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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.”

Appointment-Making in the New World of Remote Work

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Appointment-Making in the New World of Remote Work

Businesses navigating through the treacherous waters of 2020 all learned a similar lesson. It can be difficult to maintain meaningful engagement with employees because of remote work. 

Don’t get the wrong idea: remote workers can be just as productive as their office-dwelling counterparts, if not more so. The problem lies in connecting with remote work employees while keeping operations fluid. Engaged employees tend to be happier.

Whether your entire team is back in the office or not, using your scheduling software to increase engagement and deepen your connection with employees is a huge win. Here’s how you can begin to make that happen.

Use Video Technology

Whenever possible, use video technology to your advantage. Video is a powerful tool for connecting and engaging with remote work employees, especially when an in-person meeting is not an option. Video is more personable than a regular phone call, which eliminates the ability to do things like read body language.

Always include a link to a videoconferencing platform in your scheduling software. You might have hired a remote worker whom you have yet to meet in person. A video call will help you put a name to the face and enable you to connect with them better as a leader

Check In Regularly 

The past year was difficult for everybody. That should be a reason enough to commit to checking in on your employees more regularly. Whether they’re in the office or back at home, schedule one-on-one time with each employee to show that you’re there for them. 

Be wary, though, of becoming that boss who feels like a helicopter parent. Employee check-ins only need to be frequent enough to check progress and touch base with remote workers you don’t see often. They don’t need to be a weekly — and certainly not a daily — occurrence. Consult with each employee and come up with a routine that fits their schedule best. 

Remember that a check-in appointment doesn’t have to be a performance review. Ask employees about their family and hobbies or solicit suggestions on what you can do to make remote work easier. Each check-in should have the goal of incorporating the employee further into the company so that they feel more comfortable with their place in it. 

Make Hybrid Arrangements Work

If you do have a balance of remote workers and in-house staff, look for ways to formulate hybrid solutions that work for everyone. Your remote workers will be much more engaged when they feel like they’re a part of the entire team and not just a forgotten cog in the wheel.

Take staff meetings, for example. Would remote workers benefit from attending these meetings? If so, include them in your scheduling software invite list. Then put your tech skills to use to create a hybrid meeting that incorporates every attendee.

Planning a hybrid meeting isn’t as difficult as it might sound. All you need to do is set up a videoconference call with your remote work team and position it in a way that they can participate. A simple USB microphone and speaker will help with any audio troubles, and your remote workers will feel included. 

Broadcast Your Availability

With scheduling software, you can list availability for others to see. Your business can use this feature to book clients, or you can use it to show employees when you’re available for a visit. Broadcasting your availability will encourage employees to approach you with questions and comments they would otherwise keep to themselves.

Let’s say you have an open hour on Thursdays every week. Tweak your online scheduling software to reflect that. Soon, you might receive a call during that time slot from a remote work employee who has been dying to speak with you without seeming like an inconvenience. You’ll make a lot of progress with your employees when you welcome interaction like this with open arms. 

Include Some Fun 

Not every event you create with your appointment software needs to be so serious. A little bit of company fun never hurt anyone. In fact, it’s often promoted as a way to improve team bonding and reduce burnout. 

Be sure to plan some fun activities that even your employees that do remote work can participate in. While they may not be able to attend an office cookout, they can get together online to compete in a friendly game of Kahoot or Pictionary. This will provide an opportunity for the water cooler conversations that remote workers aren’t able to enjoy in an out-of-office setting. 

Coordinate Deadlines

Not every appointment has to be a personal meeting. Half the battle is coordinating the efforts of your remote work employees to make sure they’re up to speed with projects and are completing their tasks on time. Using appointment software to set deadlines should do the trick.

Perhaps all your employees who do remote work are writers creating content for social media and blog pages. Use appointment software to assign submission dates for each piece. The writers can work on their own schedule but have a calendar date that tells them specifically when tasks must be completed. 

An honest effort to engage your employees is all you need to start. Appointment software is just a means to this end. Look for ways to connect with both in-house and remote work employees, and you’ll see your team grow stronger together — and your business with it. 

How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

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How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

Even though technology has made working remotely possible, it was still a luxury for most employees. In fact, under 5 million worked at home before 2020. And, as you know, a global pandemic changed all that.

Since then, 62% of employed Americans have reported that they have worked from home during the crisis. And, no matter what happens, a majority of them would prefer to do so.

Because of this, leaders have had to step up their game. They’ve had to get used to communicating and collaborating virtually. And, even more challenging, they’ve had to learn to trust their team members.

How to Build Accountable Work from Home Teams

Unlike being in an office where you would expect to see your people working, you’ve had to believe that they’re doing the same thing at home. You’ve also had to learn that they need flexibility in order to meet both their professional and personal demands.

The good news? You can still build an accountable work from home team. When you do, you’ll still meet deadlines, while earning the trust of your team members.

Create a team-facing work-from-home policy.

“You need a solid work-from-home policy that plainly lays out how your remote team operates,” writes Jeremy Elder for Hubstaff.” It should also cover “what you ask of your teams when they’re working away from the office.”

Why? That’s easy. “Employees can’t deliver what you want unless they understand what you expect of them,” explains Elder.

When developing this policy, however, make sure that’s just not a list of procedural steps. It should be something that “inspires and educates on why your strong remote work culture is a reflection of the larger mission and values of your business.”

Elder adds that a solid remote work policy will answer the following questions:

  • Who can work from home?
  • When and how often can they work from home?
  • Who approves remote work requests?
  • What equipment and amenities are required?
  • What security and privacy measures must be taken?
  • Is remote work completed on a flexible schedule, or must the team member complete work during specific hours?
  • What meeting standards must be met while working from home?

You may also want to address things like dress codes and meeting availability. And, you may also want to be flexible with deadlines. Even though your team is working remotely, they will still have to deal handle personal issues that may pop-up.

Not only will this keep your current team members productive, but you can also use this to attract talent. Why? Because 72% of talent professionals have stated that “flexible working and remote options are very important” when attracting new workers.

Get to know your team members.

Not everyone is cut out for remote work. Knowing this, you would bring on those who are. Unfortunately, that’s not how the cookie crumbles — just look at how the coronavirus made WFH a necessity.

As such, you should spend time with each of your team members. Find out where they’re struggling so that you can mentor or help them. For example, maybe they never had a proper workspace at home. If not, you could send them a standing desk or share resources on how to create a home office.

Additionally, this lets you know when they’re most productive. Let’s say you a team member who is a morning bird. You should anticipate that they need the AM to focus on work, so you might want to have a one-on-one with them in the afternoon. Also, you shouldn’t be frustrated if they’re not available at night.

And, this can also help you know the challenges that they’re facing. If bandwidth is an issue at a certain time, you may want to recommend other locations where they can work. Or, you could be flexible with their availability.

Don’t complicate communication and collaboration.

Try to streamline your communication and collaboration by limiting the number of tools that you use. It can get confusing switching back and forth with platforms. Even worse, your team members may misplace a piece of information because it was located in an Outlook email when Gmail is preferred.

At the minimum, you should create and manage a shared team calendar. It’s a simple way to remind everyone of due dates, map out projects, track progress, and schedule meetings. Other suggestions are:

  • Messaging platforms like Slack. Create both channels for work and non-work topics.
  • Project management software like Basecamp, Trello, or Monday.com. These can help you assign tasks, share files, and track progress.
  • Google Apps like Gmail and Docs for easier communication and collaboration.
  • Web conferencing tools like Zoom or Go2Meeting. These can aid in brainstorming, check-ins, and combat the loneliness of remote working. Just be aware of Zoom fatigue so that you and your team don’t get exhausted.

Set hard deadlines, but trust they’ll be met.

You don’t want to be a nuisance. However, you should frequently check-in with your team members to see how they’re progressing. Some leaders prefer a daily check-in, while others are cool with doing this weekly.

The reason? Just to make sure that there aren’t any hiccups. If so, you can either jump in and lend a hand or push back a deadline.

At the same time, if you’re set goals with hard deadlines, you won’t have to communicate with them as often. Why? Because deadlines make us feel the pressure of accountability and can counter procrastination.

Focus on output, not time-in-seat.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home. While some thrived, others had to adjust — particularly employers and managers. “One of the biggest holdbacks of remote work is trust — managers simply don’t trust their people to work untethered,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “They’re used to managing by counting butts in seats rather than by results. ”

As a consequence, employers embraced tools to monitor and track everything from keystrokes, email, app usage, and file transfers. They also used time tracking tools and screenshots.

The thing is, working remotely doesn’t mean you’re sticking to a traditional 8-hour workday. You might put in an hour or two, but then do laundry or homeschool your kids. Or, you may be more of a night owl and get most of your work done in the evening.

“I think there’s an opportunity here to learn how to be a manager that values output, not time-in-seat,” Natalie Nagele, cofounder of Wildbit, told Fast Company. “To me, the value of remote work is that trust and that ability to empower every person to manage their time, to manage their days and their responsibilities around an output.”

“We make a promise to each other,” adds Natalie. “I’m gonna deliver on this thing, and if I can’t deliver it to you, I’m going to communicate why.”

Provide (and solicit) feedback.

What happens if a project has been delivered and it’s not exactly what you wanted? Don’t belittle the person responsible. Instead, go over with them what they did wrong and how to improve.

On the flip side, ask them where you can improve. Maybe your instructions weren’t crystal clear. Now that you’re aware of this, you’ll set clear project expectations and guidelines going forward.

Know when it’s time to micromanage.

Make no mistake about it. Micromanagement drives employees crazy. That’s why you should grant autonomy and let them do their thing.

However, there will be times when this is necessary. Examples include:

  • Employee engagement has become stagnant.
  • Your company is going through a period of uncertainty.
  • Your business is changing direction.
  • You want to unleash the full potential of a team member.
  • The results have been disappointing.
  • There’s a new leader, employee, or unit.
  • You want to build a culture of collaboration.
  • Your business is venturing into new territory.
  • A project requires very specific results.
  • Your team is struggling with time management.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should interrupt your team when you know that they’re working or off-the-clock. Instead, it’s al about balancing micro and macro-management.

Still Working From Home? Here are 10 Must-Read Books

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Still Working From Home? Here are 10 Must-Read Books

Even before COVID-19, remote work was having a minute. Global Workplace Analytics estimates “that 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work.” Moreover, “25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”

Regardless if we ever actually return to a pre-COVID world, it does appear the working from home isn’t going anywhere. And, that’s both a blessing and curse.

For years, remote workers have proclaimed that they’re more productive and happier. Numerous research has backed this up. As for business owners, they have more productive teams — and are saving money like scaling back on the size of a physical workplace.

The thing is, it appears that we’ve hit a wall. Between Zoom meetings, social distancing, and yearning to finally get back to normalcy, we’re flat-out exhausted. Additionally, there are unique WFH distractions, knowing when to disconnect, and overcoming isolation.

Still Working From Home? Here are 10 Must-Read Books

In short, the honeymoon with remote work is over.

If you’re in this position — here are 10 books that we should read to help you fall back in love with working from home.

1. The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work from Home by Laura Vanderkam

For my money, Laura Vanderkam is one of the best sources to turn to if you need advice regarding productivity and time management. During her career, Vanderkam authored some of the best books in this area, such as I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and168 Hours.

In 2020, she released this timely book that shares the following hacks;

  • Managing tasks, as opposed to time. For example, only setting 3-5 ambitious goals per day.
  • Getting into a rhythm by allocating time for work, breaks, and downtime.
  • Constructing broader and more effective networks

2. Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Although written in 2013, Remote did an excellent job convincing people of the perks of working remotely. In the wake of COVID, though, the book has seen a resurgence. And, it definitely deserves that.

Authored by the founders of Basecamp, the book has timeless lessons for both employees and leaders. These include;

  • Building trust and collaboration through messaging tools, virtual water coolers, and focusing on outcomes instead of “time in the chair.”
  • Being aware of “dragons.” To avoid pitfalls, make sure that you have the right equipment, ergonomic furniture, maintaining healthy habits, and socializing.
  • To effectively manage remote teams, use asynchronous communication, don’t overwork them, and schedule one-on-ones.

3. Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work for You by Karen Mangia

Written by Karen Mangia, Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, Working From Home is another timely book as it was released in August 2020. And, like Remote, it covers tried and true advice for those working remotely.

Key takeaways include;

  • How to build an inspiring and budget-friendly workspace in your home.
  • The importance of establishing routines, rituals, and boundaries.
  • How to break boulders into smaller pieces.
  • Igniting innovation by creating new processes.
  • Tips on sprucing up your virtual meetings.
  • Advice on how to handle burnout and Zoom fatigue.
  • Redefining success by focusing on what you can control.

4. Work-from-Home Hacks 500+ Easy Ways to Get Organized, Stay Productive, and Maintain a Work-Life Balance While Working from Home! by Aja Frost

Aja Frost, Head of Content SEO at Hubspot, put together over 500 quick and easy solutions in one handy book. It’s quick and to the point.

It contains popular advice ranging from setting up your workspace to overcoming distractions. There are also tips on how to stay organized so that you can be productive.

This book is more geared to WFH newbies. Those who are seasoned at working remotely are probably familiar with the hacks in this book. For example, putting on real clothes and establishing boundaries. Still, if you’re still struggling with this new normal, it wouldn’t hurt to go back to basics.

5. Surviving Remote Work by Sharon Koifman

Sharon Koifman, DistantJob’s President and Founder, wrote Surviving Remote Work in the wake of COVID-19. In the book, Koifman shares insights on his remote management. After all, he has more than 15-years of experience in this arena.

Going beyond obvious and common-sense advice, Surviving Remote Work provides strategies for onboarding employees and building a connected culture remotely. Koifman also has tips on managing extroverts and introverts and what tools should be in your arsenal. And, how to protect yourself from cyber-threats.

6. Work from Home Superstar: How to Stay Focused and Rock Your Day by Jack Wilson

Released in the good, old days of 2017, Jack Wilson offers a crisp guide into working from home based on his own hilarious experiences. Through his experiments, he discovered what the biggest distractions are when working from home — I’m looking at you Netflix — and how he structured his day for productivity.

Wilson also has recommendations on how to get into the right mindset and develop self-discipline. And, Work from Home Superstar also stresses the importance of prioritizing your health and occasionally getting out of the house.

7. The Remote Facilitator’s Pocket Guide by Kirsten Clacey and Jay-Allen Morris

According to one review over at Goodreads, “Everyone who does online meetings should read this book.” And, I couldn’t agree more.

Clacey and Morris begin The Remote Facilitator’s Pocket Guide by going over the challenges of virtual meetings, such as;

  • Virtual events often feel more intimidating than in-person events.
  • It’s harder to focus and encourage engagement as 8 in 10 participants are multitasking.
  • These events are more dependent on the mood and style of the facilitator.

To overcome these pitfalls? The authors provide strategies like how to create equal opportunity, enable flow, and nurture connection. They also recommend using visuals to your advantage and encouraging playful learning.

8. The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel

Published in 2018, The Long-Distance Leader can actually be a resource for anyone in a leadership position. However, as founders of the Remote Leadership Institute, Eikenberry and Turmel have essentially written the book on remote leadership.

The book covers all the basics like using technology as a tool, focusing on outcomes, and building trust. There are also tips on how to set goals, seek feedback, and avoid burnout. To companion the book, there are also online tools and resources, such as a team goal clarity assessment and pre-conference checklist, to help you become a stronger remote leader.

9. How to Declutter Your Home or Work Office to Improve Productivity by Sarah Adams

Clutter may not be on the top of your mind. However, it can interfere with your productivity. It can also increase stress, sleep problems, and make it difficult to relax.

With that in mind, it’s crucial that you keep your home and work area tidy. To assist you in that department is How to Declutter Your Home or Work Office to Improve Productivity. Although it’s a short read, it’s still packed with inspiring and practical tips on how to keep get, and remain, organized.

10. Unhackable: The Elixir for Creating Flawless Ideas, Leveraging Superhuman Focus, and Achieving Optimal Human Performance by Kary Oberbrunner

While not specifically written about working from home, Unhackable is a must-read as we navigate through the “Attention Economy.”

Written by coach and author Kary Oberbrunner, this compelling book presents 30 daily missions that will help you develop superhuman focus and organize your life around your “flow.” As a result, you’ll get more done in less time and live the life you truly want.

How to Maximize Virtual Appointments

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How to Maximize Virtual Appointments

Every company has had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deliveries replaced in-store purchases. In-office employees went remote. Plexiglass dividers were erected between customers and service staff.

One change some companies have yet to master? Virtual appointments. Leaders are still figuring out what services they can offer and how best to connect with virtual customers.

The virtual appointment movement was started by medical professionals in order to reach patients from home. Now, everyone from counselors to tutors to accountants uses them to stay safe and save time. 

So, what’s the secret to virtual appointments? In fact, there are nine:

1. Digitize the Details

Virtual appointments require the customer and the company to get on the same page remotely. Online appointment software not only lets the customer choose a time that works for everyone, but it automatically sends out a reminder as the session nears. 

Online appointment software can also take care of payment ahead of time. That way, there’s no awkward credit card wrangling as soon as the call starts. 

2. Prepare in Advance

Virtual appointments can be held in a click, but that doesn’t mean they require no prep work. Whoever is handling them needs to show up prepared. 

The nature of that work will depend on your type of business. It might be as simple as pulling up a customer’s record, or as involved as putting together an entire business strategy to discuss on the call.

3. Upgrade Your Audio 

Nothing will lead to a rockier virtual appointment than audio problems. If you can’t hear the customer and they can’t hear you, literally nothing will get done. To prevent miscommunications or cancellations, invest in the proper equipment.

It shouldn’t take much to revamp your audio. A simple USB microphone can plug right into your computer. A quality headset will help you understand every word your customer says. 

This is particularly important in certain lines of work, such as counseling. A customer’s story may hold clues about how best to address their needs. 

4. Don’t Forget the Video

While audio is more important to most kids of virtual appointments, the visual experience shouldn’t be forgotten. Virtual appointments should replace in-person interactions as closely as possible. Without a solid webcam, they’re more like grainy phone calls.

Your computer or smart device may come with a built-in camera that makes the cut. If not, or if you simply want an upgrade, look into available webcam options. The clear video feed will help you and your customers better read each other’s body language. 

5. Use Screen-Sharing

Screen-sharing will add a new layer to your virtual appointment experience. You can display your own screen on that of your customers to share graphics, videos, or other rich media with them.

Most video conferencing tools allow for screen sharing. All it takes is the touch of a button to set it up. Having what you want to share ready in advance allows you to quickly flip through the resources you need.

6. Dress the Part

If your doctor logs on to your virtual appointment wearing a t-shirt at home, the experience won’t feel very authentic unless you know each other on a very personal level. To maximize your virtual appointments, be sure to dress the part. It will make a subtle yet tangible difference.

Even a company polo will be more impactful than casualwear. Also, be sure to check your surroundings to ensure there’s nothing distracting in the background. Remember, you’re still representing your company in virtual appointments.

7. Put a Premium on Engagement

Virtual appointments open up so many opportunities for businesses that wouldn’t work as well in person. Make it an experience all its own, rather than merely a substitute for an in-person visit. 

For example, a pediatric doctor can use graphics and game-like applications to engage youngsters. They may even start to look forward to their doctor visits if the experience is entertaining enough. 

8. Get Serious About Security

Imagine a stranger standing in the room during your doctor’s appointment. Unsettling, isn’t it?

Think of your virtual appointments the same way. Your customers put their trust in you. It’s incumbent on you to make your digital security efforts known to them.

Make sure that virtual appointment links are private and encrypted. Hold your appointments in a location where private information won’t be overheard. Set strict penalties for employees who mishandle customer data. 

While we might not see holograms for another decade or more, virtual appointments are no longer a thing of the future. Platforms like Zoom and Appointment make them possible; it’s up to you to make the most of them. 

7 Leadership Strategies that Build Trust with Your Remote Team

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7 Leadership Strategies that Build Trust with Your Remote Team

The infrastructure of any solid relationship is trust. While certainly true in every sphere of your life, it’s essential in the workplace. After all, it’s been found that employees working in high-trust environments have reported:

  • 76% more engagement
  • 74% less stress
  • 70% more alignment with their companies’ purpose compared to employees in low-trust environments
  • 50% higher productivity

Moreover, numerous studies have found that trust is critical to team success. And, this is most true as remote managers are struggling with trust issues during COVID-10. Thankfully, you can use the following 7 strategies to turn this around.

1. Mitigate your team’s stress.

According to author and leading trust expert Paul Zak, stress is one of the most forceful oxytocin inhibitors. Why’s that important? Well, oxytocin is the hormone that’s responsible for social and romantic bonding.

As such, this chemical is kind of important when building trust with your team. Specifically, it helps teams work and grow together. And that can completely transform the workplace for the better.

“In my research, I’ve found that building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference,” wrote Zak. “Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.”

“They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance,” he added. So, yeah. This just makes sense.

But how exactly can you reduce workplace stress?

For starters, stop micromanaging your team. Instead, grant autonomy by letting them work however and whenever they want. Since they’re currency WFH, this is key since it can make work-life integration easier — like juggling work and homeschooling their kids.

Additionally, make it a point to communicate with them regularly. Regardless if it’s a quick phone call, weekly Zoom check-in, or through Slack, this gives you a chance to acknowledge them or address any concerns.

What’s more, you should make yourself available so that you can provide guidance. For example, if they’re struggling with time managementwhich is a stressor that 46% of employees, then offer advice on how they can fix this problem.

You should also encourage them to take time off and be respectful of their boundaries. That means not bombarding them with messages when they’re off-the-clock. And give them access to mindfulness apps like Calm.

2. Serve up the feedback sandwich.

Giving credit where it’s due is a proven way to build trust in the workplace. In fact, a Globoforce study found that those who received recognition from their leaders recently were significantly more likely to trust them (82% vs. 48%).

Here’s the thing, though. Eventually, singing your team members praises loses meaning. Studies actually show that “negative” feedback (if delivered appropriately) is more helpful than positive reinforcement.

The reason? People want to learn and grow. And, they want to be challenged, not cuddled.

A simple way to achieve both types of feedback is using the sandwich method. Here you would deliver feedback as follows; positive, constructive, positive.

Why does this work? Because you’re kicking and ending things on a positive note. At the same time, you’re also delivering honest and constructive feedback.

3. Get to (virtually) know your team members.

The cornerstone of fortifying any relationship is getting to know the other person. And, by that, I mean getting to know them outside of the workplace. Even if that’s regularly meeting with them in person, it’s having frequent and informal chats with them via text, email, or scheduled “coffee” meetings through Zoom.

While you don’t want to cross any lines here, ask them how they’re doing. Inquire about their hobbies, passions, or how their family has been. It sounds simple. But, spending a couple of minutes each week getting to know each team member helps you bond over similar interests while showing that you genuinely care about them as a person.

4. Make sure that your goals, objectives, and intentions are crystal clear.

Not to be too crass here. But, this is leadership 101. Always make sure that you always do this from jump street.

For instance, let’s say that when a team member has completed their portion of a project, they must notify the project manager. That may not sound like a biggie, but what is the preferred channel here? If it’s through Slack, but they sent an email, that could cause bottlenecks and lots of ibuprofen for the headaches this caused.

In short, make sure that you share your goals, objectives, and intentions with your team. More importantly, double-check that they understand them so that you’re all on the same page.

5. Be competent but also vulnerable.

“Trust in leadership is also based on a leader’s demonstration of on-the-job expertise and ability,” writes executive coach Dina Denham Smith. “In virtual teams where people can feel disconnected, strong communication is an especially critical leadership skill, one on which your competence will be judged and trust built or diminished.”

While you certainly do not want to cause information overload, “there’s no such thing as over-communicating,” adds Denham Smith. After all, “if you don’t communicate frequently and clearly, your people will fill in the blanks with their own, usually worst-case, assumptions.” Additionally, you need to be open about your expectations and transparent “on company direction, policies, and procedures, including the decision-making process.”

At the same time, admit that you don’t have all the answers. You should even own-up to your mistakes. And, if you need help, ask for it.

“While it may seem counterintuitive, leaders who ask for help draw others to them through this display of humanness, inspire others by making them feel needed and garner trust and followers,” adds Denham Hill.

6. Freshen up your virtual events and meetings.

Even though virtual meetings have been around for years, they’ve become the status quo thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While an adequate way to keep-in-touch and build rapport, they’re also exhausting. However, you can spruce them up to establish trust while also bolstering morale.

If you need some ideas, Calendar Co-Founder John Hall has the following suggestions:

  • Get underway by acknowledging your team’s achievements or sharing a joke.
  • Host theme events, like a holiday party or virtual lunches where participants share their favorite recipes.
  • Conduct weekly check-ins to provide updates or ask how everyone is holding up.
  • Always follow virtual meeting etiquette, like muting your mic when not speaking.
  • Encourage silent brainstorming sessions.
  • Organize virtual team-building activities such as fitness challenges or “happy hour.”
  • Keep them engaged by challenging them. For example, you could ask how they’ve overcome a problem in the past.
  • Shake things up occasionally, like surprising them by taking a virtual field trip or inviting a guest speaker.
  • Schedule events when it’s best for your team. While you’ll never find the perfect time and date, you could poll them to see what works best for the majority.
  • Wrap each function up on a high note. For instance, you could ask positive-direction questions like, “What did you find most valuable?”

7. Be consistent.

According to Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, there are three elements of trust; positive relationships, good judgment/expertise, and consistency. I think that you should have an idea about the first two. So, let’s go over what consistency means.

Consistency “is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do,” they explain for HBR. “People rate a leader high in trust if they:

  • Are a role model and set a good example.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Honor commitments and keep promises.
  • Follow through on commitments.
  • Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.

While this may not be the most important element, it’s still essential. For example, let’s say that you penciled in a one-on-one for Thursday at 3 pm. You had a family emergency and didn’t let the team member know you had to reschedule.

Your team member arrives on time and patiently waits. After some time has passed, they email you, and you reply that you had to cancel. That’s not only disrespectful of their time; it also shows them that you can’t be trusted to hold-up your end of the bargain.

17 Work-From-Home Opportunities Worth Your Consideration

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Work-from-home opportunities don’t pay you to hang at home, but they get pretty close. Between emails, you can raid the fridge, throw a pizza in the oven, or even help your kids with their homework.

But, like most things in life, work-from-home opportunities are not one-size-fits-all. Everyone has their own aptitudes and preferences. Know yourself, and then know your options.

What are the Best Work-From-Home Gigs?

The good news is, there’s a work-from-home opportunity out there for every lifestyle. Take a look at the list below to find one that fits yours.

Best work-from-home opportunity for single moms: Zirtual

Single moms can do it all, which is why they make great virtual assistants. Between managing their kids’ appointments, shuttling them around, and helping them with homework, single moms are already accustomed to doing most of the tasks VAs do.

Working for Zirtual doesn’t require a lot of qualifications, either. As long as you’re college-educated, based in the U.S., and have an internet connection, go ahead and apply.

Zirtual provides on-the-job training, and most of its team members make $12-$16 per hour. Zirtual VAs work for Fortune 500 companies, investors, and mom-and-pop shops.

Best work-from-home opportunity for passive income: Airbnb

If you want to make some extra money and have a space to rent out at home, why not list it on Airbnb? Airbnb hosts make nearly $1,000 per month, on average, simply for giving people a place to stay.

Sure, being an Airbnb host means keeping the rental space clean and tidy. But if you’re already on top of your household chores, it’s not a lot of extra work. Plus, you’ll get to meet people from all around the world in the comfort of your own home.

Best work-from-home opportunity for artsy types: 99Designs

If you know your way around graphic design software, 99Designs can be a lucrative work-from-home opportunity. There are two ways to do it: Either you can compete with other members of the 99Designs community on design challenges, or you can work directly with clients.

Our advice? Start with competitions. There’s no commitment, and you can choose projects that inspire you. Realize that you’ll probably need to enter a few before you start winning them.

Once you’ve won a few contests, brand representatives will begin to reach out to you directly. You can also bring your own clients to the platform, which makes it easy to save and share your work.

Best work-from-home opportunity for recent grads: Tutor.com

It’s hard out there for recent grads. If you’re not sure how to put your education to use but would prefer to work from home, check out Tutor.com. Whether your background is in math, science, history, or some other discipline, you’ll find students in need of support.

Affiliated with the Princeton Review, Tutor.com lets you work as few as 5 hours per week or as many as 29. Plus, you can pick up unscheduled sessions in your spare time.

Why can’t you set up your own tutoring service? You could, but finding clients can be a pain. And once you do, you may have to spend hours tracking down payments. Tutoring on an established platform avoids both time-sucks.

Best work-from-home opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs: Nu Skin

Opportunity platform Nu Skin makes it easy to become an entrepreneur. Nu Skin’s independent brand affiliates sell skincare products directly to consumers in nearly 50 markets. As they build teams, they also have the potential to earn commissions on the products which their team members sell to consumers, which encourages them to mentor the newcomers in their group.

Like other entrepreneurs, Nu Skin’s brand affiliates are responsible for their own expenses, but a unique leg up they have is that they have products that are tried, tested, and supported by a reputable company. Brand affiliates can set their own hours, manage their own teams, and they have the resources and tools to grow their businesses. This helps them be able to have some of the benefits of the gig economy, but have the potential to do more. Brand affiliates engage with customers remotely through social media, in-person meetings, and other platforms.

Best work-from-home opportunity for full-time hours: Amazon

In a lot of cases, work-from-home opportunities offer part-time or inconsistent hours. If you want a full-time job you can do from your couch, check out Amazon. Positions range from sales to software development to customer service.

Because positions range widely, however, so do salaries and benefits. Know your worth, and remember that you can always cobble together a full-time gig from two or more part-time ones.

Best work-from-home opportunity for writers: Verblio

Can you turn a phrase on a dime? Check out Verblio, an online freelance writing platform. Verblio writers pen a range of content, from 300-word blog posts to website copy to e-books. Editing opportunities come up on occasion.

If you want to work for Verblio, you’ll need to have great grammar, research, and content marketing skills. You’ll get to choose industries that align with your expertise, ranging from healthcare to cannabis to real estate.

Best work-from-home opportunity for social butterflies: Arise

Arise’s remote customer service representatives provide support for big-name companies, including Intuit and Airbnb. Earning up to $14 per hour, Arise workers choose their hours and need nothing more than a phone and a quiet space at home.

One plus of this work-from-home opportunity? You’ll never get lonely. The work is a matter of answering questions, triaging support needs, and helping clients deliver exceptional customer experience.

Best work-from-home opportunity for fashionistas: Stella and Dot

Do you want to have a future in fashion, but you can’t pick up stakes for a place like New York City? Stella and Dot’s work-from-home opportunities are second to none.

In a nutshell, Stella and Dot stylists get paid to share and wear jewelry. Many of them sell on social media, while others put on “trunk shows” — which are essentially Tupperware parties for the fashion world.

With that said, Stella and Dot is also a good way to earn some income on the side: More than eight in 10 of them actually hold full- or part-time jobs elsewhere.

Best work-from-home opportunity for multilingual people: Gengo

Are you fluent in two or more languages? Apply to work at Gengo. Gengo is a language translation service that serves Amazon, YouTube, The New York Times, and even the U.S. government agencies.

The company has more than 21,000 translators across all major time zones, covering more than 70 language pairs. Gengo translators earn an average of $417 per month, but income varies depending on customer demand, hours worked, and job availability.

Best work-from-home opportunity for English buffs: VIPkid

If you’re a “word nerd” or love to read, VIPkid has the perfect work-from-home opportunity for you: English tutoring. VIPkid students are primarily Chinese, but because it’s an immersive program, tutors don’t need to be able to speak the language.

Although VIPkid does require a six-month commitment, the pay is good. Tutors earn between $15 and $22 per hour, depending on their prior experience and hours worked. Tutors must be authorized to work in the U.S. or Canada and need a bachelor’s degree, but all majors are accepted.

Best work-from-home opportunity for role-agnostics: Kelly Services

What if you’re a multi-talented person who’ll take pretty much any work-from-home opportunity, so long as the pay is right? Kelly Services is an employment agency that focuses on remote work.

Founded back in 1946, Kelly Services employs almost 440,000 workers. It fills positions in an enormous range of industries, from accounting to automotive to IT to life sciences. Kelly Services fills temporary positions, as well as part- and full-time ones.

Best work-from-home opportunity for healthcare experts: United Healthcare

Although a lot of healthcare jobs must be done in person, a surprising number of them can be accomplished remotely. United Healthcare offers hundreds of work-from-home opportunities, ranging from customer service to clinical care to medical billing.

One of the world’s largest healthcare companies, United Healthcare employs nearly a quarter-million people across all 50 states. Plus, positions in the healthcare industry tend to pay handsomely.

Best work-from-home opportunity for home-decor junkies: Williams-Sonoma

Does a beautifully decorated room make you swoon? Consider work-from-home opportunities with Williams-Sonoma. The California-based retailer sells everything from bakeware to wreaths to barbeque grills.

Most of the remote-work opportunities with Williams-Sonoma are customer service positions. The perks and pay are good, though: Agents start at $12 per hour, with three weeks of paid training from home. They also get a 40% discount on most Williams-Sonoma products.

Best work-from-home opportunity for tech gurus: Dell

If you’re happy to spend all day writing code or troubleshooting consumer tech, a work-from-home opportunity with Dell might be right for you. Dell has team members in more than 15 countries and is consistently named a “best place to work.”

Although most people know Dell as a computer brand, it’s actually a do-it-all tech company. Partnerships with companies like SecureWorks enable Dell workers to get their feet wet in cybersecurity, a notoriously in-demand field.

Best work-from-home opportunity for travel fanatics: Dream Vacations

If you’d like to either be at home or on an adventure, Dream Vacations has work-from-home opportunities you might want to check out. As a franchisee, you get the flexibility of working from home — or on whatever beach you might be enjoying at the time — with the credibility of a brand.

Beware, though, that work as a travel agent is fast-paced. Not only do franchisees need to develop their own client relationships, but they also have to manage bookings and handle billing. To make it a little easier, Dream Vacations provides online training modules and social media support.

Best work-from-home opportunity for tax experts: Intuit TurboTax

If you’re a certified public accountant or enrolled agent, consider a remote tax preparation role with Intuit’s TurboTax division. Intuit welcomes tax experts at all levels of their career, but experience with tax-prep software is a must. Bilingualism is a plus.

One plus of this work-from-home opportunity? Overtime pay around peak times. Because tax preparation is a seasonal industry, home-based tax preparers can make a pretty penny around quarterly tax filing deadlines.

Work-from-home opportunities have never been more plentiful. But as is true of in-person opportunities, you shouldn’t take a position simply because it’s open.

Check out the company, talk to other members of the team, and find the right fit: Yours is out there, and the best part is, you don’t even have to leave your home to find it.

How to Structure Your Day When Working from Home

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Up until recently, working from home was almost taboo. It was a luxury. Only a small percentage of very trusted people and freelancer’s enjoyed this freedom. But, the worldwide COVID epidemic has made the old luxury — the new normal for thousands of people. Here is how to structure your day when working from home.

How how you done working from home?

Some, have embraced working from home — and they have thrived. Others, not so much. I’m not passing any blame here. Getting used to working from home and your new schedule will take time to adjust to. And you had to adjust mighty fast as things shut down.

If there’s something you’re still, struggling with, here’s the best way that you can structure your day when working from home.

Find your most productive hours.

Here’s the best thing about working from home, you have the flexibility to set your own schedule. The caveat? You must determine when your most productive hours are. An issue to consider, right now, is that you have to do a little bit better balancing act.

If you’ve recently made the switch from the traditional 9-to-5 workday, knowing your most productive hours may seem odd. However, thanks to ultradian rhythms (and many other productivity tips we have on Calendar) — we can teach you how to find your “best” time of day. different times of the day when alertness, energy, and focus are high. Hence this explains if you’re a morning bird or night owl.

Now, you may have an idea of when these hours are. I mean if you’re an early riser and ready to tackle your work in the AM, then that’s a sign that you’re a morning person. If it’s the opposite, then you wouldn’t want to force yourself to work on your most important task before the sun shines through your curtains.

Not sure when your most productive hours are? No worries. Here are some strategies you can try to find out:

  • Track your time for a specific period. Ideally, you want to track your days for around a month to get a more accurate picture.
  • Use the right tools. A simple pen and paper method will suffice. You could also create a spreadsheet. But, there are also digital tools like RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, ATracker, and Calendar that can do this for you.
  • Maintain your time log. There are two ways to track your time. The first is by the time of day. For example, you can write down everything you accomplished in a specific timeframe and how you felt. The second is by the task. Here you would note when you started an activity and when you moved on to something else.

Whatever tools or methods you use, be honest and consistent. You should also record your data in real-time. And, try to be as meticulous as possible.

Start the day right.

I know that the first step to starting your day right involved a little elbow grease. But, from here on out, it’s going to be much easier to plan out your day.

Regardless if you wake-up at five am or noon — if you want to have a productive day, you need to establish a morning routine. While the exact activities can vary, the idea here is to let your brain know that it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

What should be including in this ritual? Well, here are some of my personal favorite techniques:

  • Plan the night before. You don’t have to overthink this. Just simply jot down the three main things you want to accomplish tomorrow. You could do things like reviewing your calendar and prep your meals.
  • Wake-up feeling refreshed. Get enough sleep, preferably between 6 and 8 hours. And, if possible, try to wake-up naturally or use an alarm clock. It’s a simple way to avoid looking at your phone first thing in the morning.
  • Focus your mind. I like waking-up prefer everyone else to take advantage of the peace and quiet. I then use this time to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, read, and write in my journal.
  • Set a daily intention. It’s been found that writing down your goals enhances your achievement of them.
  • Have a daily affirmation. “Affirmations are short, powerful yet simple statements intended to help you manifest a particular goal,” writes Choncé Maddox. “This is power is positive thinking and it only takes a few minutes to recite some positive affirmations.”

Another suggestion would be to create a daily compass. These are any activities you should check before jumping into work. For instance, you might want to check your email or Slack messages to make sure that the afternoon meeting hasn’t been rescheduled.

I also strongly suggest that you get dressed. And, I would also remove distractions like turning off your phone before starting your workday.

Have a dedicated workspace.

There’s a belief that when working from home you’re just plopped on the couch all day. That’s not exactly the most productive environment to work in — what with distractions like the TV, kids and housemates.

In a perfect world, you would have a swanky home office. You know, like all of those amazing pictures you’ve seen on Pinterest. The reality is that most of us don’t have such a luxury. But, at the very least, you should have a quiet space that’s dedicated to work.

Make sure that you have all the tools you need and you keep it free from clutter. And, if you work from the same place daily, it gives you some much-needed structure.

Add work blocks to your calendar.

“A more tactical piece of advice, particularly if your work situation had regularly provided this structure for you, is to use your calendar as a friend in helping you manage your time,” suggests Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young. “Setting work blocks on your Google Calendar and color-coding them to match different projects or tasks will give you a visual cue for the way time is breaking down for you.”

But, let me go a little more in-depth here. Remember when you determined when you were most productive? You would block out those times for your most important work.

Let’s say that you’re peak performance hours are from 9 am to 11 am. You should reserve that time period for your most important or challenging task of the day. By adding that to your calendar, you’re ensuring that something that’s less important will occupy that slot.

Furthermore, time blocking untangles your mind and helps you identify your priorities. And, you can even use this strategy to create buffers between tasks and block apps when you don’t want to be interrupted.

Give yourself permission to take breaks.

Data from NordVPN Teams found that remote workers in the U.S. increased their average workday by almost 40%. That means we’re adding an extra three hours to our workdays!

“The data as well revealed that employees are starting work earlier, but finishing at the same time,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams. “This is perhaps because people are not commuting, and instead of sitting in traffic, they choose to work.”

That’s just not going to fly. Putting in more hours may work right now. But, eventually, you’re going to burn yourself out. That’s why taking frequent breaks is essential.

Whether if you use the Pomodoro Technique or follow the 52/17 Rule, make sure to give yourself a breather. You need this downtime to recharge and refocus.

And, here’s the best part. You can spend this time however you like. If you want to go for a bike ride, take a nap, chat with a friend, or watch a TedTalk, that’s your provocative.

Enforce boundaries.

“If this is your first time working from home and you still haven’t found a routine that works for you, then you might find you’re just as distracted as you were at the office,” writes Laura Martisiute in a Calendar article.

“From loud kids to a chatty spouse to household duties (doing laundry never seems so appealing as when you have to write a boring report), it’s critical that you learn how to overcome distractions when working from home,” adds Laura. The key is to let others know your schedule.

In my experience, sharing my calendar is the most effective way to do this. When my family can see my schedule, they know when I have meetings and focused on deep work. On the flip side, they also know when I’m available to spend time with them.

Make time to socialize.

It’s not surprising that remote workers struggle with depression and loneliness. It can also be difficult to commute and collaborate with your team members. The solution to both? Block out time to socialize with others.

Now, in a non-COVID world, you could meet up with others at a coffee shop or conference room. But, the way things are now, you’re going to have to rely on tools like Slack or Zoom. Just be mindful of your usage as there is such a thing as Zoom fatigue.

Set an end time and stick to it.

Another way to prevent working too much is to establish a stop time. More importantly, though, you need to set up a routine to help you transition from work to relaxation.

Similar to your morning ritual, this can vary. But, here some ideas to help you wind down:

  • Clean out your inbox.
  • Organize your workspace.
  • Create a to-do-list for tomorrow.
  • Send a “goodnight” message to your colleagues.
  • Log out of your work accounts, like Slack.
  • Turning off your computer.
  • Reflect on what you accomplished.
  • Have a mini celebration, like going for a walk or putting on your sweats.

It may be tempting to worry about work. But, like breaks, you need your evenings to rest and recharge.

Example of a structured WFH workday.

  • 6 am – 8 am: Exercise, breakfast with family, get dressed, and review calendar.
  • 8 am – 9 am: Write in a journal, catch-up on emails, update social media, and check-in with coworkers and employees.
  • 9 am – 12:00 pm: Deep Focus on your top priorities.
  • 12 pm – 1 pm: Eat lunch with family, go for a walk, check inbox.
  • 1 pm – 3 pm: Deep Focus on second priority.
  • 3 pm – 3:30 pm: Have a video call with your team.
  • 3:30 pm – 5:30: Work on your third most important task of the day.
  • 5:30 pm: Wrap up whatever you are working on and wind down.

I usually try to get a couple of hours of work done in the evening after relaxing for a couple of hours. These hours have turned out to be quite productive, as well. You have to be flexible enough with your work schedule to add and subtract your times to meet the situation.

If your kids are kind of wild between nine to noon in the morning — get up at five and get your work done then. Don’t sit at your desk from 9 am to noon and scream at everyone to shut-up because you are working! Written here is the ideal work from home schedule.

But, please, change your schedule to fit your situation — and make this time of COVID better than ever.

The Best Remote Work Setup To Keep You as Productive as Ever

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Just a few months ago, remote work was a luxury. But for many of us, it’s now a necessity that’ll take some getting used to. 

Not only do you have to adapt your workflow and make communication simpler for team members, but you also have to adjust your work environment to optimize productivity. That desk in a dark, dingey corner of your basement is far from an ideal workspace. 

What does an ideal remote workspace look like? To get more out of your day, upgrade your desk with:

1. Your office favorites

When you’re at the office, you have access to all the tools you need for the job. Highlighters, legal pads, your favorite pens — whatever helps you work faster and more efficiently. At home, you may not.

Splurge a little next time you’re at the office supply store. If you really want that top-of-the-line desk organizer, get it. Throw those cute paper clips that cost too much in the cart, too. Those small joys are worth it. 

Think, too, about your personal wellbeing. A water bottle at your desk keeps you hydrated. If you don’t have a coffee maker to keep you when the days get long, invest in one.   

Other than that, be selective about what you keep at your desk. When you take a broad essential, it opens the floodgates for a stream of inessential things. Before you know it not only does your desk get cluttered but also your mind. 

2. Lighting

You know how hard it is to work in a dim space. Adequate light reduces eye strain and fatigue.

Studies suggest access to natural light trumps a host of other office perks. It makes workers more energetic and can even improve mental health.

Keep lighting in mind as you perfect your home office setup. Instead of working in a space that is wholly reliant on artificial light, move your workspace to a room with a window.

If you don’t have that kind of natural light available, there are also lamps that simulate daylight. These are great for fighting seasonal affective disorder during times when you find yourself inside a lot. They are also useful if you need to work at night. Don’t let your circumstances keep you from getting the right amount of light. 

3. Plants and greenery

Another way to foster a productive work environment is to surround yourself with plants. Like natural lighting, greenery brings the great outdoors inside. 

Studies have shown that plants can give you a productivity boost of up to 15%. The reason is reduced stress levels: A little nature can help you move forward with ease and certainty. Caring for your plants can provide a sense of purpose.

Maybe now is the time to start the garden you’ve been wanting to grow in your home. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can always buy pre-grown plants. Either way, the added greenery will cheer you up whenever you look away from the screen. 

4. Sounds

Home noises can be distracting, but not all sounds are bad for productivity. Boosting your productivity is as easy as tuning into the right ones. 

Classical music can actually enhance brain function. It’s called the Mozart Effect, and it’s been known to help students perform better on tests and study better. The same kind of focus is great for powering through your more involved work tasks.

If you’re not a classical music fan, a great alternative is nature sounds. A relaxing waterfall or a chorus of birds make great background noise. And if you need a pick-me-up along the way, you take a break to listen to some of your favorite songs.

To enjoy your nature sounds or songs to their fullest, get some stereo speakers. Noise-cancelling headphones are an even better solution, but they can be pricey.

5. Art

You might assume that a focus-first workspace should be as bare as possible, but that’s not the case. Enriching your environment with art can actually increase your productivity. 

What art you choose isn’t necessarily important. What matters is that your selections inspire you and make you think. You don’t need to be an expert in art history to appreciate something that’s aesthetically pleasing to you. 

Experiment with different media. Choose some paintings for the walls. Add a small sculpture to your desk. Hang something with stained glass in your window. 

6. Aromatherapy

Your home workspace should look, sound, and feel like your own — but it should also smell appealing. Aromatherapy is a great way to give your home office that finishing touch.

Smell is an underappreciated sense. An essential oil diffuser can give you a whiff of lavender when you’re stressed. Try mint or eucalyptus for an energy boost. If you’re feeling short on fresh air, why not go for a soft forest scent?

Whether you’re working remotely by choice or doing so by necessity, you can always improve your space. Experiment: If a stationary set doesn’t bring you joy, find one that does. Make it your own, and you’ll see the difference in your mood, output, and more. 

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