of the pandemic. The weird Netflix specials we binge-watched and the toilet paper we panic-bought are burned into our memories.

However, one of the most impactful things to come out of the pandemic isn’t our collection of homesewn masks or the rush of curbside pickup services extended by local businesses. What will continue to live on long after COVID-19 is remote work.

In order to keep businesses running and incomes alive, numerous companies experimented with having their employees work from home rather than in the office. This experiment ended up being incredibly successful and is a trend that many workers want to continue. Here are just some of the reasons why many are fighting to retain remote work and what we’ve learned from the experience thus far.

Happier Employees Work Harder

One of the most important points to touch on when talking about remote work is employee well-being. Simply put, working from home makes it a lot easier for workers to maintain a proper life balance. Taking away the commutes and morning prep times allows employees to spend more time with family, pursuing hobbies, or even getting the rest they need to clock in again the next day.

Happier employees tend to work harder. A positive attitude makes it easier to put your nose to the grindstone. In addition, employees who are pleased with their company’s work conditions will be more likely to give their all to the organization that has made this balance possible.

A study of employees who moved to remote work during the first six months of the pandemic showed that productivity was up considerably when compared to the same time period the year before. This came during one of the most stressful and uncertain times in modern U.S. history, so you can only imagine how beneficial remote work can be now that stability is returning somewhat.

Less Is Sometimes More

To grasp the full impact of remote work, let’s turn our focus away from the employees themselves for a moment. Productivity is part of cost management. Every task, product, and project comes with attendant costs. A productive workplace is also an efficient one, and remote work enables that more than nearly anything else.

For starters, companies can spend a lot less on daily expenses when employees work from home. Utility bills are lowered, less paper is consumed, and expensive office spaces with large floor plans are no longer necessary. Even if your employees are only working at 90% capacity in a remote setting, the significant savings you can get from making the move might be worth that and more.

With lower overhead costs, your company can sustain the same bottom line even if it brings in fewer sales or produces fewer deliverables. Yet if you work on keeping your remote workers motivated and productive, which is entirely doable, you’re likely to maintain — or even exceed — previous revenue numbers.

Convenience Is King

Another example of how less can sometimes be more is in the simple convenience of working from home. Employees often feel more comfortable working in their own space, which leads to higher productivity. A Stanford study estimated a 13% increase in productivity for remote workers when compared to productivity in the office.

A quieter, more familiar atmosphere and the ability to continue getting work done when feeling too sick to show up at the office are some of the biggest reasons for the productivity boost. It’s also nice not having to wear dress pants to every meeting and having easy access to the kitchen whenever you want a drink or snack.

Companies around the world spend billions of dollars trying to create ideal workspaces for their employees to get them excited about coming into the office to work. Even if you have a state-of-the-art coffee machine and an expansive lounge, oftentimes the same results can be replicated simply by letting employees work in their own homes.

KPIs Don’t Have to Be So Rigid

Most organizations use a collection of key performance indicators, or KPIs, to measure employee productivity. Unfortunately, many of these KPIs are a bit outdated. The shift to remote work is an opportunity to reevaluate the metrics you track in an effort to improve organizational productivity.

For example, many establishments rate their employees based on how punctual they are for shifts and how much overtime they are willing to put in. While these certainly can be signs of a good employee, they often miss the bigger picture. With remote work, time logged can be much less relevant, so measuring other KPIs will give you a better look into how your team is performing.

Instead of monitoring how much time your employees are sitting in front of a computer, track how many tasks they’ve completed or sales they’ve closed. If they’re accomplishing their regular workload and more, does it really matter when they started work or how many hours they clocked in?

Remote work certainly isn’t for everyone. Some people thrive in an office space, but many others are benefiting from remote work and the productivity boost it has delivered. Modern businesses should seriously consider remote work or hybrid work options for their teams. These flexible arrangements are likely to produce happier employees who work harder and stick around longer.

Image Credit: Ivan Samkov; Pexels; Thank you!

Ways to Have Some Fun While in Virtual Meetings

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Ways to Have Fun Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings have become a weekly or even daily affair for many professionals as firms have transitioned to entirely or partly remote work arrangements in the past several years. These hybrid virtual meetings bother some employees, but you may as well lighten up and have some fun. You can remain professional while you have fun in a virtual meeting.

While virtual meetings are a crucial method to keep communication lines open, they may be difficult for people who are not used to appearing and speaking on video. Furthermore, everything from technical difficulties to the increasing problem of “reading the room” can lead to stiffness and formality in proceedings — making it difficult to inject the personal interactions and “little bit of fun” that make in-person meetings so beneficial for relationship-building.

Remote meetings can be made less formal and more engaging for attendees using the following components. The most essential element of our meetings is not to get to business and not waste time — so keep that fact in mind as you plan to lighten the mood of virtual meetings. Try a few different variations of the themes below and find the best fit for your team.

1. Begin with some one-on-one conversation.

One firm decided to make it a practice to begin each meeting with some personal banter — meaning, nothing work-related. Not having continual work topics at the beginning of the meetings helps employees unwind, share an intriguing anecdote or two, and maybe even chuckle. Casual conversation is stimulating and refreshing and it helps attendees to slip in a few minutes of humanity before getting down to business. Touching base as humans, and not simply coworkers will bring warmth to virtual meetings.

2. Post photographs that are irrelevant to your job.

Request that team members contribute a non-work-related picture. Whether it’s a photo of a pastime, family, or pet, it helps team members to see another side of their colleagues’ personalities. Indeed, it may help each person relate to and understand each other better. Showing a photo will also create a comfortable environment for team members to be open and honest since they choose what to share. Transparency, in turn, aids in the development of connections.

When you first start showing photos you will notice that are bland. With the continual practice of showing photos, your employees will warm up to you and each other, and you will notice a change in the nature of the photos.

3. Show off your pets.

Do you have a lot of pet owners in your workplace? When you host a meeting in the future, start by having everyone introduce their furry companions. It’s a terrific way to bond with your team, and it always results in a grin. We’ve always had the ability to bring our pets to work in the office — and a photo of the furry friends brings back these memories and good times.

4. Pose a virtual meeting “connection inquiry.”

Before the meeting, connect with individuals by asking “connection questions” that bring everyone together. Ask everyone to tell a story around a common theme (give them a time limit). People like talking about themselves and sharing information about themselves.

5. Honor birthdays.

One office manager noted, “We celebrate one other’s birthdays by sending something special (usually food-related) on that day or week of the birthday — and having a sing-a-long song. It is consistently well-received. We spend the remainder of the catch-up time talking about things other than work, which is refreshing and vital.                             

After your sing-along and chat, you can dive into work information and topics.

6. Experiment with different backgrounds.

Getting creative with your video backdrop is one way to add extra fun and boost relationship-building in virtual meetings. A new subject for each meeting, such as a favorite location visited or a bucket list trip destination may help break up the monotony of the day. Indeed, act as a meeting icebreaker, and allow for more in-depth relationships among team members. These change-ups don’t have to take a ton of time.

7. Play around with virtual reality.

Another office manager said, “We experimented with virtual reality, and the results were unexpected. We had meetings, played games, and even attended Virtual Burning Man as a group. The experiences of being in the same place are pretty effective in forming relationships. This is subconscious and highly ancient: but it means we belong to the same tribe.”

8. Hold virtual meetings coffee and lunch get-togethers.

Virtual coffee or lunch meetings with two to four team members may benefit relationship development. Center the plan on connecting rather than addressing work matters. These ties often result in better professional partnerships. Do you allow anyone on your team to do virtual meetings invites? For casual get-togethers — consider allowing others on the team to be the host.

9. Include a ‘human’ aspect.

Adding a “human” factor to virtual meetings is one approach to make them more enjoyable. You can hold video meetings at workers’ homes. Moreover, this is something that is physically left behind while working from the office. Use meetings hosted at individual team member homes to your advantage by asking “about me” questions. Or you could engage in scavenger hunts. Indeed come up with other innovative methods to engage people. It’s the small things that count.

10. Hold competitions and happy hours.

Make meetings more enjoyable by hosting virtual happy hours or competitions, such as “Best Zoom Background” or “Best Home Office.” The distinction between home and workplace has blurred, so have fun with it. During Zoom meetings, we get to meet family members and pets. We’ve moved the office into the houses where we live. Working connections have grown more casual as a result of this new phenomenon. On a personal level, people have reported that they are feeling more connected.

11. Assign various team members to serve as virtual meeting hosts.

Building camaraderie isn’t intricate in theory, but it does need work. Try having various members of your team host. This encourages involvement and introduces fresh ideas to the discussion. Utilize internet games on occasion. Encourage members to give each other informal acknowledgment at the start or finish of each meeting. Most importantly, don’t take anything too seriously. It’s simply a gathering. And sometimes, as a leader — you should let your team have meetings without you.

12. Allow everyone a turn in the spotlight.

When there are a lot of workers in the virtual meetings, strive to close the sessions with activities that give each employee a chance to shine. One amusing example is ending meetings with newborn images of staff. Indeed, asking everyone to vote on who that baby grew up to be.

Image Credit: Ivan Samkov; Pexels; Thank you!

Ways to Have Some Fun While in Virtual Meetings was originally published on Calendar by Hunter Meine.

Did We Forget to Give Teams a Remote Working Playbook?

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Did We Forget Give Teams Remote Working Playbook

Imagine you’re a new employee at a time when many people are starting their careers remotely. Where is the remote work playbook? Are employees ready for remote work routines? How do they feel about their remote working routines?

Maybe you felt a little uneasy and didn’t know how to blend in when you started your first job. Perhaps you didn’t know who to ask questions from or seek support — or even how or what to ask, in the first place? After a while, you gained a feel for how things operated in the business you were in and whom you could turn to ask questions within the organization.

Where is the Teams Remote Working Playbook?

Imagine you’re a new employee at a time when many people are starting their careers remotely. Your first coding, writing, or new internship is your job. How do you handle your schedule with college, study, and work? Who’s going to help you navigate this new form of time management? Hopefully, if you are an employer, parent, or mentor you will know how-to guide this new person.

But as a young new employee — how will you understand office culture if you’d never worked?

Interpersonal issues

It’s difficult for first-time remote workers to stay motivated, especially if their boss only occasionally calls but rarely meets them. Their superiors and coworkers aren’t as accessible as they would be if you were in the office each day — or if you had had a relationship in the past (before COVID) as a full-time employee.

Finding the knowledge these new workers need will take more effort and time than has previously been addressed.

Many firm policies, procedures, and onboarding programs provide guidance but lack cultural awareness. New remote employees may be overwhelmed and have questions, but are hesitant to ask. New employees and their employers often believe an individual should resolve matters independently and avoid drawing attention to themselves. Some businesses don’t realize that everything has changed over the last couple of years and new protocols need to be in place.

Changing channels to remote work

Managers should explore daily check-ins with remote new employees.

An onslaught of messages and responsibilities throughout the day may not offer a new hire a sense of belonging. Consider combining emails, phone conversations, video meetings, and online collaboration portals.

Encourage questions and use blunders as learning opportunities. Consider providing a “virtual buddy” who will furnish informal support to your new team member along with virtual coaching. Always think about the career growth of your new employee — and specify possible career routes and milestones. Teaching a career path and the acquired learning helps the new team member feel a ray of hope.

Prescribe working part-time at the office or on the job site if your less experienced employees can accommodate the schedule. One-third of workers aged 18-24 preferred working offsite only one day a week, according to PwC, and only a fifth of those polled agreed.

Onboarding and rapport development are great — but organizational knowledge is likely best shared by more senior teams.

Working it with remote work

As an example, consider the case of Emily who started as an IT apprentice for an international horticultural company during the pandemic. She initially shadowed her mentor online and his calls and team meetings helped her master IT troubleshooting. She spent a few days in the office before Covid-19 forced its closure.

Emily admits she was initially intimidated. “I was afraid I’d make a mistake or remove a file from the company but my team is fantastic. If I have questions, I can easily reach someone remotely.”

Within four months, she was working solo, more confident, and well-versed in the process of helping staff with IT challenges. Emily excels in her work due to her management and team’s support, continual IT studies, and her personal drive to grow.

But this type of achievement may not be shared by others who work remotely for the first time.

Perceptions and Health with remote work

During Covid-19, researchers studied teleworking to see how it influenced employees’ job performance, job happiness, and physical and mental health. The researchers found exciting data. You can find their comments in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The research plan Implementation was thorough. The main thing that the subjects said helped them to adjust to their new work schedule was how widely people embraced them. Remote work isolation and conflicts with family and work commitments were the main issues that stopped the new team members’ growth and adaptation.

Those new employees who were the best at adjusting were the ones who had prior remote working experience and thus expertise. Those who were starting their first full-time job and had never worked remotely were not as successful.

Recommendations for making remote work less stressful for new hires: Improve teamwork by teaching everyone at the same level and the same time — and supply a mentor.

Helps for the new employee for remote work — especially if they are young

Discuss communication with all coworkers and superiors together. Teach employees how to use databases to manage tasks and address fundamental IT issues.

Include remote workers in the creation of remote work schedules and the schedules of the in-office staff — review remote work initiatives and have your onboarding team help.

Look for “charge agents’” who will mentor and coach new remote workers. Collaborate with other organizations in your network or sector to share best practices.

In terms of mentorship, the trend toward virtual will likely continue even after all employees return to the office. Virtual mentoring can help employees feel valued, acknowledged, and empowered to perform at their best. Some of the practices of the past for office protocol will never be the same again — so get used to and encourage innovation in your teams.

Making your work programs accessible requires learning communities, communities of practice, and staff resource groups. To provide these services remotely was practically unheard of in the past and has been a challenge. But these practices are becoming normalized in many businesses and institutions since the pandemic.

Rewards and recognition in remote work

Consider rewarding and recognizing remote workers who show initiative and inventiveness. Also, explicitly nurture soft skills in new hires by understanding the need for human interaction to develop these talents.

Giving a new employee some early wins can help develop confidence. Let them co-chair a meeting or deliver a topic of interest to the company. Any leadership opportunities you provide will begin to build trust and credibility among the new employees’ peers.

As you work with your new employee or team member — especially if they are at university, or part-time — your scheduling conflicts will become much less common.

Your current new employees will help you rewrite the playbook for your future remote employees.

Take the awkwardness out of the scenario by using Covid-19’s two years of experience to greet new employees from anywhere — and help them become creative and productive.

Did We Forget to Give Teams a Remote Working Playbook? was originally published on Calendar by Max Palmer.

Image Credit: Olia Danilevich; Pexels; Thank you!

 

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.

Scheduling Self Care When Working From Home

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Scheduling Self Care When Working From Home

Even though many people have already been working from home since before the pandemic began, these past two years have increased the need for remote and flexible work. Gallup’s May 2021 study says that 7 in 10 U.S white-collar workers are still working remotely. In that same study, it was concluded that 4 in 10 white-collar employees prefer the option of working remotely. As remote working numbers increase, the habit of scheduling self-care becomes more and more crucial.

Mental health is a big part of that because working from home can bring a lack of socialization that most people had previously to our words being turned upside down in early 2020. Working from home may seem like it’s better for your work-life balance on the surface. However, it can also blur the lines of work and personal time way to easily.

If you still want to prioritize yourself while working from home, here are some top tips for scheduling self-care.

Commit to a Schedule That Honors Self-Care

Scheduling self-care all starts with creating a daily routine and calendar that leaves room for prioritizing yourself. Create your ideal daily schedule including time you spend working and having meetings, along with time spent on household tasks. Then, be sure to work in breaks and room for self-care as needed.

Define what self-care means to you and add it to your daily calendar so you’re never lacking it. When you work from home, staying active and healthy can easily be scheduled around meetings throughout the day especially if you are in control of what goes on your calendar. Some assignments can be mentally tasking so instead of jumping right to the next task getting a walk around your neighborhood or other exercises in can be great for both you and the next coworker or client you interact with.

Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

A healthy breakfast has been recommended ever since many of us were young and in school. Don’t turn away from this principle now that you’re an adult and working from home. Eating a healthy breakfast is one of the best ways to replenish your body after receiving 8 hours of sleep.

Better Health calls breakfast the most important meal of the day. It replenishes your glucose to help boost your energy and alertness. According to WebMD many studies have pointed eating a healthy breakfast to better memory and concentration which are key ingredients to a successful workday. They also mention the low blood sugar in your body when you wake up and how important breakfast is to replenish it. Some of those items that give you those essential vitamins and nutrients are grains, dairy, and fruits.

Get Up Early

Getting up early could be your ticket to a productive day. Scheduling self-care can be as simple as making sure you get 8 hours of sleep each night. Your body needs time to rest and recover from all you do each day. The key is to make sure you get to bed around 8 hours before you plan to wake up.

Setting yourself up to wake up earlier will also give you more opportunities to practice self-care and adopt a better routine. You could work in 30 minutes of exercise or 10 minutes of meditation which can go a long way in helping keep you focused and feeling great throughout the workday. Or, you could journal, read, or do something that fills your cup during the day. These tasks are just a few of the many that you can use to shift your mindset before starting work or even throughout the day as you schedule self-care.

Schedule a Hard Stop Each Day

Starting your day on the right foot is important, but so is ending it as well. I have heard of plenty of stories when people are noticing work emails come in and out late into the night. It doesn’t have to be like that. Don’t put your brain through that. Find a time that you want to call it quits for the day and make that happen. It’s easy to want to work all hours of the day if you work from home. That’s not something you did when you worked in the office though.

You may not be able to actually ‘clock out’ and head home as you finish your workday. However, you can schedule a time when you can turn off your notifications until the next workday. Those emails and calls can be a distraction that isn’t healthy. We shouldn’t have to worry about work every minute of the day. Working from home should also include taking time for you and your families.

Be Intentional About Rest and Play

Take advantage of the opportunity to work from home. If your schedule allows, get a change of scenery and work from a coffee shop one day. A different place to work might give you just the boost you need to get a big project or task done.

Sometimes, being at home can be a distraction so getting out to somewhere that can help you be more productive can make both your boss and clients happier. Get out and spend time with friends and family for lunch. What better way to promote self-care and socializing than getting together with loved ones?

Create your schedule so you have time to do something relaxing like go get a massage or attend group class and interact with others. People who work during the day don’t have this opportunity so you might get lucky enough to schedule self-care that would be more challenging to obtain if you worked a 9 to 5 job in the office.

Plan to Get Dressed for the Day

Getting out of your pajamas and into clothes for the day can help signal that it’s time to get into work mode. This is part of your morning routine that doesn’t have to change. Getting cleaned up and putting on a new set of clothes can be the simplest but also very effective way to practice self-care. It can act as a mental shift that it’s time to get serious and start getting work done.

Be sure to simplify and plan out what you’ll wear each week in advance. That way, you can get dressed each day with ease while working from home.

Summary

Working from home is the norm for many across the nation. While working from home can seem flexible and freeing on the surface, it can also add to your stress levels and deter your self-care efforts. The best way to combat this is to prioritize scheduling self-care.

Set self-care goals, and prioritize your schedule. Make the boundaries clear early on and get a schedule in place so you’re not working up until bedtime. These tips along with the many others we mentioned will play a big part in making sure your self-care is included in your workday.

How to Prep Your Home Office This Summer for a Productive 2022

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How to Prep Your Home Office This Summer for a Productive 2022

Home offices saw a lot of use over the past year and a half. This is thanks in large part to the wave of remote workers who settled in at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Working from home kept individuals and families safe from the spread of the virus while still enabling them to get their jobs done.

Since restrictions have been lifted, numerous workers have opted to keep working remotely at least part of the time. Being closer to family, enjoying greater flexibility, and avoiding tedious commutes are some of the many reasons why more people are choosing to stay home. The rise of hybrid work — toiling at home some days and in the office on others — is an interesting trend to follow.

If hybrid work is calling to you, you’ll have some preparations to make. Your home office will be glad that you’re still putting it to use, but there are a few alterations you can make this summer to prepare for a brand-new year of work in 2022:

Deep Clean

When your home office becomes a part-time arrangement, the last thing you want to do is have to tidy it up on the days you work remotely. Since summer is usually more flexible, use the time you have to deep clean your home office so that it’s spotless and orderly for the winter months. As you settle into a hybrid schedule, you won’t have to worry about your office not being ready for use.

In addition to giving the physical space a deep clean, the computer system you use to stay connected with work could also use a reboot. Clear your computer of unused data or documents that might be slowing it down or taking up space. Cancel any software subscriptions that you’re no longer using or will no longer need as you transition away from full-time remote work. 

Optimize Your Efficiency

After you’ve handled the tangible aspects of your home office, it’s time to work out the kinks in your system of operations. Quarantine habits aren’t always the greatest, and there are probably a few things about your home office that should be changed to ensure maximum productivity.

While sheltering in place, you might have gotten too accustomed to the flexibility of schedule you were able to enjoy. Clients, customers, and co-workers could call or message whenever because they could largely count on you being at home. Now that life and work are reverting back to normal, this won’t always be the case.

In this situation, you would benefit greatly from implementing appointment software into your system of operations. Use scheduling links and an online calendar to book meetings and phone calls so that your new hybrid schedule doesn’t get tangled up. Look for other tools to help improve your efficiency as well as productivity hacks that will make your hybrid work setup run smoothly. 

Enable Easy Transitioning

During the long months of lockdown during the pandemic, workers settled into their home offices and got comfortable. Now many companies are expecting their employees to show up at least a few times a week to the main office. If you fall into this hybrid category, you’ll fare much better by arranging your home office for easy transitioning. 

Start by determining how many things you need to take from home to your work location. If all you need to transfer is your laptop, this will be easy. However, if you have other materials and paperwork that need to be moved back and forth, you’ll need to be better organized.

For example, you can implement a filing system that allows you to quickly withdraw any needed paperwork from a folder or cabinet to take to the office. You won’t have to go hunting it down, and a neat folder can be easily slid into a backpack or briefcase. Keeping your favorite writing materials or other office supplies in a carrying case also enables easy transitioning from site to site. 

Take Advantage of Back-to-School Sales

Classes are starting up again in August and September. Each year this means stores are putting on sales for all back-to-school essentials, from backpacks and three-hole punches to jackets and jeans. While these sales are geared toward students and their parents, you’ll be able to stock up on materials for your home office, too. 

If your line of work relies on a number of paper products, hit up a back-to-school sale to stock up on everything you need at a more affordable price. This ensures that your home office will always be equipped even if you don’t know for certain the next time you’ll be working remotely. 

Upgrade Your Video Technology

At the beginning of the pandemic, having poor video quality or a bad microphone was fine since the shift to remote work was new to many. Employees were doing the best they could to manage with the resources available during lockdown. Now that businesses are fully reopened, if you plan on working from home at all, you will be expected to do it right.

In anticipation of any team meetings or customer calls over videoconferencing software, amp up your home office with a better camera and mic system — if you haven’t already. You can purchase an inexpensive microphone with a USB plug-in that will work much better than your generic Apple earbuds or the microphone built into your computer. A simple webcam will give you an enhanced video feed, which will leave a better impression on any clients or shareholders you may ever meet with online. 

As you continue to utilize your home office, don’t shy away making improvements to it this summer and beyond. It is yours to mold, and it doesn’t have the same restrictions a cubicle might. Above all else, prioritize productivity, and your home office will be the residence of one of America’s best workers.

10 Realistic and Unconventional WFH Tips

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10 Realistic and Unconventional WFH Tips

I’m trying to be completely honest —  I’m tired of writing, discussing, and thinking about working from home probably because most of us have been back in the office for months. The vaccine has made all of us feel a lot safer and we are grateful for that. However, despite the vaccine — many of our employees, and even management continue to need hybrid solutions to work from home when they want to do so.

It’s been found that nine months into the pandemic, 41.8% of the American workforce remains fully remote. And, managers are anticipating that this will continue. In fact, they believe that 26.7% of the workforce will be fully remote in another year.

Clearly, WFH isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon — at least not this year. As such, it’s still necessary to talk about how to remain engaged and productive while working virtually.

But, here’s the issue. We’ve heard the same advice over and over again. You know what I’m saying? Have a routine, get dressed, set boundaries, yadda, yadda.

Moreover, these WFH hacks are approached as a one-size-fits-all approach — but are they?

Not everyone has a home office. Parents can’t always work when they’re most productive. And, how can we focus on work when COVID has taken such a toll on how mental health and wellbeing?

These are all lessons that we’ve learned about working from home through the last year and a half. As we continue to try and find where the real balance in work will be — here are 10 realistic and unconventional tips you can try for the next year and a half.

1. Biohack your way to peak productivity.

According to performance expert, New York Times bestselling author, and founder and executive director of the Flow Research Collective Steven Kotler, you need to take a physical and cognitive approach if you want to enhance your productivity. “If you’re interested in peak performance, you have to be doing these things,” he says. “Otherwise you can’t even get into the game.”

How can you accomplish this? Kotler advises that you focus on the five following non-negotiables:

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If possible, maintain a consistent schedule that’s based on your circadian rhythms.
  • Find social support to counter loneliness. Additionally, being surrounded by high-quality connections has the ability to lift your spirits.
  • Manage your anxiety levels. “Anxiety is a huge break on people,” says Kotler. Gratitude, mindfulness, and exercise can all help.
  • Set tangible, specific, and process-oriented goals. A long-term goal, like I want to be the greatest author in history, won’t stick. “That’s a moving target. It’s an aim,” says Kotler. “You want to chunk those down into hard, one to five-year goals.” Instead, try; I’d like to write a New York Times bestseller.
  • Discover your intrinsic motivations. “There are five major intrinsic motivators that matter,” says Kotler. Curiosity, purpose, autonomy, purpose, and mastery. They’re all aligned and cannot thrive without the other.

“When we screw up peak performance, it’s nothing more than getting our biology to work for us rather than against us,” says Kotler.

2. Create a “zen” zone.

“No matter where you work — the dining room table or a dedicated home office — it’s essential to create an environment that helps you focus,” says Marie Kondo.

“Clutter overwhelms the brain and compromises the ability to take initiative; a calm and clean area will enhance both productivity and joy,” she adds. How can you get there? Kondo recommends identifying “the items that are crucial to getting your work done” and designating them a home.

“If you don’t have an office, a box or portable carrier will do,” Kondo adds. “Move all unrelated items off of your workspace and add one thing that sparks joy when you look at it.” For her, “it’s a crystal and small vase of fresh flowers on my desk.”

If space is an issue, you can find some inspiration from IKEA’s 2021 Catalog. Some ideas include using the IVAR storage combination as a room divider or a NISSAFORS cart to hold supplies.

3. Embrace mono-tasking.

Is it possible to have a conversation with a friend while doing household chores? Absolutely. But, can that’s probably not a good idea when it comes to tasks that are more challenging, such as deep work. Even if you believe you’re a pro at this, then you’re in the minority — only 2% are actually capable of this.

So, instead of trying to do the impossible, embrace mono-tasking.

“We’ve been sold the myth that multi-tasking is a valuable skill, giving us the ability to get it all done – but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” explains business coach Ryan Jackson, author of The Success Rebellion.

“A more productive approach is to devote days or half-days to themes, or closely related tasks,” he adds. “That way, it’s easier to knock jobs down one at a time and even if you do get distracted, it’s quicker to pick up the thread again.”

4. Take a shower in the middle of the day.

It’s been regularly suggested that taking a shower, or bath, should be a part of your morning or evening routine. However, if you’re dragging, take a shower in the middle of the day. Seriously.

“The relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely,” said Ron Friedman, Ph.D., founder of Ignite80, during a 2016 online summit. In turn, this lets “people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.”

5. Do household chores when you’re stuck.

“Whenever you are hitting a wall on trying to brainstorm ideas or solve a certain problem, turn to simple, undemanding, household chores like washing dishes,” recommends Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat. “That’s because studies have shown that engaging in undemanding tasks significantly boosts performance and creative problem-solving when compared to switching to a different demanding task or taking a break.”

“While your brain is mildly focused on the undemanding task, your mind wanders and expands up its problem-solving capacity,” he adds. I can attest that this is 100% true. Other household chores that have helped me get unstuck are folding the laundry, prepping meals, and light cleaning like wiping down the kitchen counter.

6. Straddle the line between comfort and class.

I get it. Changing out of your pajamas into clothes that you would wear to the office can help you transition into work mode. But, why bother when comfort is ket right now?

Instead, find a balance between the two. For instance, you could wear your cozy, broken-in jeans with a semi-casual button-down, henley, or sweater. If you need some ideas, here are some suggestions from Vogue and Men’s Health.

7. Avoid (COVID) decision fatigue.

“35,000. That’s one estimate on how many decisions we make each day,” writes Calendar co-founder John Hall. “And, if true, that would come out to around 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds.”

“Even if you don’t believe those exact numbers, the truth is that we do make a lot of decisions on a daily basis,” he adds. And, in the midst of COVID, the number of decisions we have to make has increased.

“People working and schooling from home have had to figure out where everyone is going to do their work, what times are best and worst for focused work, when to take breaks, and how to eat lunch without disrupting others,” clarifies Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota, and a behavioral scientist who worked on early research about decision fatigue. “The lack of a routine in such a big part of our lives — the period from 8 am to 4 pm — has created a whole host of new decisions.”

What can be done about this?

Simplifying your life is an excellent starting point. “For example, on Sundays prep your meals for the week,” suggests Hall. “Go through your closet and donate the clothes that you no longer wear. And, remove unnecessary events and tasks from your calendar.”

Moreover, automate as much as you can, such as eating the same breakfast every morning. You can also lower your expectations. “Things don’t have to be perfect right now, and maintaining mental health is worth wearing the same jewelry in every Zoom call,” Dr. Vohs says.

And, you can also make upfront decisions with those around you. “Whoever is in your network — roommates, family, friends — it’s worthwhile to spend some time talking through decisions together.” When you do, “you can figure out what are priorities” and “where you’re willing to take risks.”

8. Fight back against loneliness.

“Remember we’re social animals,” says Dr. Angela Carter, an associate fellow at the British Psychological Society. “Part of the reason we go to work is that we love being with other people.” And, this has been one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to overcome in 2020.

Weekly video calls are a start. But, a lot of the interaction that takes place in the workplace is non-work related. As such, schedule virtual coffee breaks, lunches, and off-hour events.

Additionally, make sure to keep in touch with family and friends during your downtime. I know that we’re all experiencing Zoom fatigue. But, it’s still essential for our health and wellbeing.

9. Adopt a “Blue Zone” approach to exercise.

As you’re well aware, exercise is essential. Besides being key to your physical health, working out is beneficial to your mental wellbeing and productivity. And, this is particularly true during COVID.

However, it’s been impossible to maintain a regular exercise regiment this year. As such, you may need to be more flexible. The folks over at Well + Good have dubbed this as “Blue Zones.”

In a nutshell, these are mini-workouts that you squeeze in throughout the day. Examples include walking your dog, biking to the store, or stretching before a Zoom call. Overall, it’s all about incorporating some sort of physical activity into your daily routine.

10. Cut everyone some slack (including yourself).

“It’s not realistic to expect full productivity while people are juggling working from home, extra family and household responsibilities, for many, and managing pervasive stress and anxiety for just about everyone,” says Joshua Zerkel, head of global community for the work management platform Asana. “It’s a lot, and we need to remember that we are humans and not productivity machines.”

However, “we can still be productive and connected,” he adds. “It just looks different than when we’re sitting with our coworkers at the office.”

Rather than beating yourself up, forgive yourself and those around you. “We’re all doing the best we can,” says Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, organizational psychologist and author of Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life. “The silver lining to me of this whole crisis is that when we come out of it, those of us who’ve been perfectionists are learning how to let that go. Learn how to set expectations but also let go of those things that don’t serve you well.”

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