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How to enable teams to succeed during change and transition

As I sit here, working at home, juggling home schooling and listening to the daily news updates, it is clear to us all that we are working through a phase of our lives which we will never forget and which will have an impact on the world for a long time.

The change hits us at all levels, and in the face of this change we all have our own personal responses. Much has been written over recent weeks about the resilience we all need to care for ourselves and those around us. 

In response to this change we are all working through a psychological ‘transition’, and so it seems sensible to explore the role collaboration can play in helping us work through this. 

‘Transition’ is the word used to describe the psychological shift we take in response to a change in our situation. Currently we are all impacted by these extreme changes to our world, but even putting the current challenges aside, we will have all experienced change in our lives that we have had to work through and respond to. 

One of the great advantages and drivers for enhancing collaboration is to increase a team’s ability to make the best of the resources they have – the strengths that each person brings. 

Personally, I like the work of William Bridges and his ‘Transitions Model’ to bring this to life – the need to say goodbye to the past before we are even close to being ready to say ‘hello’ to the future. 

Much has been written about change and my job here is not to recount this. What I would like to do is apply the lens of collaboration. During periods of change, no matter how big or small they may seem, how can we use strong levels of collaboration to help a team maintain, or even enhance performance?

Authentic leaders 

Be honest: Give space for the team to engage in the conversation around how to respond. Where needed share the clarity you have from the organisation above. Where that’s not possible be transparent. The focus here is to build and enhance levels of trust – fake promises, or perceived hiding of information does not help – even when done with the best of intent.

Engage on a human level: Share your emotional response, and be careful. This is not about the leader sharing all their woes and personal concerns with everyone. The leader needs a space to work through any anxiety or concerns, but that would be more beneficial to do with a coach or mentor. 

That said, the leader does need to engage as a human. What can they share that demonstrates empathy, role models an ability to engage at an emotional level, makes it ok to feel anxious or concerned, and provides assurance and calm in the face of this? Not an easy balance, but an important balance. 

Clarity

Purpose: How does this change impact on our collective purpose? If it doesn’t, ensure you are reinforcing the existing purpose and exploring how this applies to the new context in which you find yourselves.

Role and responsibility: How does the change impact our roles? You may have had clarity on where one role started and finished, but have the recent changes had an impact on this? Does it ask each team member to take on any new responsibilities? 

If so, how does this impact the current collective understanding of each person’s role? This is not about building new role descriptions or process flows (unless you feel that’s necessary), but it is about having the conversation and exploring the impact of the change on current roles and responsibilities.

Connect:

Look for difference: What differing perspectives do you have in the team and how can you best use these? One of the great advantages and drivers for enhancing collaboration is to increase a team’s ability to make the best of the resources they have – the strengths that each person brings. 

This also means being curious about differing perspectives. During times of change we will all perceive events based on our own frame of reference – this is valuable data. Explore and be curious – give space for the team to hear and value the differing views in order to build a shared understanding and agree ways to respond to the new environment. 

Having such conversations virtually asks us to structure the conversation well and truly listen to each other – despite the interruptions at home!

Create safety: How can you make it safe to experiment and learn about our new context, without fear of judgement or failure? Look out for moments when team members experiment and try new ways of working. Spot it, celebrate it and promote it. It does not matter whether the new approach worked or failed, what matters is that something new was attempted. 

Efficiency:

Structure the week: What structure can you bring to the week whilst working virtually. The daily check in call with a coffee – just to see how everyone is. The weekly project review, the one-to-one check ins so you can engage with each team member and support, guide and listen to how they’re working through the transition. 

Discuss with your team what conversations would be helpful, and when in the day these would be helpful – scheduling a daily catch up at 9am when a member of your team is home schooling their kids may not always work.

Technology: This will, and still may be, a big challenge for many teams who to date have not been used to virtual working. Explore different technologies, share top tips as people learn how to use these tools so that they become second nature to all. When frustration emerges, be there to listen and work through a practical way forward.

Aside from all these points, there is no doubt that the simple act of kindness will play a major part in how we collectively get through this. In times of challenge our communities are being drawn together in a way we haven’t seen for a while. 

Let’s hope this positive outcome stays with us for a long time to come...

 

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Microsoft Teams will add breakout rooms and automated meeting recaps

Microsoft Teams will add breakout rooms and automated meeting recaps Updates also include more Together Mode scenes and custom layouts.

Microsoft announced a slew of updates for Microsoft Teams meetings at Ignite, including more Together Mode scenes, custom layouts, breakout rooms and automated recaps. The maximum number of people who can attend a meeting is also expanding to 1,000 participants later this year, while Microsoft will bump up the view-only capacity to 20,000.

Together Mode, which Microsoft revealed in July, brings meeting participants into a shared virtual space to make it “feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class.” Later this year, more location options will be available, including an auditorium, conference room and coffee shop. In addition, Microsoft is employing its machine learning smarts to scale and position attendees in their virtual seats for added realism.

Also later this year, presenters will be able to customize meeting layouts. They might, for instance, position their video feed on top of their PowerPoint deck for that Twitch streamer aesthetic.

Starting next month, Microsoft will support breakout rooms, which will allow participants to split off into smaller groups. Presenters will be able to make announcements to all of those rooms, jump between them or close them and pull all participants back into the main meeting room.

Anyone who’s ever been tasked with taking meeting minutes knows how tedious that can be, and Microsoft should make things a little easier with automated recaps. Those will include a recording of the meeting, a transcript, chat and shared files. The recaps will be available in Teams and from the meeting event in your Outlook calendar. They’ll also soon be stored in Microsoft 365 so you can share them with folks who weren’t present at the meeting.

There are other updates on the way to Teams, including a streamlined view for calls, improved search and an increase in maximum team membership from 5,000 to 25,000.

To find out more about what's happeming with Microsoft Teams from engadget click here 

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9 Micro-Habits That Will Completely Change Your Life in a Year

How small actions lead to big results.

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

To reach your goals, you need a system. You need to build habits and you have to stick around long enough to let them do their magic. You hear it over and over again because it’s true.

In 2019, one of the most popular books was Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It’s a practical guide to break bad habits and build good ones. The author explains clearly why small, everyday habits lead to great success.

If you haven’t read the book yet, make sure you do. But don’t just read it. Put in practice everything you learn from it. Until you do so, here are 9 micro-habits that can improve your life.

1. Delay Your Reactions

I know, I know, it’s a fast-moving world. But that does not mean we have to respond quickly to everything. Learn to say “I’ll let you know later”, “I’ll get back to you on this”, and other similar phrases.

Instead of saying yes to an offer only to realize later that it doesn’t fit your schedule, better to take a few minutes to think about it.

It will save you a great amount of time and disappointment in the long run.

2. Push Yourself to Complete a Task When You Don’t Feel Like It

Every day, pick a small task you don’t want to do then go ahead and complete it. From washing the dishes to making your bed and from going for a run to making dinner instead of ordering food. It can be anything.

After doing this for a few days, you’ll realize the problem is not the task itself. It’s your habit of postponing things. It’s being comfortable, especially when you have a choice. But often, once you make the first step, you get yourself in the mood and get the job done.

Once you’ve spent a few days completing small tasks, make the jump to bigger ones.

3. Spend a Day Away From Social Media

There were days when my phone was the extension of my hand. I would pick it up for no reason and then scroll on social media for 30 minutes without realizing it. And I’m not even big on social media platforms. I never post anything on Facebook and have around 200 followers on Instagram, whom I spam with pictures of my travels from time to time.

But I can’t give it up for good, nor do I want to. Facebook is a great way to find out about local events, and Instagram is a great source of inspiration for my writing. But all of these are useful if I use the platforms in moderation.

So instead of deleting the apps from my phone, I’ve decided that I’m not going to use them on Sundays. And so I did. After four weeks, I’ve drastically reduced my screen time and even set a 1-hour limit for social apps.

So if you’re struggling with this as well, start small. Spend a day away from social media or don’t connect your phone to wifi at all. After you realize you’re not missing out on anything, by being offline for one day, you’ll consciously choose to spend less time online, every day.

4. Prepare Your Next Day the Night Before

Choose your outfit and put everything in your bag (men might not understand this, but most women have a looong list of things that they need to have in their everyday bag).

Write down a to-do list and check your calendar to see if you scheduled any meetings or calls. Do anything you can to make the next day easier.

If you have a plan, you get things done faster. There’s no magic involved, it’s pure logic.

5. Eat Mindfully

When you’re eating and working/reading/watching a movie at the same time, you often eat more than you need. Plus, you’re not enjoying the food, nor are you being productive. Can you even taste those vegetables if you’re busy trying to make sense of an excel document? Probably not.

Having lunch or dinner shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes. So when did we become so busy that we don’t even have 10 minutes to spare to fuel our bodies?

Next time you eat, do just that: eat. You’ll see it’s not easy at all to not reach for your phone. And the simple fact that we have to talk ourselves out of doing it should raise some questions.

6 Use a Timer for Your Tasks

The Pomodoro Technique might as well be called the Bible of Productivity. It got so famous because it works so it does deserve all the praise. Out of all the micro-habits I mention here, this one has helped me the most.

Working and traveling full-time is not always easy (or fun, might I add) and you have to come up with a schedule and stick to it. So I’ve adjusted the Pomodoro Technique in a way that works for me: I write for one hour, take a 10-minute break, and then write for another hour.

This is one of the main tricks that have helped meet my deadlines while exploring a few different cities every month.

7. Place Your Phone on the Opposite Side of the Room

If you keep your phone next to you when you sleep, you’ll just keep hitting the snooze button until it’s almost too late to get out of bed. But for most of us, the hard part is standing up, not waking up. And this is why this method works.

When your phone is on the opposite side of the room, you have to get up and take a few steps to stop it from ringing. Then you might realize you are also thirsty and have a lot to do in the next following hours. So your bed doesn’t look so comfortable anymore.

8. Set a Spending Waiting Period

For the past few years, I’ve been applying two rules before buying anything. First, if I see something I like, I never buy it on the spot — unless it’s something I need and have been looking for. Instead, I wait for a few days to see if it’s still going to be on my mind.

If after three days I still dream about a dress or some shoes, I go ahead and buy them. If I completely forget about them, then I just dodged a bullet because it was probably just compulsive shopping.

The second rule applies to items on sale. Everybody loves the sales periods, right? Of course we do. But it’s also when we tend to buy a lot of stuff we don’t need. It’s how our brains are wired. That’s why marketing works. Getting a good deal makes us happy. Satisfied. Until we get home and realize it was just a temporary feeling.

To avoid buying unnecessary things, ask yourself a simple question: “ Would I pay the full price for it?” If the answer is “yes”, then take out your wallet. If it’s negative, walk away.

9. Write Down Every Idea

“It’s ok, I’ll remember it” should go down in history as the biggest lie we tell ourselves. Out of all the things you pick up during the day, you end up forgetting more than half of it.

So make a habit of writing everything down, even the silly stuff that seem unimportant.

Final Thoughts

The main reason why people don’t reach their goals is that they make drastic changes instead of building small, everyday habits. To do so, you only need to follow these two simple rules:

1. Drop a Bad One

Make a list of all the bad habits you have and want to get rid of. Instead of going on a war against yourself, trying to get rid of all of them at the same time, pick only one and focus on that. Take baby steps. Smoke one less cigarette. Buy one less unnecessary item every week. Stop eating one thing out of a few you want to give up.

Only after you’ve managed to give up a bad habit, start working on another one.

2. Add a Good One

The same goes for good changes you want to make. Don’t try to drink 2 liters of water every day if you only drank 1 glass before. Instead, try to drink 2 glasses per day and slowly increase. Add one more vegetable to your plate. Run one more minute on the treadmill. Read one more page every night.

Choose something you’re struggling with and slowly increase the time you spend building that good habit. When you feel like it became a habit, start working on the next one.

As James Clear said in Atomic Habits:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

So make sure you have a well-established system for every goal.

September 2020

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Productivity Is a Byproduct, Not a Goal

Let’s stop obsessing over it.

I've got a confession to make. It’s a little taboo in today’s day and age, especially in certain corners of the internet. But I’m fed up of being productive.

I miss being able to live and let live without a voice in the back of my head questioning my time-effectiveness and wondering whether I’ve achieved as much as I had this time yesterday.

I miss not looking at the clock or seeing it as the enemy.

I miss thinking about life in qualitative, not quantitative, terms.

These days, a productivity fever seems to have swept the world, and I haven’t been exempt.

I’ve got to admit that being productive feels good. I love it when I manage to wake up early, get straight out of bed and accomplish half the day’s tasks before I even have lunch.

And there’s nothing wrong with achieving productive outcomes. But there is something wrong with the mentality of aiming for productivity.

I was more productive when I didn’t try

As a child, I was home educated; I know what life looks like without external motivators and formal structures. Those who have never experienced this — or who have only experienced it for very short periods — may assume that it’s human nature to spend our days lazing around, playing videogames or surfing the web.

This assumption is wrong. And sad.

Back in my days of home education, I’m pretty sure I never procrastinated or wasted time. I remember waking up without an alarm, getting straight out of bed and spending my day doing things that I’d now consider to be ‘extremely productive’.

I’d sit at my desk and fill endless pages of my notebooks with stories.

I’d read for hours, getting through multiple books in a week

I’d spend the whole day on my ‘projects’ — like setting up a market scene for my playmobile or holding a wedding for some cuddly toys — without getting distracted.

It wasn’t because of some productivity hack. It’s because I was intrinsically motivated; I was in a state of flow. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as follows:

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

I’m tired of reading about how to become more productive

I googled ‘how to be more productive’ to find out what words of wisdom I could obtain from Forbes, Inc, and, WikiHow.

WikiHow kept things pretty basic: they told me to be focused, be organized, take care of myself and analyze my performance. Not particularly insightful stuff, but what can you expect from WikiHow?

Forbes and Inc were a bit more specific. They both suggested that it’s important to not multitask, take breaks, avoid mindless tasks that give you the illusion of productivity…..

Are you bored yet? Because I am.

This stuff is all over the internet — YouTube videos, articles, online courses, eBooks. And I don’t think it’s bad advice — I just think it’s missing the point a little.

This obsession with productivity seems to carry the implicit assumptions that we, as humans, are naturally lazy and unproductive. Therefore, we must remedy our intrinsic idleness by using a few neat little tricks to fool ourselves into being more productive.

That seems like a sad state of affairs.

If it takes so much discipline and strategizing to be productive at work, then maybe you need to step back and wonder what you’re really working towards.

Extreme productivity comes at the cost of a balanced life

This is coming from somebody who can — if the time calls for it — be extremely productive by sheer force of will.

When I was studying for my finals, I put my nine exams on to an Excel spreadsheet with a breakdown of the topics and sub-topics of each exam. I used the chunking method and spaced repetition to be as efficient as possible. I had a well-oiled routine for sleeping and eating.

So, every time something came up which could affect my productivity, I panicked a little. A meal out with my friends? A phone call with my mother? These were all things that I felt guilty to say yes to.

I know this sounds extreme, and I know that no productivity writer advocates this kind of mentality. But once you start viewing your life as a process of constant productivity optimization, it’s hard to not think like this.

Even hobbies have to be done productively now

A recent trend I’ve seen is ‘reading challenges’. This bothers me.

When I was a child, I read for pleasure and pleasure alone. I’d choose the books that I found the most interesting and that I expected to enjoy the most. And I read a lot.

As I got older, a funny thing happened. I started to treat reading like a chore.

I set myself targets for how many pages I wanted to read per day. I was always checking which page I was on and calculating how many pages were left until the start of the next section or chapter. I purposely chose shorter books or easy-reading books that I knew I could get through quickly.

This attitude is encouraged by the reading challenges, which demand that we read an arbitrary number of books in a year. You’ll struggle to read 50 books in a year if you’re reading tomes like ‘War and Peace’, ‘Les Miserables’ or ‘Atlas Shrugged’. You might just manage it if you’re reading 200-page novels.

What will it be next? 100-day music challenges, where you have to listen to a new album every day for 100 days, regardless of whether you feel like it?

Is no activity safe from our pursuit of productivity? Have we forgotten that sometimes we can achieve things without the help of numerical targets?

We need to focus internally

Why are we so obsessed with increasing our output per unit of input? That’s the literal definition of productivity.

But we’re not cogs in the machine. We’re humans with human motivations.

Is it possible that obsessing over an external measure of productivity is preventing us from being, well, productive? It sounds counterintuitive, but I think it could be true.

I believe that, provided you take care of yourself by implementing healthy habits, productivity is merely a byproduct created by dedicating ourselves to work and activities that take us into a state of flow.

So maybe this article is just another guide for how to improve productivity after all.

   

 

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8 Lessons Learned from Testing 1,000 Morning Routines

It’s Friday afternoon and, once again, there wasn’t time to get enough of the important work done this week.

You’re overwhelmed by the needs and agendas of others — email hounding you from the moment you wake up until you set the phone down for the night.

When you finally dig into an important project, the day is half gone. You think, now I can get some real work done. But endless interruptions make it hard to gain any traction.

There just isn’t enough time.

And, at this rate, it feels like you’re never going to get ahead. It’s so frustrating — like trying to paddle against the current of a mighty, tireless river. It’s exhausting, and sooner or later you will lose.

If only there was a way to gain a head start on the rest of the world. To get your boat in the race before others have even thought about their first cup of coffee.

Successful Men Know This Secret

By now I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of praise for the almighty Morning Routine. Maybe you already have one.

From Mumbai to Minnesota, men are dragging themselves out of cozy beds, stumbling crusty-eyed toward the bathroom well before sunrise.

You may be asking, “Why make such a sacrifice?”

Because the stakes are high.

Not only does the status quo of being busy-but-not-productive feel terrible, it’s an insidious force — corroding your dreams and aspirations. It sends a message to your soul that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get ahead.

The accumulated regret of never gaining enough momentum to breakthrough and accomplish more feeds the illusion that your currentspeed of progress is your max speed.

Each day lost to inefficiency takes us farther from what could have been achieved in our lifetime. All while moving us toward that sad moment of future regret and unrealized dreams. That moment where we take stock and wonder why we didn’t create the health, wealth, meaning, fulfillment, or legacy we could have.

I Learned to Take Those Magic Hours Seriously

From the time I started getting serious about productivity (about 6 years ago) until now, I’ve easily tested well over 1,000 morning routines.

From this experience, and those of my clients — the men I work with to achieve sustained high performance — I can attest to the magic of the morning hours. A time to get your head on straight. To set the tone for the day — a positive, productive tone.

Not only is it good for your attitude, it also creates space for what Cal Newport describes as “Deep Work.” A period of quiet, focused productivity. Work free from interruptions and distractions.

Although it took me a few years to really get consistent (for reasons we’ll explore below) with my mornings, persistence paid off.

Mistakes were made along the way. Lessons were learned and insights gained. That is what I’m going to share with you today…

1. Your Morning Routine Begins at Night

The single biggest saboteur of my mornings (for years) was an inconsistent bedtime. More often than not, I’d stay up with my wife watching an extra episode of Criminal Minds (or whatever we were into at the time).

On the days when I managed to get in bed on time, I still woke up feeling tired. Why? Because irregular sleep and wake times confuse your body’s circadian rhythms — leaving you feeling “off.”

Here’s the thing. My intention was to get to bed on time, I just didn’t have the right system in place to ensure that it happened consistently.

Mornings do not exist in a vacuum. They are interconnected with the rest of your life.

What you do during those precious hours ripples out, affecting the rest of your day. Likewise, what you do the night before affects the quality of your morning.

Think of the night before as the beginning of your morning routine.

How well you sleep is just as important as how much (7–9 hours for most people). If you get to bed on time but your sleep quality sucks, then your morning routine (and overall health and productivity) will suffer.

Here are some (evening) steps to improve your mornings:

Prepare anything you need for the next morning, like gym bag, journal, or snacks Stop drinking alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime Don’t eat large meals late a night (it can be helpful to have a light snack before bed) Keep your bedroom cool Avoid blue-light exposure from electronics (TV, tablet, phone) Limit or completely avoid the use of stimulants — especially later in the day (coffee, nicotine, chocolate, and certain medications) Release anxious feelings by writing any racing thoughts or nagging concerns in a journal (don’t underestimate the power of this!)

Your evening should be a series of steps that walk you toward restful sleep. Being in bed, reading, teeth brushed, the house all buttoned up for the night— that’s a strategy for success.

2. Being Consistent Required Persistence

There’s something you should know.

The mind can get squirrely when you do something new and uncomfortable. Your old, unproductive identity (the one who likes to sleep in but regrets not having gotten more done each week) will resist the new way.

It will fight for its unproductive little life. Play tricks on you — telling you you’re too tired. Or that you should come up with a whole new routine right then and there (instead of doing the actual damn routine!).

Don’t fall for it.

Get up anyway and go through the motions, even if you half-ass the rest of the routine for the first week. The key is to build that initial habit of waking up at the same time consistently.

As your routine begins to gel into a habit, things get easier. Your body and mind will work for you — pulling you toward the constructive activities, instead of fighting you.

Wake up at the same time every day… Even on the weekends.

Wait, just hear me out on this one…

I used to sleep in on the weekends. On Monday the struggle would begin all over again. By the time I’d get back into a groove it would be the weekend.

Remember what I said about irregular bedtimes and circadian rhythms?

When I finally became consistent with the timing of my evening and morning routines, it became so much easier. Now I often wake up before the alarm (annoying).

Having said all that, being consistent doesn’t mean being rigid. There will be days when you really should sleep in.

3. Make Your Routine Less Routine

Okay, I can hear you… “James, you’re not making any sense.”

Bear with me for a minute.

I know that (like me) you’re always changing, growing, and picking up new interests.

You know what’s cool, though? You can still benefit from the momentum of habits while enjoying a bit of novelty.

We’ll discuss exercise more down below, but just as an example: Your morning routine may include exercise from 6 — 6:45 am. But, during that time window, you can do different types of exercise on different days. So, if on Mondays and Wednesdays you run, then Tuesdays and Thursdays you can do calisthenics. Or, maybe you like to run daily in the summer and hit the weights during the colder months.

Doing it this way builds the habit of exercising at the same time each morning. It keeps things novel and doesn’t mess up the habit-momentum you’ve been so diligent about cultivating.

The idea is that, at the same time every day, your body and mind are expecting to do a similar activity — and pulling you in that direction.

We’ll look at some other activities you should include in a powerful morning routine shortly.

4. Focus, Or Forget It

We live in a world designed to hijack our attention and energy.

If we don’t carefully guard those precious resources, we risk frittering away our mornings.

Some effective ways to waste a perfectly good morning: Check your inbox, pop over to reddit, or scroll through Facebook or Instagram. And if you’re going anywhere near your phone then you may as well just sleep in.

About the phone…

Get it out of the bedroom and (if practical) away from wherever you’re going to do your morning routine. If you’re headed out, keep it on airplane mode. If you find yourself scrolling through Instagram and you have no idea how you got there (old habit momentum), use site blocking apps.

Likewise, if you’re going to be working at your laptop/desktop, then it’s a good idea to use site blocking apps there, too. There are free options like Self Control, as well as paid options like Freedom or RescueTime (and many more).

The key is to stick to the routine. Do nothing that is not part of your routine. If you catch yourself going off track, stop. Immediately go back to your routine.

You don’t want to get in the habit of doing a half-baked, unfocused morning routine.

5. Get Your Ass Moving

What you do in the morning affects the entire day — how you feel, think, perceive, and act. It sets the tone.

Doing something physical is key. You’ve got to get the blood moving and the feel-good neurotransmitters flowing.

Some of the early morning physical activities that I’ve enjoyed over the years include self-massage, foam rolling, hot and cold showers, qigong (Chinese meditation and movement practices), hiking, calisthenics, weightlifting, and martial arts.

Do something you enjoy.

A confession… I don’t exercise in the mornings anymore. I do self-massage instead.

Why?

I’m a lean guy with a high metabolism. I’ve found that my workouts are much better after I get a couple meals in me. If I workout hard in a fasted state I’ll feel wiped out for the rest of the day.

Maybe it’s because I’m in my 40’s now.

We’re all a little different. I like self-massage because it feels good and prepares my body for all the movement practices I do during the rest of the day.

Remember, you choose a time for physical activity and either have a set activity to do on specific days or you can keep it flexible. If you’ve been living hard, you may opt for a hot shower and some self-massage for recovery. If you’ve been feeling sluggish, then doing a run may be better.

Decide the night before so you’re not wasting precious time in the morning.

6. Move Forward on Meaningful Matters

One of the greatest benefits of having a consistent morning routine is the ability to do deep, focused work.

Uninterrupted. Quiet. Glorious work.

Depending on when you wake up, you can get as much as 2 hours of solid work done before breakfast. This isn’t just any “busywork.” This is work that is fresh, focused, and untainted by the demands of the day.

Your best work.

Imagine doing this daily. For weeks, months, and years.

As Owen Wilson would say: “Wow!”

Seriously, though, what would that mean for your life? It’s made a huge difference in my output, confidence, and mental well-being.

That’s right. It’s good for your mental and emotional lives.

I think you follow, but in case I lost you…

How terrible does it feel to be unproductive? How anxious, sad, frustrated, and overwhelmed do you feel when you can’t make headway on the important stuff?

Okay, erase all that. Gone.

Everyday you can walk into the storm of life knowing you’ve already conquered the day. That productive momentum carries forward and you actually get more done throughout the rest of the day.

Awesome. I know.

7. Make Up Your Mind for the Day

Speaking of mental health…

This is one that my clients are often tempted to skip. In my experience, that’s a big mistake.

Including some version of meditative introspection into the routine aligns your daily actions with your values and goals.

I prefer journaling.

Whether it’s something like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, or simply free-writing in a notebook, it helps immensely to clear your mind and set your intention for the day.

Although I highly recommend a writing practice, some people just won’t do it. That’s fine. You can also meditate or go for a walk in nature (or on the treadmill) and ponder life’s greater meaning.

Reading spiritual or philosophical texts or listening to audio-books and podcasts that remind you of your values can serve a similar purpose.

I do my journal writing at the end of my morning routine, but you can do it whenever feels right.

The reason I do it at the end is because I’m already enjoying the momentum and good feelings from taking care of my body and getting some great work done. That makes it easy to feel positive and optimistic about the rest of my day and sets the tone for my self-reflection.

And, if for some reason you’re feeling challenged or are facing resistance or fear, this is an opportunity to resolve it and connect with more constructive thoughts and feelings.

8. Too Much of a Good Thing?

Going on a three hour hike before breakfast is pretty amazing. Doing three hours of meditation and movement can be life changing. And, hammering out three hours of deep work is epic.

I’ve enjoyed them all. But…

I wouldn’t recommend going that route if you want the all-around most effective morning routine.

Why?

Because I’ve found that the best mornings are balanced. They include a mix of something physical, some time for focused work, and a way to get my mind and heart aligned for the day.

You can get creative and combine practices.

For example, go on an hour hike with your wife and discuss your goals and how you’re going to crush it that day. That’s great. You’re doing something physical, enjoying the benefits of nature, and getting your heart and mind aligned. Then you can come home and dive into focused work until it’s time for breakfast (or do your work first, then enjoy your walk).

There are activities like yoga, qigong, and Tai Chi that combine physical movement with meditation. I love qigong and have practiced it for years (I like doing it in the evening).

So, what does my morning routine looks like.

I wake up and write from 5:30 — 7:30 am. Then I do self-massage for 20 minutes. Then I write in my journal for about 10 minutes. Then breakfast.

Simple? Yep.

Life changing? Definitely.

Time to Wake Up and Make Your Dreams Real

Our lives can feel like a giant river of distraction, full of currents that threaten to pull us into the depths and drown our dreams.

When we finally get down to doing meaningful work, it’s like the world is conspiring against us — calling for our attention at every turn.

We suspect that we may never get ahead — a very real possibility.

I think you’ll agree that if we want to make progress towards our goals, then we must get up before everyone else — before the chaos of life hijacks our time and attention.

With the eight lessons above, you are equipped with the knowledge to create a powerfully productive morning routine.

Follow these guidelines, experiment, and persist.

Remember to guard your attention and focus like your life depends on it (because it does). Be consistent, but not rigid. Include physical activity, a little soul searching, and deep work — work that matters.

We must swim with all our might toward the shores of productivity, dragging our soaking body up the embankment — away from the noise of the raging river of distraction.

We must find a quiet, sunny place to gather our wits and focus our attention. Then, in that place, away from the noise and currents of life, we can do something important. Something meaningful. We can decide where we’re going in life, instead of fighting to stay afloat in the tumult.

Let tomorrow morning mark the beginning of a new way. Let it be the day you prioritize achieving your productive potential.

   

 

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Home working set to double post coronavirus crisis, survey finds

Home working set to double post coronavirus crisis, survey finds

Employers expect the number of staff working from home in the future to double in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, research has found, despite government plans to start getting office staff back into workplaces from August. 

Almost two in five (37 per cent) employees will be working from home on a regular basis once the crisis is over, according to employer predictions made as part of CIPD research, compared to just a fifth (18 per cent) who did so before lockdown. 

Additionally, businesses expected the proportion of staff working from home all the time to increase from 9 per cent before the pandemic to 22 per cent. 

In the CIPD research, which surveyed 1,046 UK employers, organisations reported the average proportion of the workforce conducting their roles from home continuously was more than half (54 per cent). 

In response to this expected increase in home working, the CIPD has called on the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right for all employees. Currently, employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible for flexible working. 

As part of the Queen’s speech in 2019, the government announced it would consult on whether to make flexible working the default working arrangement, taking the onus off employees to request this. The proposal would see employers having to make all roles flexible unless there was a sound business case for why the role could not be done flexibly. 

At the end of last week health secretary Matt Hancock suggested the right to work from home could be more strongly enshrined in law as a result of the pandemic having demonstrated how successful mass home working could be. Hancock revealed the potential legal shake-up in a web chat with members of women’s club AllBright, where he said home working should be “the norm”.

But this coincided with prime minister Boris Johnson, during ‘People’s PMQs’ last week, urging Britons to go back to work if they could, apparently shifting the emphasis from current official guidance, in place since March, to work from home where possible.

Johnson is expected to set out the next steps for easing lockdown in a press conference on Friday (17 July), when he is expected to detail plans for workers to return to offices from August.

The new roadmap would show how staff could return to work over the next nine months, including details on using public transport safely. UK workers will be encouraged to drive, walk and cycle, and only use buses and trains between 9am and 4pm, and after 8pm, with August earmarked for the introduction of a new system for travel networks as it is usually the quietest period.

“I do want people to start to go to work now if you can, but remember to follow the guidance because that is the way to save lives,” Johnson said during last week’s People’s PMQs. “I think we should now say ‘go back to work if you can’ because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives normally.” 

He reiterated this stance during prime minister’s questions yesterday (16 July), when he said employers should decide along with workers when it was safe to go back to the office and where they should continue working from home. He told ministers this week that Whitehall staff would "set an example" by returning to work, with plans being worked on currently to send thousands of civil servants back to their offices in the coming weeks.

But Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said coronavirus will have a long-lasting effect on how people in the UK work, with a step change in the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis. He acknowledged the shift would “disrupt some existing patterns of economic activity” – such as money spent on commuting to offices and in cafes and other city centre businesses – but this would ultimately benefit both employers and employees.

“Greater use of home working will make work more accessible and sustainable for all, particularly for people with caring responsibilities and those with mobility or health concerns,” Cheese said. “This shift will support and encourage employers to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, which is good for the economy and society at large.”

Cheese warned many employers still needed to improve how they managed and supported people who worked from home regularly, increase the range and uptake of other forms of flexible working, and support a wider shift to more flexible workplaces in the future. 

However, Jude Read, managing director of Jude Read-HR Consultancy, said she could understand why the government and some employers were keen to get people back to offices, with working from home not ideal for all organisations. “Employers have had no choice but to adopt ways of working for the purpose of business continuity and to remain competitive within the market they operate,” Read said. 

“But some businesses are unable to accommodate working from home because of the nature of what they do, namely factories, production and manufacturing industries. So then there’s the issue with fairness and perceived fairness potentially driving a divide in the workforce, where mainly office-based employees can work from home yet those on the shop floor must attend work each day.” 

However, Read conceded that many businesses that would not have considered flexible working in the past had now discovered it could in fact work well for them long term. To make it a success post lockdown, HR must ensure staff were treated fairly and home working policies were in place to prevent burnout among staff, she said.

“Managers will need to be trained to understand how home working may affect employees in both positive and negative ways and to know the warning signs,” Read said. “A requirement to attend the office regularly will help to maintain employee engagement and ultimately benefit the business.”

The CIPD survey found 44 per cent of employers reported putting in place additional measures or spend to support home working in future. Of these, two-thirds (66 per cent) planned to change their policies to reflect a move to more home working, and 46 per cent were looking to invest in line manager training on supporting and managing home workers. 

A third (33 per cent) planned to introduce new forms of flexible working, including: working from home on a regular basis (70 per cent); always working from home (45 per cent); part-time hours (40 per cent); flexi-time (39 per cent); compressed hours (25 per cent); and term-time working (16 per cent). 

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Beware the office politics of hybrid workplaces

There should really be no debate about whether people should work from home or return to the office. Clearly, one size does not fit all, and people should have the choice. We are entering the age of hybrid workplaces, with flexibility being a better option than any imposed alternative. Henry Ford famously said his customers could have their car in any colour they wanted, as long as it was black. Companies should not imitate this take on flexibility by telling employees they are free to work anywhere they want, as long as they can be found in the office.

And yet, things are not that simple. Even when organisations have the luxury to offer flexible working arrangements to employees, curating their experiences to accommodate their personal circumstances and needs (doesn’t that sound just great?), there are clearly negative implications of such an approach. Most notably, when you let people make choices, you automatically increase the willingness to scrutinise their preferences. This has long been the case with trivial HR policies, such as dress code. You impose ‘dress down Friday’ and the stakes are suddenly much higher than when people were ‘forced’ to wear standard attire or an official work uniform.

Well, this will happen on steroids when you give people the choice of where they’d prefer to work. A bit like when universities offer both online and on campus education (which is increasingly the hybrid norm for all, though the online option has temporarily become the only option in many places) there are different tiers or status hierarchies attributed to each mode. So, for instance, we may assume that if you actually visit Harvard, and spend a year there – not just paying a premium for the campus experience, but also socialising and networking with the superstar faculty – you are on a different level than the thousands of students who subscribe to a remote or virtual learning programme, getting access to some of the same filmed lectures, and interacting with teaching assistants over Zoom or chat. (Remember the vintage notion of the chatroom? Well it is still with us.)

If companies reopen their offices and give people the choice to come back – and the circumstances allow for, say, 50 per cent of people to return to work – it’s inevitable those individuals able to manage impressions, play politics, be part of the in-group and network will take advantage of this situation. Not least because the big bosses are leading by example and they happen to prefer not being at home (after all, with business travel down, all they have is the office). 

Imagine a board, leadership or town hall meeting where half the employees are present but the other half are remote. There will probably be significant brownie points, reputational gains and political benefits for those who are present – even if they are just enjoying the benefits of freedom, because they have someone else working from home, looking after the kids, are single or have the economic resources to outsource parenting and childcare. 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. If, and it’s a big ‘if’, organisations learn to measure what people actually contribute to the company, quantifying their output, productivity and performance, and focus less on style and more on substance, then a hybrid office may actually turn into a productivity enabler. It would allow people to meet up to exchange ideas and collaborate, leveraging the synergies of team creativity, and nurturing their healthy prosocial instincts. That’s a very different picture than the current reality of: ‘I’m showing up because it matters,’ ‘perceptions are king’, or, as a client recently told me, ‘but without the office, how can I pretend to work?’

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is professor of business psychology at UCL and Columbia and chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup  

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The benefits of family-friendly working conditions

Following the recommendations of the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (Good Work Plan) the government ran a consultation in 2019 on proposals to support working families. One such proposal was about encouraging employers to be more transparent about their approach to flexible working. 

A recent study by Timewise found that nine in 10 people in the UK wanted to work flexibly. While there are many different forms of flexible working such as part-time working, flexitime, remote working, job shares and annualised or compressed hours, they are all ways of moving away from the traditional office nine-five. The reasons for wanting to work flexibly are equally varied, but common responses include a desire to reduce commuting time, managing childcare responsibilities, and achieving a better work-life balance by spending more time with friends and family. 

The Good Work Plan noted that despite advances in technology enabling flexible working, there was a view that traditional workplace culture – being ‘seen at your desk’ - and a perceived lack of trust from management were creating obstacles to flexible working. Many of these obstacles have had to be quickly overcome in the last few months.   

Employees with 26 weeks’ service have the right to request flexible working but, despite this right, too few jobs are advertised as being available to people who may wish to work flexibly. A 2019 survey of working families found that despite 86 per cent of respondents saying they would like to work flexibly, just over half actually did. 

Employers that are open about flexible working arrangements and family-friendly policies from the start will undoubtedly be seen as more attractive than those that are not. Employers that do not promote flexible working opportunities may not only struggle to recruit new talent but motivate and retain their existing workforce too.

Remote working during Covid-19

Remote working is a flexible working arrangement that has been thrust on many businesses overnight in response to the spread of Covid-19 in the UK. The government has advised that where possible, employees should work from home for the foreseeable future. While many employers will already have remote working policies in place, this will be a foreign concept to others. Regardless of where the organisation stood on remote working before the coronavirus outbreak, many employers will now need to quickly address the practicalities of every staff member working from home.  

Nuffield Health recently launched a whitepaper examining the impact of remote working on employees and employers. While there were positives to report – remote working can provide employees with flexibility to juggle work and home life demands – studies show that spending more than half the week out of the office could have detrimental effects on the workplace culture. In the present circumstances, employers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls and how to alleviate these.

Recommendations for employers Put a remote working policy in place, or refresh your existing policy, being mindful that one size won’t fit all. Consider those who have childcare responsibilities. Ensure that employees have the right technology to enable them to work remotely and know where to find support. It may be necessary to ask employees to use their own equipment, which is likely to be considered a reasonable request given the exceptional circumstances. Conduct health and safety assessments to ensure employees have a suitable space at home to work from – the obligation to protect employees’ welfare, health and safety ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ still applies. Given the numbers of employees likely to be working from home, consideration will need to be given to the best method of safely assessing the employee’s home working environment.  Consider data protection implications for home working, especially if employees are handling sensitive materials, and speak to your data protection officer for advice. Encourage meetings by phone or video conferencing technology, and use of instant messaging to replace ‘water cooler’ conversations and keep morale up. Be alive to employee concerns of isolation or stress and signpost mental health support where available. The future of flexible working

In response to the consultation, the government has already pledged to implement changes – such as the introduction of leave and statutory pay for parents of babies in neonatal care – through the forthcoming Employment Bill. Responses are expected in due course regarding parental leave and pay, and also on the transparency of flexible working and related policies, though given the circumstances we anticipate a delay of both the bill and any further responses on these issues.

What is clear is that the unprecedented circumstances surrounding Covid-19 has the potential to permanently shift employee working culture. While remote working is currently a necessity for many organisations, in the longer term, employees may question if there is a need to work from the office at all. While this may inevitably present challenges, some employers may see this as an opportunity to embrace and promote greater flexibility. It’s possible that the current circumstances are driving a paradigm shift that will change the way we work forever.

Rob Tubman is a solicitor at TLT LLP

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How will Covid-19 affect gender equality?

The accelerated move towards flexible working brought about by the crisis may benefit women, but risks offices becoming ‘men’s dens’. Gillian MacLellan and Abbie Harley explain how employers can mitigate this

The closure of workplaces as a result of Covid-19 has significantly accelerated the move towards flexible working. Many employers that were previously sceptical have been forced to embrace remote working, technology issues have been overcome and businesses are waking up to the potential cost savings of long-term working from home. 

From an employee perspective, many are in favour of working from home being the ‘new normal’. This has prompted employers to revisit their workplace strategies with a view to long-term change; some are planning ‘hub’ offices where staff only attend for key meetings, while others will allow employees more flexibility to choose how often they attend the office.

Impact from a gender perspective

It is important that businesses consider the potential gender impact of their plans and ask what effect their future workplace model has on gender equality.

A recent study by the IFS and the UCL Institute of Education found that among those doing paid work from home during lockdown, mothers are more likely than fathers to be spending their working hours simultaneously caring for children. This has resulted in mothers doing, on average, a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers.

Offering flexible working solutions will help female employees balance their work and home lives. It could simultaneously result in the creation of what the Fawcett Society is calling a ‘two tier’ workforce, with offices becoming ‘men’s dens’. Workplaces where one gender dominates in terms of numbers present various challenges for employers. It can have a negative impact on a company’s culture, indicating anything but the inclusive feel most employers want to generate. Gender balance within an office affects the social dynamics of team interactions.

It also potentially affects who gets what work – the person you chat to multiple times a day at the coffee machine and grab lunch with, or the virtual colleague on the end of the VC? It can affect whose voice is ‘heard’ – the ‘centre of gravity’ of a meeting is typically in the meeting room, with those at home feeling less connected and involved. 

While we are all working from home, these issues have not come to the fore; we are all virtual colleagues. As more mixed-working models emerge, this level playing field will start to tilt and businesses need to take proactive steps to manage this.

Get your messaging right – flexibility isn’t just for women. Make it clear it is open to all employees to request to work flexibly, regardless of gender, age or caring responsibilities. A clear policy and consistent approach on an organisation’s flexible working arrangements should help to reduce inconsistencies.

Encourage senior stakeholders to walk the walk. Allowing employees to see that even the most important roles can be undertaken flexibly helps move away from the misconception that home working is somehow less valuable than work carried out in the office. 

Audit. As we move out of lockdown many employers are sending out return to work questionnaires to employees to try to accommodate individual preferences and circumstances. These provide a good opportunity to audit the gender balance of those asking to come back to the office. 

Communication. Maintaining communication with employees during lockdown has been essential. Employers should continue to focus on this as staff start to return to the workplace, ensuring that those who remain working from home continue to not only be kept in the loop but be treated as a core part of the team. 

Train your leaders to manage differently. Busy managers often just want the job done and will opt for the fastest and easiest route to achieve that. Taking time out with them to talk through how they are going to manage their teams in a mixed model of working will be time well spent. 

Keep it under review. Both employees’ and employers’ needs are likely to change over time as the world slowly progresses to the ‘new normal’. Employers should monitor the situation, carrying out further surveys and audits to ensure their approaches to flexible working correspond with those changing needs and do not undermine their diversity and inclusion goals. 

Gillian MacLellan is a partner, and Abbie Harley senior associate, at CMS

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How to Design the Ideal Home Office

Professional designer Jo Heinz describes how to make your office a welcome, efficient and productive place to work.

Jo Heinz is president of Dallas interior architecture and design firm Staffelbach. Entrepreneur.com asked Heinz for advice on designing a home office for maximum efficiency. Here's what she had to say:

How does designing an effective home office differ from designing a commercial office? And what considerations do you need to keep in mind even before you get started?
Working from home is exciting because it offers an opportunity for real comfort and efficiency, but if the office is too casual, or isn't effectively separated from the home environment, peak productivity may be lost.

While comfort is essential in any office, an office that is too casual may seriously impede the ability to get things done. You have to find a way to separate yourself from the rest of the goings-on in the home and to convey a sense of "off limits" to all other normal and natural home sounds and interruptions.

A distinction has to be made regarding the physical boundaries of this working space. The most effective way to do that is with the design of the space itself.

Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

What will you be doing in the space? What type of work needs to be done? Will external clients be visiting the space? Will colleagues visit for collaborative work? What type of materials will be referenced and/or stored? What type of equipment is required? When will I be doing the bulk of my work? Will I be making conference calls? Will I be video conferencing?

The answers to these questions will begin to develop the program for your home office.

The next step is setting up your space. Where are you going to put your office? It doesn't need to be large or expansive, but it should be separate from other areas. You might be able to convert the guest room you only use a few times a year or another underutilized area into your office. Evaluate how the space you find can be dedicated for your use and can be "your space."

Keep all of your work in that space because it's important that you be able to find things, retrieve things and be efficient within this space. You will also want to keep the non-office space in your home free of work items. This promotes healthy balance and allows you to relax at home when you are not at work.

Establish set hours for your work at home. This contributes to your life balance, and should also help you be more productive and organize your day. The biggest problem home workers have is the loss of distinction between work life and home life.

Compartmentalizing your day into identifiable segments will help. Set up an established outline of time that you know you will spend in your office. That will help you develop a plan for productivity.

What are the most common mistakes people make when they're setting up a home office?
There are five:

Thinking you can "tune out" the plasma screen on the wall. Don't hang it anywhere near where you'll be working. Inadequate storage components Lack of space for reference materials Slow and inefficient equipment Inadequate wire management (cords and wire spaghetti everywhere)

What are the most important five things to consider when you're setting up a home office?

Equipment. Speed and efficiency are critical at home. But make careful decisions. Question whether that large color copier is a real necessity or if a trip to the neighborhood Kinkos will suffice. Don't pay for equipment you won't use on a daily basis.

Investigate a wireless hub for your office so you have the flexibility to work on your laptop from your desk, your chair or a table, and at both standing and sitting heights. This simple option can enhance your creative problem-solving and thinking ability.

You'll want a separate phone line to your office so no business associate or client gets a busy signal. Also, make sure your phone has the capability for messaging, conferencing and speaker functions.

Be sure you have a local and responsive computer support team that will make home service calls promptly. You need to know you can rely on the equipment you have to work.

Be sure you invest in the fastest equipment available, so you don't spend your time waiting for things to work.

And don't forget insurance on that equipment. Affordable policies will insure your home office equipment in the event of a loss or disaster. You'll want this peace of mind. Many insurance companies offer special coverage for home workers. Lighting. Good lighting is essential. Ideally you want as much natural daylight as possible. If your space has a window, it will enhance the lighting. Daylight is the most evenly balanced source of white light available, in that sunlight has an approximately equal proportion of each color of the spectrum. This light, however, never has a constant color and its beauty comes from the way it is reflected and from the way it is refracted by the earth (as in differing times of day). The color of natural light also differs based on geographic location. It is always beneficial to have as much natural light as possible in the working area.

If no daylight is available, a combination of general and task lighting will be required. A high-quality task light will be essential for late nights or cloudy days. If your home office is in a basement or a room without windows, check out daylight-replicating light sources that will provide energy-efficient, full-spectrum lighting. Many ergonomic task-lighting fixtures have dimmer switches so you can control the amount of light.

The most effective lighting brings out the fullest quality of the colors illuminated. If lighting levels are too low, there can be negative psychological effects, including depression. For human comfort, a yellow-cast illumination is best. It is the color of brightness, and midway through the color progression from cool to warm.

To avoid glare, don't place overhead lighting directly above computer screens, and don't put a computer screen directly in front of a light source. That will cause eyestrain.

Energy guidelines are leading to new reduced-light levels in offices that are easier on the eyes. The most critical factor with lighting is the ability to control its brightness and intensity. Privacy. No one can work effectively in a sea of noise or interruptions. When planning your office area, ensure that it affords a degree of privacy from surrounding activities. While headphones may serve to isolate certain sounds, no one wants to be forced to wear headphones all the time. Portable screens can be used to shield the work area from nearby activities. Alternatively, divider walls that double as bookcases will not only divide the area but provide superior storage solutions.

To assist in creating the quiet needed for real concentration and work, a degree of white noise can be helpful. Air filters and low fans will operate at a quiet speed to muffle other noises.

If a door to the office area is not practical or available, it may be helpful to add signage (e.g., "No interruptions" or "Quiet please") to remind others in the space that this is "work time." Layout/organization. The old rule, "a place for everything and everything in its place" was coined to relieve stress. If you have carefully thought through your storage requirements, you'll have the space you need.

The desk surface of your choice will serve to support your laptop or desktop computer and work-related items. Your desk will likely be the place where you spend the most time. Consider the myriad of options available for organization of papers on your desk. What is essential for productivity is an organized desk that keeps pending work in order and prevents the chaos of disorganized piles.

Solutions are as simple as pencil cups or trays to keep all writing instruments in one place, plus memo and business card holders so, literally, there is a place for everything. Shops such as The Container Store make it easy for you to get organized and stay that way. In this day and age, there are so many options for storage, the challenge is more in finding what works best with your flow of paper and work. Do you find yourself working from left to right? Does your paper trail have a distinct flow? Remember than when planning how you store your items.

Italian product designer and manufacturer EmmeBi has amazing examples of how it organizes an office, both commercial and residential. You can use those ideas for inspiration and, if your budget requires a more modest approach, mimic the same look with some of the items found at Target , Ikea and similar stores. Ergonomics. Your health, safety and welfare are critical. Therefore, the items you choose should be ergonomically designed to promote your health and well-being while using them.

Chair manufacturers have made significant improvements in adjustability and comfort for computer users. They have even researched the biomechanics of seating. Task chairs reflect this research and are making individuals' lives easier even when they work on a computer the entire day. Keilhauer has produced chairs that feature a pelvis balance point and free shoulder technology. They are truly kind to your back and spine during computer work. Another favorite of ours is Humanscale . It has also taken a great amount of time and effort to study the needs of the human body when it comes to working. If you are in a position where you write or create most of the time, the company's chairs are an investment you will be thankful for for many years.

Consider foot rests, ergonomic mouse instruments shaped to fit your hand and soft keyboard pads that allow rest and relaxation for the wrist, and foot rests. All enhance the work experience and make your time at work less stressful to your body. The goal is make work comfortable for your body and to support the areas of the human form that are brought into play with the work you do.

How can you set up an office to take advantage of the "green" mind-set?
Consider sustainability. Computers contain hazardous materials such as heavy metals, vinyl and toxic chemicals. They also rely on electricity for power. Keep the computer, your printer and other office equipment turned off when idle. Activate power-saving features on your computer. When trading in for new equipment, make sure your home office equipment will be recycled. Avoid throwing office equipment into the trash. A simple internet search will offer many options in your area.

Keep the planet in mind. Eco-friendly design ensures earth-friendly materials. Consider items such as recycled glass countertops and specify materials that use resources most efficiently, such as woods from sustainable forestry and products that are recyclable. Use local and regional resources when available, as this keeps the money local, supports local business and keeps shipping and freight costs (as well as resources used) at a minimum. Also, don't be afraid to look into ways to integrate energy conservation such as "daylighting," which takes advantage of natural light. That will not only help you feel better as you work, but it will also help the planet.

What are the best colors for an office?
The psychology of color is real. Certain colors elicit emotional and physical reactions and responses from individuals. Color impacts mood and energy levels. Therefore, be aware of the psychological impact of the color you choose for your home office.

Blues, greens and violets are considered cool colors. These colors evoke feelings of peace and relaxation. Blue can actually make a room feel cooler and can lull occupants to sleep. It's an ideal bedroom color, but not an ideal office color.

As the dominant color in nature, green is considered a neutral. We are very comfortable in green surroundings. Green evokes organic, fresh, restful emotions and can foster concentration. Today's new brand images feature a lime green tint that combines yellow hues. This color can add freshness and vitality to an office. The addition of green to an office area will enhance its balance.

Yellow grabs attention. That's why the most popular highlighters are yellow. It catches the eye like no other color. It makes people happy and evokes optimism. But a bright yellow might be distracting or overpowering in an office area and could even cause a degree of anxiety.

Red is energetic and stirring. It often produces strong feelings and can create excitement. If used in a home office, it should be used as an accent only.

White, ivory, gray and tan can carry subtle variations of color. So they can be neutral with overtones of the colors you feel most comfortable with, such as a warm gray or a cool gray. These colors do not distract and can be combined with accent colors for vitality and energy.

Accents and shades of purple have been proven to stimulate imagination. Purple or lavender tones cross the line between warm and cool tones and can evoke a favorable response when focus and concentration are required.

With all colors, it's important to test the colors on the wall in large enough areas to ensure compatibility.

There is no real hard and fast formula for color associations. The color blending is subject to the occupant's wishes.

How would you sum up the concept of home office design?
Make the space your own. Ensure that the space reflects your personality and that you enjoy being there. Ensure that your office reflects you and that it contains a favorite object or photo that will give you the break you need when you pause in your work. It is these small touches that help you make the space your own.

Your office should be a connection to yourself, your spirit and your productivity. It should afford focus rather than distraction and be a place you want to be and want to spend time in. That will positively influence you in the space and enhance the work you do there.

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7 Tried-and-True Secrets for a Productive Home Office

The jury is still out on whether employees who work from home or work from an office are more productive, but research from a recent Harvard Business Review article suggests that people who work their same office schedule from home get more done per day. The employees’ explanation? The quiet environment helped their productivity.

What’s more, working from home gives you the freedom to create the space you need to do the work you need to do. At home, you can control (at least most of) the features of your surroundings, while in an office, you’ve pretty much just got your desk to design. 

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the workspaces and work habits of seven DIY, design, and home improvement bloggers. Not only do they work from home, but thanks to their expertise, they know how to create their perfect, concentration-boosting space. 

Here are their best productivity tips, which you can replicate and try out in your own workspace. (And, hey, some of this advice might even work at a “real” office!)

1. Think Like a Mouse

...And find the quietest corner of your house. While some people need some background noise to work, others find any noise at all (a barking dog, a noisy air vent, children playing) incredibly disturbing. 

For Our Home from Scratch blogger John Gerard, a busy room is the worst place to work. “I’m much more efficient in a quiet, distraction-free space,” he says. “Our home office is far enough away from the television and the play area that, with the doors closed, I can easily work in peace.” 

If you feel the same way, make sure that your workspace doesn’t coincide with anyone’s play space. Or, at the very least, choose a room with a door.

2. Declutter Your Desk

It’s pretty obvious that swimming through extra papers and pens delays your progress, but what exactly should you have on your desk? According to Engineer Your Space blogger Isabelle LaRue, not much. “I usually have a couple of folders on the left-hand side housing my current projects and since I have a bad sticky note habit, there’s always a few of those lying around on any given day.” 

While sticky notes can be a helpful tool, extra books, piles of paper, or cups half full of lukewarm coffee will strongly detract from your productivity, not to mention your concentration. You don’t want your desk to be empty—don’t stow away your pen if you’ll be picking it up again today—but giving yourself space to work allows you to have space to think as well.

3. And the Rest of the House

According to Melissa George from Polished Habitat, it might take a bit more than clearing your desk to focus your mind. “I’ve actually noticed that my concentration goes up when the entire house is straightened up,” she explains. “Even though I can’t see the kitchen island from the office, I work better when it is free from mail and the other things that tend to pile up on it.” 

In other words, as much as you want to ignore your messy living room, shutting your office door might not be enough to convince you that your mess has disappeared. Spend a couple minutes each night tidying up, so that the next morning you’re ready for business. 

4. Bring in Some Green

Though you probably shouldn’t set up shop in your garden, you can definitely bring some of the outdoors in. A desk or floor plant is a great way to add a breath of fresh air to your workspace and create some visual variety when your eyes need a break from the screen. “I always have fresh flowers beside the computer on my desk,” says Daune Pitman, blogger at Cottage in the Oaks.

If you don’t trust your black thumb to keep that plant going for more than a week, try something resilient, like a small cactus or succulent, or at least arrange your desk so that you can see the outdoors. “My desk faces two large glass doors and windows,” says Daune, “so I can always have a view outside.” 

5. Try a Scent

For some, including Organizing Made Fun blogger Becky Barnfather, a good scent can make a big difference. 

Beyond adding a pleasant smell to your workspace, certain essential oils have proven effects that could help you get your work done. Peppermint, for example, can give you an energy boost, while rosemary can help you concentrate and get tasks done faster and more accurately. And sweet orange can help with anxiety. (Just make sure you look up how to use each kind properly and safely!)

6. Use a Smaller To-Do List

Before you begin tackling the day’s tasks, spend 10 minutes creating a detailed checklist. Then, spend another five making an even shorter checklist of tasks you absolutely know will get done in the next couple of hours. 

This idea is from Donna Williams, home decor and design blogger at Funky Junk Interiors. “If the tasks are too many for the day,” she explains, “there's no way it'll get done.” This trick not only helps you remember and plan for each chore, but also breaks your day down into small, actionable tasks. Plus, once you check off or cross out your finished work, those visible accomplishments will spur your productivity!

7. Take Meaningful Breaks

When it’s time to take a break, most of us default to clicking over to social media for a while. But for a more productive way to recharge your batteries, try reading relevant articles to give you some inspiration, learning about new innovations in your field, or even taking a walk around your block. The Cutting Cafe blogger Regina Easter works in paper crafts and designs, so when she hits an unproductive slump, she’ll spend some time on Pinterest, getting some inspiration and motivation to keep working. 

As long as you’re timing your breaks, you’ll be back to work shortly and your brain will feel a bit more refreshed. Choose an increment of time that works better for your schedule and work habits. Just be careful not to make it so short that it interrupts you when you’re finally in the zone, or so long that it is ineffective.

With a quiet, beautiful space and some strategic habits, even the 3 PM work slump won’t know what hit it! To check out more productive workspaces and home offices, browse the Home Office page on Hometalk.

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How to set up a work-from-home ‘office’ for the long term

During the pandemic, and likely well afterward, many people will work outside the office. Here’s what you need to do so your home workspace will support your work — and won’t wreck your body — over the long term.

Working from home is hardly a new phenomenon, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it an unplanned requirement for many office and knowledge workers. Even as the coronavirus crisis eventually recedes, many employers will have discovered that they don’t need large office buildings, and many employees will have discovered that they don’t need to be in the office every day or spend hours commuting.

But many people have set up makeshift home offices for the pandemic that won’t work well for the long term. In addition to having the right equipment, the physical setup — the ergonomics of the workspace — is critical, especially around avoiding repetitive strain injuries that a bad setup can cause. I suffered such RSI issues 20 years ago and narrowly avoided a relapse a year ago, so I know what it takes to get back to and stay in a workable status.

And employers, take note: RSI puts you on the hook for workers’ compensation claims and, of course, lost productivity.

The ideal home office setup

A long-term home office should ideally be a separate space in your home that is properly outfitted for work. Do as much of the following as you can to create an effective, safe workspace for the long term.

Galen Gruman/IDG

Here’s my office setup (no, it’s not usually so clean). It provides for proper height and sufficient workspace. My laptop is hard to see, but it’s tucked away under the bottom monitor riser. (Click image to enlarge it.)

A dedicated space

Ideally, you would use a small room that can hold a desk and computer equipment and whose door can be shut for the essential need to separate work life from home life.

Most people don’t have spare space, but many people can convert a guest room into a dual-purpose space: an office most of the time and a guest room when people visit. (A Murphy bed is a great way to do that if your space and budget allow.) An enclosed porch, a large laundry room (or, for Europeans, drying room), or even a garden shed can also do the double-duty trick.

If you can’t get a dedicated space you can separate from the rest of your life, try to find a niche space you can use that is out of the rest of the household’s way — and they out of yours — as much as possible.

Proper work height

Your space needs a desk or table that is at work height. The industry standard is 29 inches from the floor to the top of the work surface. Tall people do better with a higher height, and short people do better with a lower height. Many desks and tables have adjustable height, usually through their feet.

But that industry standard is based on writing on paper, not using a keyboard and mouse. That’s why keyboard trays pull out from below the work surface and are typically an inch or two lower than the desk or table height. If you have space for a keyboard-and-mouse tray (it must be wide enough for both!), get one. If not, consider lowering your desk to the tray height; if you also write on paper, you can get a writing surface (such as a thin cutting board) for pen-and-paper work.

You know your work surface is at the correct height if, when you sit up straight, your forearms are parallel to the ground and your wrist is not bent up or down when you type or mouse. The top surface of your wrist should essentially be on the same plane as the top of your forearm, with your fingers dangling slightly down to the keyboard. Bending the wrists for prolonged periods is an easy way to cause injury.

Proper monitor height

Get a large monitor (maybe two) for your home office — just as you would at the corporate office. I’ve had good luck with 25- to 27-inch monitors from Asus and Acer, but any major brand will offer high-quality monitors. Just avoid the cheapest monitors if you can, since they can lead to eyestrain over prolonged use due to their lower resolution and thus increased fuzziness.

Display resolutions come in a whole alphabet soup of terms, but look for any of the following ones to get that desired higher sharpness: QWXGA, QHD, WQHD, or 4K UHD. Also note that the display connector may limit the screen resolution; on many computers, the video subsystem limits HDMI 1.x resolution to 1920 x 1200 pixels regardless of monitor size, which can make screens on 25-inch or larger monitors appear a bit fuzzy. Generally speaking, check your computer’s video specs and get a monitor whose display resolution matches its maximum capability. For the best video quality, you want computers and monitors that support HDMI 2.x or 3.x, DisplayPort, or USB-C connectors. Because you likely already have a computer, such as a work-issued laptop, focus on getting a monitor whose specs meet or exceed what your computer can deliver.

Your monitor should line up so that if you look straight ahead when sitting straight, your eyes are at a height of 25% to 30% below the top of the screen. That way, you keep your shoulders level and don’t hunch your back — two easy ways to cause injury.

To get the proper height, you’ll likely need a riser for the monitor — I use two, which also gives me some handy shelving. A monitor whose height is adjustable is a plus, though you may still need a riser.

Tip: Be sure to measure the desired height of the monitor from the work surface, so you know how much of a rise you need between the work surface and the monitor stand to get to that “top is 25% to 30% above eye level” target.

A good chair

There are a lot of bad chairs out there that can injure you over prolonged computer use. Dining chairs and deck chairs, for example, rarely are at the right height, and they don’t always encourage the needed upright posture.

If you can afford it, get an adjustable professional office chair like an Aeron, where you can set a precise fit for your body and workspace. But those typically go for $600 and up; there are also much cheaper office chairs — figure between $150 and $250 — that will do the job. You’ll need to test them out in person if at all possible, since you can’t tell fit from a picture on a website.

Be sure to get one with adjustable height, that can roll, that provides lumbar support for the lower back, and ideally has adjustable seat pan tilt, arm height, and lateral arm position. An arm rest is preferable, but only if you use it correctly: That means your forearm should rest very lightly on the arm rest; there should be no pressure from your arm onto the arm rest. The arm rest basically should remind your arm to stay in the right position, not support its weight like a seat does your butt.

Good lighting

It’s very easy to underestimate the effects of your work environment on your ability to work. Lighting is often an area people don’t think about. Ideally, you have sufficient indirect light to illuminate your workspace, so you can easily read papers and see physical objects. Overhead lighting is usually best, such as from a ceiling lamp.

Indirect lighting means lights not in your direct field of view or reflecting off your monitor. For example, an outside window behind or to the side of your desk can create glare on your monitor screen when the sun is shining. Natural light is quite pleasant, but diffuse it with shades or curtains so it doesn’t create glare.

Don’t place a lamp right next to a monitor, where you end up with competing light sources and possible glare. You may need lamps for additional lighting, but if possible, place them in a way that they don’t create glare on the monitor screen and are not in your direct field of vision when you’re working on the computer.

Likewise, make sure your monitor’s brightness is not too dim or too bright, both of which can cause eyestrain. “Too dim” and “too bright” are subjective, of course, but a good rule of thumb is that the monitor’s lighting intensity should be just a little brighter than your ambient lighting, and that ambient lighting should be sufficient to read paper documents without additional light.

Good internet service

Most urban and suburban areas have at least one high-speed provider for internet service; 50Mbps is the minimum speed to shoot for, and the more people using the internet at the same time, the more you want to get a higher-speed service.

The bandwidth within your home matters too. The best connections are wired Ethernet ones, so if possible, connect your computer to your router via an Ethernet cable; that’s especially important if you do video or other bandwidth-intensive work. Wi-Fi is fine for basic office work, so if you can’t wire your computer to your router, use Wi-Fi.

In both cases, be sure to have modern equipment supporting at least 100Mbps for wired connections (1Gbps has been common for years) and at least 802.11n for wireless ones (802.11ac is much preferred). Almost every router with Wi-Fi is dual-band, supporting newer standards like 802.11ac and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) and older ones like 802.11b/g/n that some of your devices may still use (such as older phones and some home-automation devices).

Other equipment

You’ll need a keyboard and a mouse or touchpad, of course: If you’re using an external monitor, your laptop is likely folded shut or off to the side in a position that would be awkward to reach to for using the built-in keyboard and trackpad. Any keyboard and mouse or touchpad/trackpad are fine as long as they are responsive to the touch and not the wrong size for your hands or the wrong height for your posture. Wireless ones save you cable mess but require recharging or battery replacement.

And if you work in a shared space, you should invest in a headset so you can join online conference calls with less noise leaking into your home, where other people are working, sleeping, taking classes, and so on. The competing noises make it harder to work.

And definitely do not cradle a desk phone or cell phone in your neck! That’s a sure way to pinch a nerve or cause muscle strain. If you use a traditional desk phone, get a headset designed for it plus a 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapter so you can also connect the 2.5mm phone headset plug into the computer’s 3.5mm audio jack. Note: Be sure your computer and monitor and/or dock support two-way audio (mic and headset), not just audio-out.

You could use wired or wireless earbuds instead of a headset, but the in-ear variety can be uncomfortable, even painful with long-term use for many people. (By contrast, a headset rests over your ear on a cushioned pad.) Also, wireless earbuds typically have poorer audio quality in their mics, making you harder to understand in meetings. Earbuds are fine in a pitch, but if you are on meetings for hours a day, use a headset or the computer’s audio instead.

A docking station is a great to have if you use a laptop, so you can plug the computer into the dock and leave all the other connections alone, then easily remove the laptop when you are working elsewhere such as for business travel or an in-office visit. Most office-class Windows laptops have a docking station option; MacBook users should invest in one of OWC’s docks.

Many people hardly use paper any longer, so you may not need a printer. Even though my own use has diminished over the years, I still recommend getting a multifunction printer/copier/scanner for your home office. A good laser version from Brother or HP costs just a few hundred dollars, and when you need to print, copy, or scan, you can. (Laser versions are much cheaper to operate than inkjet ones, they last for years, and they don’t suffer the dried-ink problems that often happen in inkjet devices that are rarely used.)

My multifunction printer has a fax port for sending and receiving faxes, so I route my desk phone line through it. (The printer can detect faxes and send other calls onto to the phone.) I can’t think of the last time I needed to send or receive a fax, but if you do, get a multifunction printer with fax support.

You might consider a surge protector or, if you're not using a laptop, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). If the power goes out, computer equipment is usually unharmed, but if you live in a stormy area, there's a small chance you might get a power surge that could damage your computer equipment. A power strip with a built-in surge protector is an inexpensive insurance policy for that rare event.

A UPS is harder to justify. If you have a laptop it has its own battery backup, so the UPS is unneeded. If you have a desktop PC, a small UPS can buy you enough time to safely shut down your computer and complete any saves. A large UPS can let you work for an hour or more, but of course if your power is out, you almost certainly won't have internet access, so the need is slight.

I do recommend that you have computer backup. The Backup and Recovery feature in Windows 10, like the Time Machine feature in macOS, makes backing up easy, so get an external drive to use it. But an even better backup method is to store all your work on a cloud service like OneDrive or iCloud, so if your computer gets damaged or lost, all your work is easily available from another computer. Macs and Windows PCs keep a local copy of the cloud-stored work by default, so if the internet goes out you still can work on your files; they will sync once the internet access is restored. Combining cloud storage with a physical backup provides the best assurance that you have your files.

Note: If you use OneDrive, be sure to not use the Files on Demand feature, which when enabled doesn't keep a full set of files on your computer but instead pulls them from the cloud as needed. (Some IT organizations force Files on Demand to be enabled, in which case working locally might be smarter.)

The traveler’s portable office setup

If you travel for work, as I often do, you can’t bring your home office with you. But you can improve the workspace so you can work more effectively and safely with your laptop.

Tip: The portable-office setup also can work well when you are working in a temporary home space, such as your kitchen table — especially if you can also add a larger monitor to the mix. It also works if you can’t get a large monitor and must use your laptop screen in your home office.

The key piece of equipment for an ergonomic setup on the road is a foldable monitor stand. (Foldable bed tables work well too.) Be sure to find one that is not too thick when folded, so it fits in your luggage.

Galen Gruman/IDG

A foldable monitor stand goes a long way to making a laptop more usable during travel, when coupled with an external monitor and keyboard. (Click image to enlarge it.)

When you’re at a hotel desk or at someone’s office, you usually can’t choose your desk, table, or chair. And you likely won’t get an external monitor. But you can adjust the height of your laptop screen with a foldable monitor stand. You may also need to use books or something else to augment that stand, depending on the table or desk height and the type of chair you have. Even if you can’t get a perfect height, you can get a better height — and you should aim for that.

To make this setup work, you’ll need a travel keyboard and mouse, of course. Thin ones fit better in a suitcase. Just remember that if your input devices are wireless, you must remove their batteries before placing them in checked luggage for a flight. If your devices’ batteries aren’t removable, you need to pack them in your carry-on luggage.

I also carry a small bag of adapters when I travel. They include video adapters, so I can plug into pretty much any monitor or conferencing display. (My USB-C MacBook works nicely with a video hub, so I have one adapter to carry instead of several.) I also carry USB-C-to-USB 2.0 adapters in case I need to use a thumb drive, someone else’s keyboard and mouse, or some other unexpected external device during my visit. Because I sometimes travel overseas, I also bring a multi-country power adapter that includes two USB ports so I can charge my phone and tablet from the same plug.

Galen Gruman is executive editor for global content at IDG’s enterprise sites.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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7 Big Benefits of Mindfulness Training in the Workplace

There are many reasons why mindfulness training in the workplace is important. Holding a mindfulness workshop in the workplace can have a variety of benefits, all of which can lead to better productivity.

So, why should you consider holding mindfulness training programs at work? Let’s discover the benefits of mindfulness training in the workplace below.

What Is Mindfulness and What Is It not?

Before we delve into the benefits of mindfulness training in the workplace and how it can be applied, it is useful to understand first what mindful is and what it is not.

Mindfulness can be considered as a combination of mental attitudes, which are developed through practice. 

There are 3 main attitudes that mindfulness fosters:

Focusing on the Present 

This is the ability to focus on what is happening in front of us right now and be present in the moment. 

Focusing on the present allows us to appreciate everything as though we are seeing the world around us with new eyes and to develop a sense of curiosity for every small thing. 

Mindfulness in the workplace can lead to happier employees and better productivity for you as a business.

By focusing on the present, we also get away from negative thoughts about the past or the future. These are things that either have already happened and we can do nothing about or they may never even happen at all.

Focus on the present is developed through meditation and other practices that involve concentrating on something (for example an object, our body, our breath, sounds, etc) and brushing away gently other thoughts that distract us. 

Mindfulness concentration involves all the senses. For example, one exercise can involve observing an object and noticing all its details, another one can be about listening to a particular sound, or tasting some food, or being aware of one’s posture and feelings in the body. 

The key though is to really concentrate on one thing at a time and notice every nuance and detail of that object/experience.

Compassion at Self and Others

Compassion is aimed both at the self and at other people. So, mindfulness promotes an attitude of appreciation for what is good in everyone, trying to see things from other people’s perspectives and listening carefully to what is being said. 

There are mindfulness exercises that are aimed at developing compassion and self-compassion through appreciation.

 

 

Some simple activities to develop self compassion Detachment from Negative Emotions

Detachment does not mean not caring. It just means putting things into perspective. 

So, it means letting go of negative emotions, judgment, things that make us suffer by acknowledging their existence but taking time to distance ourselves from them. 

People can practise detachment with the same exercises used to develop focus. So, if wandering thoughts come to your mind as you are trying to focus, the idea is to acknowledge them and then gently let them go and take the mind back to the thing you are trying to focus on.

Mindfulness in part is about learning to focus your mind. What Mindfulness Is not  Mindfulness is not a religious practice, even though it has its roots in Buddhism. Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind of thoughts. It is instead about focusing and be present in the moment. Also, mindfulness is not just about meditation or simply focusing on the breath. There are many other ways in which mindfulness can be practiced. Even while standing in a queue, for instance, you can practise mindfulness by becoming aware of how your body is feeling or by paying attention to the sounds or the sights around you. Mindfulness is not about daydreaming. Quite the opposite, it is about being aware of what is happening in the moment. Key Benefits of Mindfulness Training in the Workplace 1. It Can Improve Staff’s Well-being and Resilience 

Through the practices of detachment, focus and self-compassion, mindfulness can help people manage stress better and feel calmer. Also, through mindfulness practice, individuals learn how to recognise the symptoms of stress and deal with them before it is too late.

As stress can have devastating effects on people’s health, both mental and physical, managing stress can dramatically improve health.

If staff feel better, they are less likely to suffer from burnout and they are less likely to need to take days off sick. Absenteeism, presenteeism (i.e. coming to work even if you are sick) and turnover associated with stress come at very big costs for businesses. 

For example, a study carried out in Japan (Nagata et al., 2018) found out that absenteeism cost Japanese companies $520 per person per year and presenteeism $3,055 per person per year. This was just a small-scale study, but it is just one example of what is a big problem for business.

So, if mindfulness can help improve staff’s health, it is worth holding mindfulness workshops at work and/or implementing mindfulness as part of your organisation’s culture.

2. Increase Productivity 

Mindfulness training can improve productivity at work, as well as staff’s wellbeing, as shown in a recent research project by Kersemaekers et al. (2018).

Productivity improves, overall, because staff tend to be happier if they embrace mindfulness ideas. 

In particular though, by promoting focus, mindfulness helps people concentrate on one task at a time thus achieving a state of flow. 

So, instead of feeling stressed and worrying about 100 things at the same time, employees should immerse themselves in the task at hand and deal with it one step at a time. If concentration levels are better, costly errors are also likely to decrease.

Mindfulness training can help happiness in the workplace. 3. Improve Leadership Skills 

Mindfulness workshops are also good for team leaders and managers, as mindfulness can improve leadership skills.

One way in which mindfulness can improve leadership skills is because it trains the mind to be detached. 

As a result, leaders who practise mindfulness can become better at observing their own thoughts and feelings, thus distancing themselves from them and make decisions based on facts rather than impulse or preconceptions.

Also, mindful leaders have been found to cope better with stress (Roche et al., 2014) and to have a positive influence on the staff they supervise (Reb et al., 2014), due to being more attentive to other people’s needs.

4. Promote Better Teamwork and Relationships between Staff 

Research (Karlin, 2018) suggests that employees who practise mindfulness have higher levels of empathy and work better as a team. As mindfulness involves compassion, employees who practice mindfulness tend to be more accepting of each other, thus work better together.

Also, mindfulness improves focus and the attention span, which means that it enhances people’s ability to listen to each other without preconceptions and without getting distracted. As a result, communication skills improve and this benefits teamwork.

In addition, if employees are happier overall because of mindfulness, they will also be better inclined towards each other. They will work better together and productivity will also benefit.

5. Enhance Creativity and Innovation 

Creativity in the workplace is crucial, not only in terms of the invention of new products and services but also for problem-solving and the development of more efficient processes.

Research (Byrne and Thatchenkery, 2019) has recently been done, which supports the idea that mindfulness training in the workplace has a positive impact on staff’s creativity levels, due to the increase in awareness and attention. 

Another reason why mindfulness training helps staff to unleash their creativity may be that they feel less stressed when faced with situations that involve competition (Choi et al., 2018). Mindfulness can also promote creativity because it helps people be more aware and open to novelty (Al-Zu’bi, 2018).

6. Develop Better Decision Making Skills 

Attending a mindfulness workshop or training session can also lead to better decision making. This is because it makes us more detached and more objective. 

So, for example, it reduces our tendency to carry on with something just because we have already invested money and time in it, rather than because it is worth doing. Sometimes, it is better to cut one’s losses and mindfulness can help us better evaluate these situations.

Also, mindfulness can make us more objective, by enabling us to see what is really in front of us rather than being influenced by bias or by past experiences. 

Finally, just by reducing stress alone, mindfulness practice can help people make better decisions (Jeanguenat and Dror, 2018).

7. Transform the Overall Culture of an Organisation 

Last but not least, encouraging staff to develop mindfulness through workshops, training and day to day practice can transform the whole organisation and turn it into a ‘mindful organisation’. 

Mindful organizations develop what is called collective mindfulness, an area that is being researched recently with interesting results.

A mindful organisation is one that embraces mindfulness as a central part of its culture. It does not involve staff meditating together, but rather staff acting in ways that are mindful, i.e. focused, aware, compassionate and with an open mind.

Mindful organizations tend to be proactive, as they focus on what is really going on around them, rather than acting on autopilot and out of habits. 

So, these companies can be more innovative and better able to listen to what their customers want and develop accordingly, thus keeping ahead of the competition. 

Also, staff turnover tends to be lower, which means that these companies retain talent and expertise. 

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Wellbeing initiatives need more data backing

Poor quality data is impacting employers’ attempts to create a better workplace wellbeing culture.

New research by the Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA) found while reporting on wellbeing metrics was on the rise, up from 67% to 76% in 2020, findings were usually kept in house and just 10% of respondents’ organisations included them in their annual report.

Nearly half (49%) of employers surveyed said there was limited availability of the wellbeing data, with 43% citing poor quality data and 36% claiming there was a lack of suitable data collection.

This was despite 92% of employers using information from senior management to assess the successes of their wellbeing programmes, up from 74% in 2019.

Mental health was one of the main concerns for 89% of employers, followed by physical wellbeing at 69% and financial wellbeing at 25%.

Debi O’Donavan, co-founder and director of REBA, said most employers were still using proxy figures such as employee engagement rather than attempting to see shifts at a strategic business level.

“Given the vital role wellbeing plays in reshaping work and jobs, it is not a surprise that measuring effectiveness is receiving greater focus. The COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the message that to be sustainable, an organisation needs to be innovative and resilient. That can only happen with a good culture and positive employee experience. Wellbeing is at the core of achieving this.”

REBA did however find that employers were beginning to fuse their health insurance and wellbeing support offerings more effectively, with 82% agreeing they were complementary compared with 68% in 2019.

Cost, siloed product offerings and internal management of benefits were seen as the largest barriers to better integration.

Just 10% of organisations included wellbeing reports in their annual report and only one in five measure return on investment of their programme costs against absence and retention rates.

 

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Top tips for establishing a mentally-healthy workplace

Introducing or refreshing workplace wellbeing policy in line with a whole organisation approach can have huge benefits

Although mental health awareness has improved over the past decade, research shows that 62% of managers put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing. But these interests are one and the same. Taking positive action to support health and wellbeing is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense too.

Poor management of mental health in the workplace has a big impact on productivity and is one of the top drivers of the 72 million working days lost each year in the UK.

The Centre for Mental Health estimates that mental ill health costs the UK economy £34.9 billion each year. Surely little further evidence is needed to show that mental health should be a top priority in every business.

There are a number of approaches your organisation can take to help transform your workplace and create a mentally-healthy environment. Here are my tips to help you establish a new approach or enhance existing mental health strategies.

Take a ‘whole organisation approach’

Creating a wellbeing strategy that centres on the whole person is fundamental to creating a workplace where mental health really matters. Mental health should be considered as one element alongside others such as physical, financial and emotional wellbeing, which are all connected in a whole person approach.

Taking a ‘whole organisation’ approach is the natural next step. A whole organisation approach is about building the right culture and ensuring a mental health and wellbeing strategy is properly implemented. Attitudes should filter down from leaders and be backed up with clear policies that are well communicated.

This approach means designing the stress out of processes and systems, putting healthy job design first, attending to reasonable adjustments, training, flexible working needs, fair and equal pay – and so much more.

If you’re only just starting out on this journey the government's Thriving at Work report provides a useful roadmap to guide your thinking. It sets out six ‘core standards’ for employers to create a mentally-healthier workplace.

One size doesn’t fit all

Your approach will need to be reflective of the nature of your business and your workforce. Researching the approaches that other organisations in your sector are taking is a valuable exercise and can provide useful insights to help you develop your own strategy.

Get talking

Creating an environment that encourages open conversation around mental health is another important part of developing an effective mental health policy. There are a number of useful guides that exist, such as the Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit, to support organisations taking their first steps. This toolkit gives guidance on raising awareness, sensitising an organisation to talking about mental health, as well as advice on embedding Mental Health First Aid England skills.

Giving staff these tools to support themselves and each other is key to empowering everyone to talk about mental health and seek help when needed. Simply knowing that a listening ear and a supportive conversation is close by can be so powerful in helping someone come forward to access support they may need to recover and stay well.

Put wellbeing at the heart of your talent strategy

Fostering positive health and wellbeing is essential to building a successful and sustainable organisation and can have a range of benefits from improving engagement, recruitment and retention to enabling people to fully develop in their roles. By demonstrating a commitment to effective mental health policies your organisation can attract and retain an engaged and motivated workforce.

Taking action in the new decade

Now is the time to consider the successes and challenges your organisation has faced and how you can take action moving forwards.

From addressing productivity and presenteeism to creating a culture of care, introducing or refreshing workplace wellbeing policy in line with a whole organisation approach can have huge benefits.

Most adults spend at least a third of their time at work, which is why we should all start there to change how society deals with mental health. Now is the perfect time to reflect on your organisation’s approach to mental health and take action. By all doing so we can create a society where everyone’s mental health matters.

Vicki Cockman is workplace lead at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England

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No specific skill will get you ahead in the future’—but this ‘way of thinking’ will

Many of us have been told that deep expertise will lead to enhanced credibility, rapid job advancement, and escalating incomes. The alternative of being broad-minded is usually dismissed as dabbling without really adding value.

But the future may be very different: Breadth of perspective and the ability to connect the proverbial dots (the domain of generalists) is likely to be as important as depth of expertise and the ability to generate dots (the domain of specialists).

The rapid advancement of technology, combined with increased uncertainty, is making the most important career logic of the past counterproductive going forward. The world, to put it bluntly, has changed, but our philosophy around skills development has not.

Today’s dynamic complexity demands an ability to thrive in ambiguous and poorly defined situations, a context that generates anxiety for most, because it has always felt safer to generalize.

Just think about some of the buzzwords that characterized the business advice over the past 40 to 50 years: Core competence, unique skills, deep expertise. For as far back as many of us can remember, the key to success was developing a specialization that allowed us to climb the professional ladder. 

It wasn’t enough to be a doctor, one had to specialize further, perhaps in cardiology. But then it wasn’t enough to be a cardiologist, one had to specialize further, perhaps as a cardiac surgeon. And it wasn’t just medicine, it was in almost all professions.

The message was clear: Focus on developing an expertise and you’ll rise through the ranks and earn more money. The approach worked. Many of today’s leaders ascended by specializing.

The future belongs to generalists

But as the typical mutual fund disclaimer so famously states, past performance is no guarantee of future results. It’s time to rethink our love affair with depth. The pendulum between depth and breadth has swung too far in favor of depth.

There’s an oft-quoted saying that “to a man with a hammer, everything looks like nails.” But what if that man had a hammer, a screwdriver, and a wrench? Might he or she look to see if the flat top had a narrow slit, suggesting the use of a screwdriver? Or perhaps consider the shape of the flat top. Circle? Hexagon? Could a wrench be a more effective tool?  And finally, the mere addition of these tools can encourage a better understanding of a problem. 

This is not to suggest that deep expertise is useless. Au contraire. Carrying a hammer is not a problem. It’s just that our world is changing so rapidly that those with more tools in their possession will better navigate the uncertainty. To make it in today’s world, it’s important to be agile and flexible.

What it means to be a generalist

How does one do this?  To begin, it’s important to zoom out and pay more attention to the context in which you’re making decisions.

Read the whole paper, not just the section about your industry. Is your primary focus oil and gas? Study the dynamics affecting the retail sector. Are you a finance professional? Why not read a book on marketing? Think bigger and wider than you’ve traditionally done.

Another strategy is to think about how seemingly unrelated developments may impact each other, something that systems thinkers do naturally. Study the interconnections across industries and imagine how changes in one domain can disrupt operations in another one.

Because generalists have a set of tools to draw from, they are able to dynamically adjust their course of action as a situation evolves. Just think of how rapidly the world changed with the development of the Internet and wireless data technologies. Jeff Bezos was not a retail specialist who took on his competitors and won. He was a relative newcomer to retail but was able to adapt rapidly to seize a gigantic opportunity. 

Career success for generalists

Many forward-looking companies look for multi-functional experience when hiring. This is essential for large organizations like Google, for example, where employees jump from team to team and from role to role.

In fact, Lisa Stern Hayes, one of Google’s top recruiters, said in a podcast that the company values problem-solvers who have a “general cognitive ability” over role-related knowledge.

“Think about how quickly Google evolves,” she said. “If you just hire someone to do one specific job, but then our company needs change, we need to be rest assured that the person is going to find something else to do at Google. That comes back to hiring smart generalists.”

If you’re relatively new to the workforce, my advice is to manage your career around obtaining a diversity of geographic and functional experiences. The analytical capabilities you develop (e.g. basic statistical skills and critical reasoning) in the process will fare well when competing against those who are more focused on domain-specific skill.

The one certainty about the future is that it will be uncertain. The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and technological innovation have commoditized information. The skill of generating dots is losing value. The key skill of the future is, well, not quite a skill; it’s an approach, a philosophy, and way of thinking — and it’s critical you adopt it as soon as you’re able.

Vikram Mansharamani, PhD, is a Lecturer at Harvard University

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6 Signs You Have What It Takes to Start Your Own Business

You’re ready to be your own boss—check! You’re also passionate about an idea and dying to bring it to life—double check! But before you quit your day job, it should come as no surprise that running your own business can be an overwhelming new challenge. So how do you know if you’ve really got what it takes? There are a few important traits shared by successful entrepreneurs that can help guide you.

These qualities will make a huge difference when it comes to getting your business up and running:

1. You Have an Idea That Fills a Gap

The first step to success is finding a need that isn’t already being filled. When Tim Crossley was freelancing as an audio engineer, he was having trouble finding his footing because there were a lot of people in his field. But after learning how to design recording studios, he recognized that there wasn’t much competition in that niche.

“It seemed like there weren't a lot of people helping people determine how to make their rooms sound better,” says Crossley, a co-founder of Crossley Acoustics, a full-service acoustic design and build firm in Brooklyn. He started to pursue it, turning Crossley Acoustics into one of the few firms that offer the full recording studio experience, from design to construction.

He admits the work isn’t the easiest: “Construction is a difficult business to be in in New York City, but it’s what’s helped us stand out from our competition,” he says. “There are very few companies that do the multitude of work that we do.”

2. You’re Willing to Do All the Things

Many people start their own company because they want to focus on what they love. But as a small business owner, you’re not just doing the thing you want to do; you’re responsible for everything else, too.

“When you’re in charge of the business, you wear all the hats,” says Alison Matheny, founder of BEST, a creative studio based in New York City that handles branding and content creation projects for a variety of products (everything from hotels to skincare). “You’re the bookkeeper, the project manager, the creative director, the website manager, the social poster—you do everything.”

3. You Know When to Call in the Experts

If you don’t want to do everything—or you don’t know how to do everything—you’ll have to expand or outsource. “There’s a point in time when it’s really important to delegate certain jobs, and to bring people on with new ideas,” Matheny says. “That’s a struggle for a lot of entrepreneurs, releasing that control and allowing other people to help you.”

It might also mean investing in tools, such as a program for time tracking or bookkeeping, or website development software. Crossley, for instance, used Squarespace to create and host his company’s website. “Even with a background in design and a handful of experiences with front-end coding, it would have taken me infinitely longer to make a website from scratch, and I never would have been able to achieve the same results,” he says. “And thanks to the SEO features we’ve measured an appreciable uptick in the amount of sales calls we’re getting since having launched our new site.”

4. You’re Able to Evolve

Jack Kneller and his co-founder, Beth Porter, launched organic snack company Sweet Nothings in the summer of 2019. Before their first launch and sales, Kneller and Porter gathered as much feedback as possible on their product and branding, trying dozens of different recipes and rebranding a few times. Even so, they’ve had to adjust their formula along the way.

“It feels like you really only have one shot to do it,” Kneller says. “You go to market being like, ‘This is our final product.’ But already, not even that many months into the business, we’re already tweaking to make it even better, to respond to consumer feedback.”

5. You’re Not Afraid to Put Yourself Out There

Early in the process of creating Sweet Nothings, Kneller and his co-founder were invited to a competition at LinkedIn in which 20 brands pitched hundreds of employees on why their product should be the new snack at the social media firm. “There were big companies there, with beautiful banners and nice sampling spoons,” Kneller says. “We were in our jeans and T-shirts with unbranded cups and no tablecloth. But we won that competition, and that got us a summer contract with LinkedIn.”

That contract helped them vie for other corporate cafeterias, and today Sweet Nothings is stocked in Apple’s headquarters, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Levi Strauss & Co., Athleta, and Twitter New York. Putting yourself out there pays off, and that means starting with a great website design to help shape your brand image and first impression to potential clients.

6. You’re Ready to Work Hard

It’s easy to romanticize being an entrepreneur. Although it’s incredible and empowering work, it’s also exhausting. “It’s really hard,” Kneller says. “It’s hard emotionally, it’s hard with friendships and relationships. We spend a lot of our waking hours thinking about work, talking about work, working on work.”

While it’s one thing to hear this from others—and people told Kneller this before he started Sweet Nothings with Porter—he still wasn’t fully cognizant of the toll it would take. “At first, I was go, go, go,” he says. “Now I’m trying to be more holistic with my physical and mental health, carving out time to work out and cook for myself.”

Don’t forget—running your own business often means there are no set working hours. You’re essentially on call 24/7, which means that holding the line between work time and down time also falls on your shoulders.

From maintaining a healthy work/life balance to knowing how to take risks, the fundamentals are now in your toolkit—you’re ready! Start sketching out your idea and don’t be afraid to ask the experts for input along the way.

Kate Ashford is a freelance journalist and content writer who specializes in personal finance, work, health, and consumer trends.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Answering the Most Common Interview Questions

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what questions a hiring manager would be asking you in your next job interview?

We can’t read minds, unfortunately, but we’ll give you the next best thing: a list of more than 40 of the most commonly asked interview questions, along with advice for answering them all.

While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question (in fact, please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right person for the job.

Consider this list your interview question and answer study guide.

Tell Me About Yourself. How Did You Hear About This Position? Why Do You Want to Work at This Company? Why Do You Want This Job? Why Should We Hire You? What Are Your Greatest Strengths? What Do You Consider to Be Your Weaknesses? What Is Your Greatest Professional Achievement? Tell Me About a Challenge or Conflict You’ve Faced at Work, and How You Dealt With It. Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills. What’s a Time You Disagreed With a Decision That Was Made at Work? Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake. Tell Me About a Time You Failed. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job? Why Were You Fired? Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment? Can You Explain Why You Changed Career Paths? What’s Your Current Salary? What Do You Like Least About Your Job? What Are You Looking for in a New Position? What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer? What’s Your Management Style? How Would Your Boss and Coworkers Describe You? How Do You Deal With Pressure or Stressful Situations? What Do You Like to Do Outside of Work? Are You Planning on Having Children? How Do You Prioritize Your Work? What Are You Passionate About? What Motivates You? What Are Your Pet Peeves? How Do You Like to Be Managed? Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years? What’s Your Dream Job? What Other Companies Are You Interviewing With? What Makes You Unique? What Should I Know That’s Not on Your Resume? What Would Your First 30, 60, or 90 Days Look Like in This Role? What Are Your Salary Requirements? What Do You Think We Could Do Better or Differently? When Can You Start? Are You Willing to Relocate? How Many Tennis Balls Can You Fit Into a Limousine? If You Were an Animal, Which One Would You Want to Be? Sell Me This Pen. Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know? Do You Have Any Questions for Us? Bonus Questions

 

Classic Questions

These frequently asked questions touch on the essentials hiring managers want to know about every candidate: who you are, why you’re a fit for the job, and what you’re good at. You may not be asked exactly these questions in exactly these words, but if you have answers in mind for them, you’ll be prepared for just about anything the interviewer throws your way.

1. Tell Me About Yourself.

This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here's the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Muse writer and MIT career counsellor Lily Zhang recommends using a present, past, future formula. Talk a little bit about your current role (including the scope and perhaps one big accomplishment), then give some background as to how you got there and experience you have that’s relevant. Finally, segue into why you want—and would be perfect for—this role.

Read More: A Complete Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself” in an Interview (Plus Examples!)

2. How Did You Hear About This Position?

Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.

Read More: 3 Ways People Mess Up the (Simple) Answer to “How Did You Come Across This Job Opportunity?”

3. Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?

Beware of generic answers! If what you say can apply to a whole slew of other companies, or if your response makes you sound like every other candidate, you’re missing an opportunity to stand out. Zhang recommends one of four strategies: Do your research and point to something that makes the company unique that really appeals to you; talk about how you’ve watched the company grow and change since you first heard of it; focus on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it; or share what’s gotten you excited from your interactions with employees so far. Whichever route you choose, make sure to be specific. And if you can’t figure out why you’d want to work at the company you’re interviewing with by the time you’re well into the hiring process? It might be a red flag telling you that this position is not the right fit.

Read More: 4 Better Ways to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?”

4. Why Do You Want This Job?

Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don’t? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you’re doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).

Read More: 3 Steps for Answering “Why Do You Want This Job?”

5. Why Should We Hire You?

This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, but also deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.

Read More: 3 Better Ways to Answer “Why Should We Hire You?”

6. What Are Your Greatest Strengths?

Here’s an opening to talk about something that makes you great—and a great fit for this role. When you’re answering this question, think quality, not quantity. In other words, don’t rattle off a list of adjectives. Instead, pick one or a few (depending on the question) specific qualities that are relevant to this position and illustrate them with examples. Stories are always more memorable than generalizations. And if there’s something you were hoping to mention because it makes you a great candidate, but you haven’t had a chance yet, this would be the perfect time.

Read More: 3 Smart Strategies for Answering “What's Your Greatest Strength?”

7. What Do You Consider to Be Your Weaknesses?

What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you get more comfortable when addressing a crowd.

Read More: 4 Ways to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” That Actually Sound Believable

Questions About Your Work History

The meat of any job interview is your track record at work: what you accomplished, how you succeeded or failed (and how you dealt with it), and how you behaved in real time in actual work environments. If you prep a few versatile stories to tell about your work history and practice answering behavioral interview questions, you’ll be ready to go.

8. What Is Your Greatest Professional Achievement?

Nothing says “hire me” better than a track record of achieving amazing results in past jobs, so don’t be shy when answering this interview question! A great way to do so is by using the STAR method: situation, task, action, results. Set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context (e.g., “In my last job as a junior analyst, it was my role to manage the invoicing process”), then describe what you did (the action) and what you achieved (the result): “In one month, I streamlined the process, which saved my group 10 person-hours each month and reduced errors on invoices by 25%.”

Read More: The Perfect Formula for Answering “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment” in an Interview

9. Tell Me About a Challenge or Conflict You’ve Faced at Work, and How You Dealt With It.

You’re probably not eager to talk about conflicts you’ve had at work during a job interview. But if you’re asked directly, don’t pretend you’ve never had one. Be honest about a difficult situation you’ve faced (but without going into the kind of detail you’d share venting to a friend). “Most people who ask are only looking for evidence that you’re willing to face these kinds of issues head-on and make a sincere attempt at coming to a resolution,” former recruiter Rich Moy says. Stay calm and professional as you tell the story (and answer any follow-up questions), spend more time talking about the resolution than the conflict, and mention what you’d do differently next time to show “you’re open to learning from tough experiences.”

Read More: 3 Ways You’re Messing Up the Answer to, “Tell Me About a Conflict You’ve Faced at Work”

10. Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills.

You don’t have to have a fancy title to act like a leader or demonstrate leadership skills. Think about a time when you headed up a project, took the initiative to propose an alternate process, or helped motivate your team to get something done. Then use the STAR method to tell your interviewer a story, giving enough detail to paint a picture (but not so much that you start rambling) and making sure you spell out the result. In other words, be clear about why you’re telling this particular story and connect all the dots for the interviewer.

Read More: The Best Way to Answer “Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills” in a Job Interview

11. What’s a Time You Disagreed With a Decision That Was Made at Work?

The ideal anecdote here is one where you handled a disagreement in a professional way and learned something from the experience. Zhang recommends paying particular attention to how you start and end your response. To open, make a short statement to frame the rest of your answer, one that nods at the ultimate takeaway or the reason you’re telling this story. For example: “I learned early on in my professional career that it’s fine to disagree if you can back up your hunches with data.” And to close strong, you can either give a one-sentence summary of your answer (“In short…”) or talk briefly about how what you learned or gained from this experience would help you in the role you’re interviewing for.

Read More: Here’s the Secret to Answering “Tell Me About a Time You Had a Conflict With Your Boss” in an Interview

12. Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake.

You’re probably not too eager to dig into past blunders when you’re trying to impress an interviewer and land a job. But talking about a mistake and winning someone over aren’t mutually exclusive, Moy says. In fact, if you do it right, it can help you. The key is to be honest without placing blame on other people, then explain what you learned from your mistake and what actions you took to ensure it didn’t happen again. At the end of the day, employers are looking for folks who are self-aware, can take feedback, and care about doing better.

Read More: 3 Rules That Guarantee You'll Nail the Answer to “Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake”

13. Tell Me About a Time You Failed.

This question is very similar to the one about making a mistake, and you should approach your answer in much the same way. Make sure you pick a real, actual failure you can speak honestly about. Start by making it clear to the interviewer how you define failure. For example: “As a manager, I consider it a failure whenever I’m caught by surprise. I strive to know what’s going on with my team and their work.” Then situate the example in relation to that definition and explain what happened. Finally, don’t forget to share what you learned. It’s OK to fail—everyone does sometimes—but it’s important to show that you took something from the experience.

Read More: 4 Steps for Answering “Tell Me About a Time When You Failed”

14. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?

This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you’ll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your current employer. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go from your most recent job? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally acceptable answer.

Read More: 4 Better Ways to Answer “Why Are You Leaving Your Job?”

15. Why Were You Fired?

Of course, they may ask the follow-up question: Why were you let go? If you lost your job due to layoffs, you can simply say, “The company [reorganized/merged/was acquired] and unfortunately my [position/department] was eliminated.” But what if you were fired for performance reasons? Your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Frame it as a learning experience: Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. And if you can portray your growth as an advantage for this next job, even better.

Read More: Stop Cringing! How to Tell an Interviewer You've Been Fired

16. Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment?

Maybe you were taking care of children or aging parents, dealing with health issues, or traveling the world. Maybe it just took you a long time to land the right job. Whatever the reason, you should be prepared to discuss the gap (or gaps) on your resume. Seriously, practice saying your answer out loud. The key is to be honest, though that doesn’t mean you have to share more details than you’re comfortable with. If there are skills or qualities you honed or gained in your time away from the workforce—whether through volunteer work, running a home, or responding to a personal crisis—you can also talk about how those would help you excel in this role.

Read More: How to Explain the Gap in Your Resume With Ease

17. Can You Explain Why You Changed Career Paths?

Don’t be thrown off by this question—just take a deep breath and explain to the hiring manager why you’ve made the career decisions you have. More importantly, give a few examples of how your past experience is transferable to the new role. This doesn’t have to be a direct connection; in fact, it’s often more impressive when a candidate can show how seemingly irrelevant experience is very relevant to the role.

Read More: How to Explain Your Winding Career Path to a Hiring Manager

18. What’s Your Current Salary?

It’s now illegal for some or all employers to ask you about your salary history in several cities and states, including New York City; Louisville, North Carolina; California; and Massachusetts. But no matter where you live, it can be stressful to hear this question. Don’t panic—there are several possible strategies you can turn to. For example, you can deflect the question, Muse career coach Emily Liou says, with a response like: “Before discussing any salary, I’d really like to learn more about what this role entails. I’ve done a lot of research on [Company] and I am certain if it’s the right fit, we’ll be able to agree on a number that’s fair and competitive to both parties.” You can also reframe the question around your salary expectations or requirements (see question 38) or choose to share the number if you think it will work in your favor.

Read More: Here's How You Answer the Illegal “What's Your Current Salary” Question

19. What Do You Like Least About Your Job?

Tread carefully here! The last thing you want to do is let your answer devolve into a rant about how terrible your current company is or how much you hate your boss or that one coworker. The easiest way to handle this question with poise is to focus on an opportunity the role you’re interviewing for offers that your current job doesn’t. You can keep the conversation positive and emphasize why you’re so excited about the job.

Read More: What Interviewers Really Want When They Ask, “What Do You Like Least About Your Job?”

Questions About You and Your Goals

Another crucial aspect of an interview? Getting to know a candidate. That’s why you’ll likely encounter questions about how you work, what you’re looking for (in a job, a team, a company, and a manager), and what your goals are. It’s a good sign if your interviewers want to make sure you’ll be a good fit—or add—to the team. Use it as an opportunity!

20. What Are You Looking for in a New Position?

Hint: Ideally the same things that this position has to offer. Be specific.

Read More: 4 Steps for Answering “What Are You Looking for in a New Position?”

21. What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?

Hint: Ideally one that's similar to the environment of the company you're applying to. Be specific.

Read More: 3 Steps to Answering “What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?”

22. What’s Your Management Style?

The best managers are strong but flexible, and that’s exactly what you want to show off in your answer. (Think something like, “While every situation and every team member requires a bit of a different strategy, I tend to approach my employee relationships as a coach...”) Then share a couple of your best managerial moments, like when you grew your team from five to 15 or coached an underperforming employee to become the company’s top salesperson.

Read More: How to Answer “What’s Your Management Style?”

23. How Would Your Boss and Coworkers Describe You?

First of all, be honest (remember, if you make it to the final round, the hiring manager will be calling your former bosses and coworkers for references!). Then try to pull out strengths and traits you haven’t discussed in other aspects of the interview, such as your strong work ethic or your willingness to pitch in on other projects when needed.

Read More: 3 Strategies for Answering “How Would Your Boss or Coworkers Describe You?”

24. How Do You Deal With Pressure or Stressful Situations?

Here’s another question you may feel the urge to sidestep in an effort to prove you’re the perfect candidate who can handle anything. But it’s important not to dismiss this one (i.e. don’t say “I just put my head down and push through it” or “I don’t get stressed out”). Instead, talk about your go-to strategies for dealing with stress (whether it’s meditating for 10 minutes every day or making sure you go for a run or keeping a super-detailed to-do list) and how you communicate and otherwise proactively try to mitigate pressure. If you can give a real example of a stressful situation you navigated successfully, all the better.

Read More: 3 Ways You’re Messing Up the Answer to “How Do You Deal With Stressful Situations?”

25. What Do You Like to Do Outside of Work?

Interviewers will sometimes ask about your hobbies or interests outside of work in order to get to know you a little better—to find out what you’re passionate about and devote time to during your off-hours. It’s another chance to let your personality shine. Be honest, but keep it professional and be mindful of answers that might make it sound like you’re going to spend all your time focusing on something other than the job you’re applying for.

Read More: How to Answer “What Are Your Hobbies?” in an Interview (It’s Not a Trick Question!)

26. Are You Planning on Having Children?

Questions about your family status, gender (“How would you handle managing a team of all men?”), nationality (“Where were you born?”), religion, or age are illegal—but they still get asked (and frequently). Of course, not always with ill intent—the interviewer might just be trying to make conversation and might not realize these are off-limits—but you should definitely tie any questions about your personal life (or anything else you think might be inappropriate) back to the job at hand. For this question, think: “You know, I’m not quite there yet. But I am very interested in the career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”

Read More: 5 Illegal Interview Questions and How to Dodge Them

27. How Do You Prioritize Your Work?

Your interviewers want to know that you can manage your time, exercise judgement, communicate, and shift gears when needed. Start by talking about whatever system you’ve found works for you to plan your day or week, whether it’s a to-do list app you swear by or a color-coded spreadsheet. This is one where you’ll definitely want to lean on a real-life example. So go on to describe how you’ve reacted to a last-minute request or another unexpected shift in priorities in the past, incorporating how you evaluated and decided what to do and how you communicated with your manager and/or teammates about it.

Read More: A Foolproof Method to Answer the Interview Question “How Do You Prioritize Your Work?”

28. What Are You Passionate About?

You’re not a robot programmed to do your work and then power down. You’re a human, and if someone asks you this question in an interview, it’s probably because they want to get to know you better. The answer can align directly with the type of work you’d be doing in that role—like if, for example, you’re applying to be a graphic designer and spend all of your free time creating illustrations and data visualizations to post on Instagram.

But don’t be afraid to talk about a hobby that’s different from your day-to-day work. Bonus points if you can “take it one step further and connect how your passion would make you an excellent candidate for the role you are applying for,” says Muse career coach Al Dea. Like if you’re a software developer who loves to bake, you might talk about how the ability to be both creative and precise informs your approach to code.

Read More: 3 Authentic Ways to Answer “What Are You Passionate About?” in a Job Interview

29. What Motivates You?

Before you panic about answering what feels like a probing existential question, consider that the interviewer wants to make sure you’re excited about this role at this company, and that you’ll be motivated to succeed if they pick you. So think back to what has energized you in previous roles and pinpoint what made your eyes light up when you read this job description. Pick one thing, make sure it’s relevant to the role and company you’re interviewing for, and try to weave in a story to help illustrate your point. If you’re honest, which you should be, your enthusiasm will be palpable.

Read More: 5 Easy Steps to Answer “What Motivates You?” in an Interview

30. What Are Your Pet Peeves?

Here’s another one that feels like a minefield. But it’ll be easier to navigate if you know why an interviewer is asking it. Most likely, they want to make sure you’ll thrive at their company—and get a glimpse of how you deal with conflict. So be certain you pick something that doesn’t contradict the culture and environment at this organization while still being honest. Then explain why and what you’ve done to address it in the past, doing your best to stay calm and composed. Since there’s no need to dwell on something that annoys you, you can keep this response short and sweet.

Read More: 6 Tips for Answering “What Are Your Pet Peeves?” in an Interview

31. How Do You Like to Be Managed?

This is another one of those questions that’s about finding the right fit—both from the company’s perspective and your own. Think back on what worked well for you in the past and what didn’t. What did previous bosses do that motivated you and helped you succeed and grow? Pick one or two things to focus on and always articulate them with a positive framing (even if your preference comes from an experience where your manager behaved in the opposite way, phrase it as what you would want a manager to do). If you can give a positive example from a great boss, it’ll make your answer even stronger.

Read More: 3 Easy Steps to Answer “How Do You Like to Be Managed?” in an Interview

32. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but consider this: A hiring manager wants to know a) if you've set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition (a.k.a., this interview isn't the first time you’re considering the question), and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations? It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.

Read More: How to Answer “Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?”

33. What’s Your Dream Job?

Along similar lines, the interviewer wants to uncover whether this position is really in line with your ultimate career goals. While “an NBA star” might get you a few laughs, a better bet is to talk about your goals and ambitions—and why this job will get you closer to them.

Read More: The Secret Formula to Answering “What's Your Dream Job?” in an Interview

34. What Other Companies Are You Interviewing With?

Companies might ask you who else you’re interviewing with for a few reasons. Maybe they want to see how serious you are about this role and team (or even this field) or they’re trying to find out who they’re competing with to hire you. On one hand, you want to express your enthusiasm for this job, but at the same time, you don’t want to give the company any more leverage than it already has by telling them there’s no one else in the running. Depending on where you are in your search, you can talk about applying to or interviewing for a few roles that have XYZ in common—then mention how and why this role seems like a particularly good fit.

Read More: How to Answer “What Other Companies Are You Interviewing With?”

35. What Makes You Unique?

“They genuinely want to know the answer,” Dea promises. Give them a reason to pick you over other similar candidates. The key is to keep your answer relevant to the role you’re applying to. So the fact that you can run a six-minute mile or crush a trivia challenge might not help you get the job (but hey, it depends on the job!). Use this opportunity to tell them something that would give you an edge over your competition for this position. To figure out what that is, you can ask some former colleagues, think back to patterns you’ve seen in feedback you get, or try to distill why people tend to turn to you. Focus on one or two things and don’t forget to back up whatever you say with evidence.

Read More: A Simple Way to Answer “What Makes You Unique?” in Your Job Search (Plus, Examples!)

36. What Should I Know That’s Not on Your Resume?

It’s a good sign if a recruiter or hiring manager is interested in more than just what’s on your resume. It probably means they looked at your resume, think you might be a good fit for the role, and want to know more about you. To make this wide-open question a little more manageable, try talking about a positive trait, a story or detail that reveals a little more about you and your experience, or a mission or goal that makes you excited about this role or company.

Read More: The Right Way to Answer “What Should I Know That’s Not on Your Resume?”

Questions About the Job

At the end of the day, the people on the other side of the hiring process want to make sure you could take on this role. That means they might ask you logistical questions to ensure that timing and other factors are aligned, and they might have you imagine what you’d do after starting.

37. What Would Your First 30, 60, or 90 Days Look Like in This Role?

Your potential future boss (or whoever else has asked you this question) wants to know that you’ve done your research, given some thought to how you’d get started, and would be able to take initiative if hired. So think about what information and aspects of the company and team you’d need to familiarize yourself with and which colleagues you’d want to sit down and talk to. You can also suggest one possible starter project to show you’d be ready to hit the ground running and contribute early on. This won’t necessarily be the thing you do first if you do get the job, but a good answer shows that you’re thoughtful and that you care.

Read More: The 30-60-90 Day Plan: Your Secret Weapon for New Job Success

38. What Are Your Salary Requirements?

The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and reaching out to your network. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Then make sure the hiring manager knows that you're flexible. You're communicating that you know your skills are valuable, but that you want the job and are willing to negotiate.

You can also try to deflect or delay giving a number, especially if you get this question very early in the process, by saying something like, “I was hoping to get a sense of what range/band you had in mind for this role” or, as Liou suggests, “Before discussing any salary, I’d really like to learn more about what this role entails.”

Read More: Q&A: The Secret to Giving Your “Salary Requirements”

39. What Do You Think We Could Do Better or Differently?

This question can really do a number on you. How do you give a meaty answer without insulting the company or, worse, the person you’re speaking with? Well first, take a deep breath. Then start your response with something positive about the company or specific product you’ve been asked to discuss. When you’re ready to give your constructive feedback, give some background on the perspective you’re bringing to the table and explain why you’d make the change you’re suggesting (ideally based on some past experience or other evidence). And if you end with a question, you can show them you’re curious about the company or product and open to other points of view. Try: “Did you consider that approach here? I’d love to know more about your process.”

Read More: How to Answer the "How Would You Improve Our Company?" Interview Question Without Bashing Anyone

40. When Can You Start?

Your goal here should be to set realistic expectations that will work for both you and the company. What exactly that sounds like will depend on your specific situation. If you’re ready to start immediately—if you’re unemployed, for example—you could offer to start within the week. But if you need to give notice to your current employer, don’t be afraid to say so; people will understand and respect that you plan to wrap things up right. It’s also legitimate to want to take a break between jobs, though you might want to say you have “previously scheduled commitments to attend to” and try to be flexible if they really need someone to start a bit sooner.

Read More: 4 Ways to Answer the Interview Question “When Can You Start?”

41. Are You Willing to Relocate?

While this may sound like a simple yes-or-no question, it’s often a little bit more complicated than that. The simplest scenario is one where you’re totally open to moving and would be willing to do so for this opportunity. But if the answer is no, or at least not right now, you can reiterate your enthusiasm for the role, briefly explain why you can’t move at this time, and offer an alternative, like working remotely or out of a local office. Sometimes it’s not as clear-cut, and that’s OK. You can say you prefer to stay put for xyz reasons, but would be willing to consider relocating for the right opportunity.

Read More: The Best Responses to “Are You Willing to Relocate?” Depending on Your Situation

Questions That Test You

Depending on the style of the interviewer and company, you could get some pretty quirky questions. They’re often testing how you think through something on the spot. Don’t panic. Take a moment to think—and remember, there’s no one single correct answer or approach.

42. How Many Tennis Balls Can You Fit Into a Limousine?

1,000? 10,000? 100,000? Seriously? Well, seriously, you might get asked brain-teaser questions like these, especially in quantitative jobs. But remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—they want to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you can set into motion a systematic and logical way to respond. So take a deep breath and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!)

Read More: 9 Steps to Solving an Impossible Brain Teaser in a Tech Interview (Without Breaking a Sweat)

43. If You Were an Animal, Which One Would You Want to Be?

Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say…”

Read More: 4 Steps for Answering Off-the-Wall Interview Questions

44. Sell Me This Pen.

If you’re interviewing for a sales job, your interviewer might put you on the spot to sell them a pen sitting on the table, or a legal pad, or a water bottle, or just something. The main thing they’re testing you for? How you handle a high-pressure situation. So try to stay calm and confident and use your body language—making eye contact, sitting up straight, and more—to convey that you can handle this. Make sure you listen, understand your “customer’s” needs, get specific about the item’s features and benefits, and end strong—as though you were truly closing a deal.

Read More: 4 Tips for Responding to "Sell Me This Pen" in an Interview

Wrapping-Up Questions

When it comes time for the interview to wind down, you might have a chance to add any last thoughts and you’ll almost certainly have time to ask the questions that will help you decide if this company and role might be great for you. In fact, if they don’t leave time for you to ask any questions at any of your interviews, that might be a red flag in itself.

45. Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?

Just when you thought you were done, your interviewer asks you this open-ended doozy. Don’t panic—it’s not a trick question! You can use this as an opportunity to close out the meeting on a high note in one of two ways, Zhang says. First, if there really is something relevant that you haven’t had a chance to mention, do it now. Otherwise, you can briefly summarize your qualifications. For example, Zhang says, you could say: “I think we’ve covered most of it, but just to summarize, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can really hit the ground running. And with my previous experience [enumerate experience here], I think I’d be a great fit.”

Read More: How to Answer “Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?”

46. Do You Have Any Questions for Us?

You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you—it’s an opportunity to sniff out whether a job is the right fit from your perspective. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team? You’ll cover a lot of this in the actual interview, so have a few less-common questions ready to go. We especially like questions targeted to the interviewer (“What's your favourite part about working here?") or the company's growth (“What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?")

Read More: 51 Great Questions to Ask in an Interview

Content was really clear 18 Content hit the target 13 Thanks for the learning boost! 17

How to reduce stress and maintain a work-life balance while working from home

The Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 Stress: Are we coping? report found that 74% of people in the UK have at some point felt overwhelmed and unable to cope with stress. How people react to stress is unpredictable and unique. It can negatively affect an individual’s physical and psychological health as well as their efficiency and effectiveness. If not dealt with, stress can lead to ill health, burnout and in some cases, psychological and physiological issues.  

The CIPD’s annual Good Work Index report shows that as the COVID-19 crisis was about to hit the UK, the impact of work on mental wellbeing was already a cause for concern. The survey of more than 6,000 workers found that the number of people saying work has a positive impact on their mental health had fallen from 44% to 35%. Of those who’d experienced anxiety in the last year, 69% said their job was a contributing factor. Of those who’d experienced depression, 58% said the same was true. 

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, it was easier to distinguish work-related stress from personal stress. Now that many employees are working from home, the boundaries are more blurred. Employers need to recognise the additional stress individuals are under. The CIPD’s Health and Well-being at Work report shows that mental ill health is the major cause of long-term absence from work. Considering the risk of COVID-19, it is important that employers support individuals as much as possible to manage their stress levels. 

The impact of rapid change 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the significant change of pace, stress has increased for many people. The CIPD’s Good Work Index snapshot survey, carried out following the COVID-19 outbreak, confirms this. Forty-three per cent of workers with a mental health condition and 29% of those with anxiety said the pandemic has contributed to or worsened their condition.   

Change in itself can cause stress as it introduces a variety of uncertainty. The level of uncertainty that individuals are facing due to COVID-19 has increased substantially. 

COVID-19 has brought about very rapid change giving us little time to adjust. It was less than a week from announcement to realisation of the closure of schools and lockdown. This in itself causes a lot of stress and emotional turmoil.  

Lack of control 

An important COVID-19 related stressor is the limited control we have over our environments and lives. In a few days, we lost control over: 

how we work  how we shop  how we exercise  how we socialise  how we keep in contact  how we learn   how our children learn. 

For many the changes have been even more fundamental, having sadly lost loved ones, jobs and homes.  

Many of us are trying to juggle working from home in environments that are not necessarily ‘fit for purpose’. Due to the fast pace of change, many employees were asked to work from home without the necessary health and safety risk assessments or the right equipment.  

Working from home has led many people to rely on new technologies, including communication tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. As the CIPD’s report People and machines: from hype to reality highlights, these technologies can allow us to work much more effectively. However, when we rely on them and encounter glitches or unintended consequences they can become a real stressor.  

During this particularly challenging time, many of us are trying to home school our children, shop for vulnerable family or friends, and at the same time, attempt to rediscover a feeling of ‘control’ over our lives. This may be an unachievable task and can cause high levels of stress. We should be careful not to set ourselves impossible targets, as this will build on stress levels and reinforce feelings of failure and guilt. Employers and people managers should be mindful of the expectations they place on employees, maintain regular communication to check how they are coping and provide health and wellbeing support wherever possible. 

Research has indicated that the feeling of being out of control or overwhelmed significantly impacts our levels of stress. The opposite is also true: trying to gain some level of control can relieve stress. Knowing how to manage the factors that can cause stress is key to staying healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Tips for managing stress when working from home 

1. Recognise your priorities 

Recognise that we are all individuals. What causes your neighbour or colleague stress may have no impact on you. How you react to a stressor depends on various elements which are unique to the individual, such as a person’s ability to cope, situation-based pressures, availability of resources and their level of proficiency. The first step in avoiding stress is to recognise your reaction to stressors, for example, noise at home, internet connectivity problems, lack of exercise. 

You must identify what is important to you during these unprecedented times and prioritise that. This will vary, depending on your unique circumstances and approach to life. It is fine if your list is different from that of your colleague, or your partner or friend. You can gain control by being clear with yourself on your top priorities 

2. Figure out how to work around others in your household 

If you're working from home and have to juggle other responsibilities that don’t normally interfere with your ability to work, such as caring responsibilities, looking after pets or sharing your workspace with housemates, attempt to organise your work where possible to fit around the elements you can control. If you have young children, they have their needs, and the compromise will have to come from you. If you have to write a report, for example, choose a time that works around them, such as first thing in the morning, before they get up, or in the evening when in bed. If you have to attend meetings, try, where possible, to give your child/children a task to focus on in a different room or space in the house.  

3. Streamline your work responsibilities 

Many friends have shared their frustration that their workloads have increased significantly as a result of COVID-19. Suddenly, meetings are set up with people you never met with before. We are bombarded with COVID-19 related changes; emails, meetings, phone calls, WhatsApp messages. You need to prioritise which are essential meetings to attend and which are duplications. Do you need the same update from the CEO, the operations director and your line manager? Is this an efficient use of your time? If you attended the meeting, do you also need to read the three different email streams that follow? Do you need to respond to an email, or is it merely an update? 

4. Manage your work platforms 

This is perhaps one of the most common contributors to stress and anxiety, and one which is completely within your control. Now that many of us are working from home, there are multiple ways we are communicating with work colleagues. The days of email and face-to-face meetings are a distant memory. Many of us are juggling multiple chat functions – Yammer, WhatsApp work groups, Microsoft Teams – in addition to email, meetings and actually doing our jobs. It’s no wonder many of us feel overwhelmed. Don’t let yourself be ruled by constant updates on WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, and the endless schedules of Zoom meetings etc., as this leads to FOMO and anxiety. Instead, choose what you need to be involved with and limit what you engage with accordingly. 

5. Build exercise into your routine 

It isn’t news that exercise boosts not only our immune systems, but also our mental health, which can reduce stress. With fitness centres closed, you don’t have to stop exercise. Simply adapt how you do this. Go for socially distanced runs or bike rides with your housemates, or dust off your old tennis rackets and play a game in a local park. If you have children, exercise together. This can be as easy as kicking a ball around or going for a walk within government guidelines. This way all the family’s needs are met when it comes to exercise. Exercise can also be a great opportunity to get a break from the home environment. If you are not able to easily access outdoor space to enjoy exercise, there are many TV programmes or games that encourage exercise in a fun way. 

6. Eat healthily 

With lockdown restrictions in place, meal preparation and any tidying up that follows can feel overwhelming and never-ending. The compromise when rushed or busy is often to opt for convenience meals, which tend to have higher fat and salt content. Staying healthy is critical during a pandemic and healthy eating can have both physical and mental health benefits. Share food preparation duties with other members of your household where possible. If you have children, it is an opportunity to keep them busy while learning an important life skill. Using these interventions will share the workload, keep children learning and be rewarding when a nice meal is prepared.  

7. Shop smart 

Doing the grocery shopping has in itself become stressful. Masks, gloves, social distancing, one-way systems, hand gel… it is a miracle just to remember the credit card. To limit the infection risk, we all try to minimise our exposure outside of the home. Online shopping directly from a supermarket, although a great solution for saving time and limiting infection risk, has become very difficult to secure. Consider other options such as food boxes with fresh ingredients and recipes pre-ordered and delivered to your doorstep. This allows for an element of control and security. There are equally many other providers that deliver fresh produce, including meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, afternoon tea, cakes and even locally-brewed alcohol. All of these services can save you time and limit risk. If you have no choice and have to brave the supermarket, use it as a time for yourself. A break from home and work can have a positive impact if you use it as some downtime from the norm. 

8. Make time for relaxation 

During this period of sizable change, it's vital to build in time for self-care. You can combine relaxation with exercise, such as going for a bike ride or a walk at the end of the working day. A change of scenery is good for and will aid with a better night’s sleep. 

If you have children, although it may be tempting to relax their routine, you could agree to an extended bedtime that has minimal impact, such as 30 minutes, that still allows you time to relax. This could be a win-win solution for all the family. The children will feel special due to an extended bedtime, which you could perhaps trade off for tidying their room or a bit of school work. After bedtime, you get some time to do whatever you constitute as relaxation.  

9. Manage your household 

Managing the household has become more challenging for us all. Whether we live in flat shares, have children, pets or look after elderly relatives, navigating cleaning responsibilities will no doubt come with a whole host of challenges. It’s important to remember that in an office environment, you would never work non-stop. You have breaks, which may consist of corridor conversations or going for coffee with a colleague. Use breaks at home to do one thing, such as putting on washing and make sure the cleaning responsibilities are shared equally among your household. If you’re used to returning home to a clean house at the end of the working day, this will have inevitably changed. Be kind to yourself. This is a unique situation, and in time, things will return to normal. There is no reason to be regimented and stressed about how clean your house is. If you have children, engage in fun activities throughout the day that help to break up the monotony of chores, study and work. Refrain from having the news on all day long, and save any adult conversations relating to the news and COVID-19 until after bedtime. Children of any age are extremely perceptive and will pick up on their parents’ anxiety, fear and tension.   

10. Ease anxiety around home schooling 

Home schooling is causing a lot of stress for parents. The anxiety can be overwhelming when you are working from home as well.  

We don’t have to follow old-fashioned routines of writing out timetables to keep children learning. Children are inquisitive and learn constantly. Engage in some fun learning activities. Playing board games such as Monopoly or Scrabble all allow for learning. Watch documentaries. You can create many experiments with household products, grow seeds in the garden, and learn about cause and effect in far more enjoyable ways than following a worksheet. Kids learn fast, and they will catch up. 

 Let go of the guilt 

Guilt is one of the most destructive emotions and negatively impacts our wellbeing and mental health. Be realistic in what you want to achieve. We don’t know what the future holds, so don’t waste your energy worrying about elements beyond your control. Give yourself a break and focus on what you can control within your environment. 

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