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Tips for Adjusting to Working From Home

If you’re just getting into the habit of working from home but you don’t feel like you’ve quite nailed it yet, you’re in the right place. It certainly isn’t easy making this switch when you’ve spent your whole working life in a communal office, but more and more of us are having to make that switch these days. We’re going to discuss some of the best tips to help you successfully adjust to working from home, so keep reading.

Set a Routine

Setting a good routine for yourself is the basis of a successful home working arrangement. When you lack structure and routine, that’s when things can start to get messy and complicated, and when your work life and your home life suffer as a result. So find a routine that works for you and then do your best to stick to it on a pretty consistent basis if you can.

Create a Dedicated Space
Having a dedicated space in which you can work day after day and not get distracted by the things that might be around you in the home is key. Distractions are everywhere when you work from home, and they can be pretty tempting. But if you’re going to stay on track and yield the results you and your boss want, you need to be focused and that means having a good work space in place.

Remain Communicative with the Rest of Your Team

Being communicative and staying in touch is something that only becomes more important when you’re working from home. And you also have to make a more concerted effort to remain as communicative as you can be. When you’re not staying in touch with colleagues, not only will your work suffer a great deal but you’ll probably also start feeling pretty down about everything.

Make Use of Remote File Access

You need to be able to work on documents and files with your team if that’s something that hasn’t been made possible yet. Working with your management to outline these needs and have them delivered on will be key. By enabling remote file access without a VPN, you can ensure that you and your colleagues are able to collaborate seamlessly even when you’re apart.

Respect Your Own Time

It’s important to have some respect for your own time when you’re working from home. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in work and allow it to bleed into your personal life when you’re working where you live. That’s why setting boundaries and strict work hours for yourself is so important. The last thing you want is for all of that to go out of the window just because you’re working from home.

Working from home isn’t always as easy and straightforward as it might appeal to be on the surface. If it’s something you’ve struggled with up to now, some of the things we’ve discussed here might help you to get it right. Before you know it, you’ll be embracing your new routine.

What Should Your Post-Pandemic Work Kit Include?

If you’ve been working from home since the start of the pandemic, you’re not on your own. Most businesses have embraced socially distant remote arrangements. It’s unlikely to change any time soon, even as vaccine rollouts encourage life to get back to normal. Virtual offices support productivity, creativity, and a healthy work/life balance, allowing both employees and employers to make work fit around their personal schedules. 

However, most professionals in the U.S. relocated at home over a year ago. It’s fair to say that it’s time to consider your work kit. Home office? Check! Some of the most frequently search terms on Google throughout 2020 focused on home office setup and improvement: 

L-shaped home office

Best standing desks for home office

Best desk chair for home office

Home office decor ideas

Ergonomic home office chair

So, it’s fair to say that most people already have designed the perfect workstation inside their homes. Whether you’ve converted the unused nook underneath the stairs or repurposed the spare bedroom, chances are you’ve arranged your ideal work-from-home space. As remote working positions are becoming a permanent feature in most companies, it’s time for businesses to introduce a work kit budget for their team. The work kit budget could enable teams to equip their home office with all the necessary tech and add-ons that are still missing. 

#1. A reliable laptop or computer

Admittedly, most employees already had a work laptop. However, if the business has recruited new team members since the start of the pandemic, it would be fair to provide them either with a work device or with a budget and a list of good laptops and computers, such as the Dell Vostro or some Lenovo models. For positions that are likely to remain permanently remote, office PCs can also be a fantastic alternative, especially for roles that require heavy designing or programming skills. Ideally, equipping your staff with a work laptop or PC will also reduce security risks and compatibility issues, as employees do not need to use their personal devices. 

#2. A secondary screen

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of using more than one screen. However, the home office setting can benefit from the addition of a second monitor. Ideally, individuals who tend to focus on multiple things at the same time are likely to enjoy this setup. You will use two screens for checking data while you complete other tasks, comparing multiple documents or sets of data, compiling information, or centralizing your schedule and inbox on one screen while you carry on tasks on the other. It’s an option that is worth suggesting to your team. Everyone works differently; therefore, not every employee will find it helpful. But those who do should be able to upgrade their workstation accordingly. 

#3. A cup warmer coaster

The consumption of tea and coffee at home has reached new records during the pandemic. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to enjoy a warm drink while you’re working. More often than not, you can get distracted by a task. As a result, most people forget about their drink until it’s too late. By the time you’re ready to grab the cup and drink, the brew is already cold. 

While this might not sound like a major problem, in reality, it can have a significant impact on an individual’s productivity. Making a fresh cup of coffee or tea takes between 10 and 20 minutes, as most employees seize the opportunity to take a break at the same time. Unfortunately, when they don’t get around to drinking it, they are more likely to interrupt their day more frequently to refresh the drink. This can lead to frustration. Besides, caffeine helps keep your mind alert. Therefore, provide every worker a USB-pluggable cup warmer coaster can enhance comfort, reduce time loss, and boost productivity. 

#4. A piece of tranquillity

Working from home exposes individuals to high levels of noise pollution. Indeed, most workers live in an urban environment, which means they are likely to hear city sounds, such as traffic, construction sites, and even loud neighbors. Noise pollution can lead to high stress levels as it affects concentration and productivity. Therefore, it can be helpful to reach out to remote employees with noise-canceling solutions such as headphones. Some models can be plugged into the laptop and act as microphones and earphones during video calls too. 

#5. An air filter

How clean is your employees’ indoor air? The answer is: It’s impossible to know without a specialist tool. However, indoor air pollution is a reality that can affect everyone. Everyday items create toxic VOC emissions, whether cleaning products, paint on the wall, or synthetic material. Indoor pollution is responsible for premature death every year. As employees work remotely, providing a solution that can keep their workstation healthy and safe can be a game-changer. An air filter can help preserve their health and assist mental concentration. 

#6. A potted plant

Most office spaces tend to have potted plants. However, the same isn’t true in home offices. Office plants are not only an aesthetically pleasing addition to the decor. They can also significantly improve their work environment. The presence of greenery can reduce the risk of sick building syndrome. Potted plants are also proven to increase productivity by up to 15% and stimulate creative senses. It would make sense for employers to offer an office plant budget to their remote team. Alternatively, a plant is also a fantastic gift to send to newly hired talent to welcome them to the team.

#7. A selfie lamp

The selfie lamp is a ring of light that tends to be used by social media influencers to illuminate their faces for photo purposes. However, employees can also use the lamp during video calls. Indeed, not every home office environment is bright. When the room lacks a direct source of light, video calls can feel awkward as you don’t get to see the other person. Placing a selfie lamp next to the screen, out of the camera’s angle, can significantly improve call quality. 

In a remote environment, employers need to introduce a specialist budget to support home office setup. It is fair to say that design and tech choices that would be part of the typical office layout can be missed remotely. Therefore, an employer who goes above and beyond to promote a productive home office layout can help move the team forward. 

Playing the Pieces: 3 Approaches To Create Happier Employees

When you spend a lot of time thinking about what your business needs, your mind may very well go to the aesthetic components. For example, the marketing or improving the infrastructure. But when we ensure the business is well maintained from an outside perspective, we need to see what goes on behind closed doors. When we look at our employees, we must remember they are the progenitors of our success. They keep the engines running. So keeping our employees happy is not just about perks, but it’s about making sure that they are firing on all cylinders. How do we do this?

Look at When Employees Struggle

If employees struggle to work, it might be because of how the organization feels. It could be to a variety of shake-ups that make them feel that the ground is moving beneath their feet. We have to remember that, as employers, it’s crucial to keep the machine going. And while we employ a variety of techniques to help keep the business complying with the regulations, this can be at odds with the company culture. With every firing, there comes a lot of admin from the inside. And while in this respect, tools like an unemployment tracker work to maintain the inner workings, if employees struggle because you’ve constantly been letting people go left, right, and center, they may not feel they’re able to speak up. And when there are these deeply ingrained problems within a company, we got to work harder to keep them happy. While we can provide specific tools and tactics, ultimately, it’s the cultural component underneath it all that will help.

Keep Yourself Organized 

It is simple, but this is what will keep your employees believing in what you have to offer. When we run a company on a skeleton system, we need to incorporate organizational components to make everything ticking over. When we incorporate the right systems, like payroll software, or the aforementioned unemployment tracker, everything becomes crucial to help your employees recognize that they are at the forefront of your mind. Doing this, in combination with effective communication, shows them you have faith in their abilities, and they have faith in yours.

Focus on Holistic Approaches 

To work, everybody needs specific tools to function effectively. Some people are able to work under pressure, but others need an abundance of techniques and tactics. If we provide a variety of tools to help our employees work with an extra edge, they will benefit the business, but they will also benefit themselves. To do this, we need to provide a diverse range of techniques, so they can pick and choose the methods that suit them. For example, they may not be able to focus in an open-plan office environment. In which case, noise-canceling headphones could be the right tool.

If you want to keep your employees happy and the business productive, you need to consider a variety of tactics. If people are not comfortable working in this environment, we’ve got to address this as a priority. If we tackle these cracks, we could turn everything around.

How To Stay Focused While Studying Online

The internet is filled with tons of information, and there are so many things you can learn online from great study sites such as Udemy, Coursera, Alison, Khan Academy, and others. These sites often have excellent study material, whether you’re microlearning for training or taking a professional course. Online learning is convenient and often cheaper, but sometimes it isn’t easy to focus, reducing its effectiveness. In this article, you shall learn how to remain focused and study online effectively.

Avoid distractions

Studying on your own is great, but distractions will hinder your progress. As much as possible, when it is time to study online, do away with distractions. Aside from the distractions around you, such as noise and your phone, and other people, pay particular attention to online distractions such as pop-up ads, memes, and videos. If the need arises, you can install an app that will ensure that you cannot do anything else but focus on completing your online study.

Create a learning schedule

Creating a schedule will help you focus on your studies. Start by setting a time for logging in to study and then stick to that time. Whether it is every day or several times during the week, sticking to the same time will give a feel of routine, which can help you focus. You need to be self-disciplined if you want your online studies to be practical. If you have time for lectures, be sure to be settled at least fifteen minutes before it begins to make sure that everything you need to participate in the online class is functioning correctly.

Create a study space with a good internet connection

Studying online without an internet connection can be frustrating. You miss out on what is happening in real-time and lose the importance of what needs to be done. So, before you create a study space, be sure you choose a place with stable and good quality internet connectivity. Also, make sure the space is free from distractions and noise.

Set study goals for each session

On most online platforms for studies, you are allowed to choose the number of hours you want to use to complete a course. As such, each session has some goals or tasks attached. You also need to set study goals for each session personally. If your goal is to understand a concept, complete a task or pass a test, make sure that you have achieved that goal by the time you are done with the session. If necessary, you can create a personal study time aside from the online study time to complete your personal study goals for each session.

Take breaks

Uninterrupted learning is excellent, but it can also be unhealthy in some cases. Sitting behind the computer for long hours can harm your eyes and posture. Do well to take frequent breaks so that you can adequately assimilate learning material.

When learning, remember your underlying reason for doing so, and that will provide you with the needed motivation to get through each session. Always practice safe learning methods and avoid bad posture. Online learning is an excellent way for self-improvement, so take advantage and expand your knowledge.

The Best Messaging Apps Alternatives to WhatsApp in 2021

Image from Pixabay.com

With more than two billion users, WhatsApp is indeed the world’s most favorite messaging app. It keeps adding more features and introducing new updates on the regular to help improve user experience. But, some users want more: they want privacy and security. While WhatsApp advertises their data as being end to end encrypted, there are many loopholes. 

The app was first acquired by Facebook in 2014, something that left both security-conscious users and privacy experts concerned. This is because Facebook, together with its 3rd party apps, has been accused of multiple security breaches that have resulted in thousands of users’ information being leaked. Second, Facebook recently announced that they plan on merging their three separate apps: WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. That means sharing user information across the three platforms, which in turn makes WhatsApp less secure despite having end to end encryption. 

For the privacy-conscious users looking for WhatsApp alternatives, we understand your frustrations. Here are some of the best messaging apps that still care about your privacy.

Telegram

Telegram is the best replacement for WhatsApp. It is end to end encrypted and comes with lots of extra features. And, with its open API, this app is more trusted by users than WhatsApp. The best part is that it has a straightforward user interface, so new users will have an easy time setting it up.

Telegram has its messages and calls end-to-end encrypted and also allows you to send self-destructive messages. Compared to WhatsApp, which enables you to set up a group of about 256 participants and share files of up to 100 MBs, Telegram allows you to create a group of 200, 000 users and exchange files of up to 2GBs in one single go. 

Signal

This messenger app was developed by the same people responsible for developing the WhatsApp end-to-end encryption. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal has an open-source system that makes it safer. What’s more, Signal has other security features such as self-destructive messages and screen security that prevents you from taking a screenshot when it’s activated.  

Signal not only encrypts your text messages but your calls and media files as well. Nobody can access your messages or hear your calls. 

Viber

This Japan-based messaging app offers almost everything that is available on WhatsApp, and even includes other features that are lacking on WhatsApp. Viber encrypts all your messages, calls, and shared media. 

The app allows you to create groups of up to 250 users each and have group video calls with a maximum of 20 users. 

Other Ways to Maintain Your Privacy Online

While a secured messaging app may help ensure that your messages are read by the intended person only; that alone may not protect you from hackers and government surveillance. You need to secure your device more to ensure total protection. So, ensure you practice mobile security and use a more secure browser such as Tor. A simple VPN download will also come in handy to make sure no one eavesdrops on your communications, including app owners, the government, and hackers. 

While it’s true that WhatsApp is currently the most popular messaging app, there are other alternatives that will give you the same experience or even better, especially if you are a privacy-conscious user. Use the above apps and engage in acceptable mobile security practices to stay safe and private online. 

Got Some Time On Your Hands? Make Tech Work For You

Tech skills are becoming an essential part of our professional life, even if you are not in a technical job. For a lot of professionals, it can be tricky to figure out what tech skills are relevant in their environment, and how to make them suitable for their career. 

To help you dive at the heart of tech skills for non-tech people, here’s a summary of which skills are relevant in day-to-day life and which are not.

Coding skills

Why is it so popular to learn how to code? The problem with the idea that everyone should learn how to code is that it misses the point of what code is for. Coding isn’t the solution to everything. Coding is ultimately a language skill that enables you to tell a machine or an interface to do something. Where does this kind of skill apply in your everyday job? In a non-technical environment, you can use coding to customize some out-of-box solutions via the API when it is relevant to your needs, for instance. Alternatively, you can use SQL queries to dissect complex databases. In other words, if coding doesn’t improve your job, you probably don’t need to learn it. 

Computing and coding lessons are, however, finding their way into school curriculums. This seems more a response to a current trend than a real need for the future. Does every child need to code to survive in the world of tomorrow? Probably not. Nevertheless, if you want to encourage your kid to write their first <hello world>, you might need to research and compare available coding programs, such as reading reviews about Whitehat Jr or watching tutorials for Codemonkey. However, don’t make it a must-have. Perhaps, if your child prefers learning music, this could be just as beneficial to them. 

Start a website

There are approximately 2 billion websites. They promote a business, a personal blog, or even online services. Regardless of what you want to do with your career, a website is a definite must-have. Indeed, your website can help you promote your profile in your industry sector and control your image. Learning the tips and tricks to create a website and manage it are essential skills to learn. Thankfully, with platforms such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace, you can rapidly learn how to set up your presence, whether you’re launching a side hustle commerce or showcasing your professional portfolio. You can also seize the opportunity to add a free data analytics tool (Google Analytics) to your site and build your data analysis knowledge.

Learn to create beautiful images

Does every job require image creation and manipulation? To a certain extent, yes. You don’t need to become a digital artist, but learning how to rescale an image, create on-the-spot icons, or personalize branded graphics using Photoshop or an open-source tool such as GIMP can be crucial to your digital presence. As GIMP and Photoshop are interchangeable, it’s hard to understand the popularity of the latter. Nowadays, social media, websites, and even online applications require made-for-purpose images, so it’s helpful to be able to whisk something in a few clicks. 

Is it time to add some desirable tech skills to your resume? Ultimately, some skills are more relevant than others, depending on your job. But, the truth is that you want to target skills that are useful in your progression, rather than following the latest trends.