Tips And Strategies For Staying Focused While Working From Home

January 18th, 2019 by admin

A good example of a distraction. So right now, I am working at my kitchen table which is my home office at the moment. My Son comes down and decides that he will make himself a bite to eat while I am right in the middle of trying to write this article. How would you handle the situation? Generally, we are on the same schedule and do have lunch together every day around the same time but today happened to be different because of his schedule. I tried to make him see that by entering the kitchen and making his lunch in the same space where I was working was a distraction. This just annoyed him and he left saying under his breath that I should not be working in the kitchen. He is right of course and this takes me to the next topic of the dedicated work area.

Dedicated work area. This is definitely a luxury in most homes and especially small apartments but you should make the effort to find and make a dedicated work space. If there is someone in the house with you all day as is the case with my Son they need to be made to understand that while you are in this space it should be respected as a work area. I will be practicing what I am preaching as soon as possible so my Son can have his freedom back in the kitchen. Providing yourself a delineation between home and work space will help make it clear that only work activities should happen in the dedicated work area. It is important to have boundaries and expectations when it comes to your work area. Now that you have your dedicated work area it is a good idea to establish your work hours.

Establishing your work hours. It is your work day, so instead of working haphazardly through the day set up your work hours. I generally start my day somewhere in the area of 10:00 am as I am involved with other matters in the home until then. I generally break for lunch around noon or 1:00 pm and take an hour for lunch. After lunch I generally work until 4:00 – 5:00 pm. So, I would say, I work from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with an hour for lunch. There will be days that I will start earlier or finish later but at least deciding on a quitting time is helpful. Once you have your time set the day becomes more structured around what you are trying to accomplish.

Dressing for success. Get out of your PJ’s and sweat pants! Wearing these types of clothes make you feel like you are not really working and this will make you prone to distractions. Make it a point to get dressed every day as what you wear in your office has a direct impact on your work performance and productivity.

Work at another location. Besides the distractions of working from a home-based office it can sometimes get a little lonely. I know that when I started working from home I left the hustle and bustle of running an office of 60 people to being home alone. It was a little disconcerting at first. My local coffee shop became a second office and without the distractions of home and family, I found myself more motivated. It was also easier to focus on the task at hand and I definitely got more accomplished. It was also nice being around other people and not feeling so isolated.

Act as if you are going to work. This is a fun tip given to me by a friend. He told me that in order to fight off the distractions of working from home he fooled himself into thinking that he actually went to work somewhere else. He established a routine just like the one he had when he worked in an office. He would get up every day at the same time and perform his personal grooming and get dressed for work. He would actually leave his apartment, get in his car and drive somewhere. He would arrive back at his apartment and begin his work day as if he had gone to work. He did this until he became disciplined enough to work in his home office.

Conclusions and observations. Working from home is not for everyone. You have to be a disciplined person who is able to tune out the distractions while being motivated, focused and able to be productive. You also need to be a good communicator and let your family, friends and neighbors know your goals and expectations about your work day. Don’t forget to reward yourself for all of your efforts. Doesn’t a cookie sound good right about now?

How Technology Has Altered Your Work/Life Balance

January 11th, 2019 by admin

If you work 48 weeks in the year and spend a conservative 5 hours per week commuting to and from work, you are spending 240 hours per year driving. This takes time away from family, hobbies, friends, and much more. How can technology be leveraged to gain that time back?

Up until recent years, the only option for working was to physically go into an office to put in your 40-50 hours per week behind a stuffy desk surrounded by people you may or may not enjoy working with. As technology has evolved, so has the flexibility of whether you work at the office, at home, at the beach, or some other locale.

While technology does make it easier for employers to allow telecommuting, there is still a trust factor that comes into play. There are ways each employer can measure productivity differently, but some employers are simply more comfortable knowing for certain their employee is at their desk during a specified time every day. Another consideration for employers is the morale of employees that are not working from home while another is permitted that luxury. Should they have 1 happy employee and 10 disgruntled employees or 10 content employees and 1 disgruntled employee? Rather than examining the struggles for employers that are faced with this decision, lets examine the technologies that allow working from home to be a reality much more frequently than it was 20-30 years ago.

If an employer decides to allow telecommuting, there are several tools on the market that safeguard their investment.

· Worksnaps: This tool allows an employer to monitor how productive the work-at-home employee has been throughout the day. There are less detailed tools available but this one doesn’t leave a lot of room for a work around by the employee. Beyond monitoring the time spent in productive programs (Facebook not being one of them) the tool takes screenshots of the worker’s computer screen throughout the day to make sure the employee is productive while activity is showing on their computer. They will even count the number of mouse and keyboard clicks.

· Internet: This is rather obvious but probably the most important tool. The internet allows you to communicate with members of your team, your company, and any outside clients. Many companies have web-based products they use for housing databases or other tools that are essential to job duties of their employees.

· Google docs: This is free to anyone that has a Gmail account. It provides Microsoft based tools to people no matter where they are in the world. Google docs can be accessed to share documents whether for informational purposes or for each member of a team to edit the document. If you don’t have Microsoft programs on your home computer, this is a great way to use them. They don’t have the most current benefits of the current programs, but it will work in a pinch.

· Trello: This is a popular tool that allows for project management across your team no matter everyone’s location. This can be used for individuals to organize to-do lists or monitor projects, so everyone knows where the team is at. The program permits you to break the project into segments that can be more closely observed as the project progresses.

· Zoho: This is another project management tool, but it looks to have an abundance of features including overlapping features I’ve already discussed. There is the ability to monitor time spent on projects, offers charts and written documentation of the progress of the specific projects the team is working on, a calendar that the entire team can contribute to and view, document sharing capabilities, notes area for recording specific hurdles or bugs that need to be resolved. This is just the tip of the ice burg in terms of the capabilities of this tool. The cost is relatively inexpensive as well ranging from $0 for limited access to $100/month/employee for all access.

· Yammer: This is described as a Facebook for work. This platform allows an employer to send only relevant information to employees. Then employees can communicate within their specific teams to accomplish goals.

· Skype: This is a free service that allows face-to-face communication between employees. The tool is internet based and allows you to bring several people into the conversation/collaboration.

· GoTo Meeting: This is a great tool for webinars as it will allow you to broadcast to hundreds of people that join. In addition, for those that cannot attend the meeting or want to watch the meeting for a second time the meetings can be recorded. You can share your screen with those that signed up for the meeting allowing for project collaboration or even training.

· Viewflux: There are several sites geared towards designers, viewflux being one of them. These sites allow you to share your designs with a group of people. Those people can specify changes they want made by marking up the page. Have you ever wanted someone to change something about a graphic and you try to describe in several words what just a few words and an arrow could describe? These sites make a world of difference for designers and their clients and team members.

· Dropbox: If you have files larger than what can fit on the Google drive, dropbox is an option for a place to share files with your team. According to Dropbox, this is a secure way to share files.

· Nimble: This is a great tool for sales people and people with large networks to stay organized. This tool combines your social media and email contacts into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. The tool even links conversations you’ve had with these contacts, so you can remember the contact in that specific context.

These are just a few of the tools that people can use when they work from home or even work in the office. The collaboration potential with the tools can simplify processes that are long overdue for change. In addition, the telecommuter can easily connect with and contribute to projects that are being working on in the office. Without these connections, the telecommuter could quickly be disregarded as part of the dynamic of the department they once worked with in person.

While some may argue that society is more disconnected from one another than ever before, consider that technology is not a hindrance to our efforts to communicate but rather an advantage. I would maintain that society is communicating more efficiently, more frequently, and more effectively than ever before because of technology.

Imagine being able to work from 7:00-4:00 and being able to start dinner at 4:05 rather than 5:05. Now you have time to patiently help the kids with their homework, easily pick up the kids from soccer practice, spend time focusing on your spouse. The pressure to get things done can decrease as the level of technology increases if we leverage the two. What would the ability to telecommute mean to your life? Do you do it currently? What have you found to be beneficial about it?

Some Things to Think About For Work From Home Scenarios

January 4th, 2019 by admin

Nowadays, more and more business users work from home than ever. You save time by not having to commute that far from your home to the office and use that commute time to being more efficient by getting more things done at the office and/or spend more quality time with your family, spend more time take care of yourself to become healthier by going to the gym, or even put more time into work because you now have more time to do so.

There are some things that businesses must keep in mind when allowing their employees to work from home, and one of them is IT Security. Businesses have to make sure that the employees are communicating securely to the corporate office when they are working remotely (either from the employee’s home or from a coffee shop somewhere). One of the very first suggestions is to make sure that business users are connecting with a virtual provide network tunnel to the corporate office. This creates a virtual and encrypted tunnel from their remote home office or from any other remote location. After that, all communicates to the corporate office is encrypted and transferred securely through the tunnel. Corporate users can decide whether they want to allow split tunneling or not.

Split tunneling is a feature on the virtual private network (VPN) tunnel and a business decision to send all traffic (including the internet’s traffic) through the tunnel to the corporate office. This way, the users’ laptop is protected from accessing any insecure and unsafe internet site. The corporate may also have a way to monitor and protect that VPN tunnel’s traffic so that any if there is any viruses or malwares are detected, it will have a way to stop that from infecting the whole network. There is a downside to this however. The downside is that there will be a lot more traffic going through the corporate’s network. So, the company has to decide what is best in terms of priority.

If businesses decide to allow split tunneling for remote users working from home, it should make sure that the users’ laptop has some security application installed such as firewall, ant-virus and anti-malware application enabled to detect and block, drop or prevent malicious traffic from entering and infecting others. Several solutions exist for this and one method is to use the Cisco AMP for Endpoints.

Today’s corporate end gateway firewalls are a lot more sophisticated that they do some detection and policy checks when users connect to the office to make sure that the laptops have all the security features enabled and if not, the users’ laptop is prompted to install anything that the laptop needs to comply with the corporate security policy and standard. That way, there is no need to worry that the network is unprotected and insecure.

This is just one area that business enterprises need to think about when allowing remote users, the freedom to work anywhere.

Working From Home – Your Boss Has Obligations, But Only You Can Make It a Success

December 29th, 2018 by admin

Having a flexible working arrangement which allows employees to sometimes work from home can be beneficial for everybody involved – but it needs buy-in from all concerned to make it a success.

The traditional model of having everybody clock in at nine in the morning and out again at five had its advantages, but it reflected a mindset which has long had its day. Some firms, of course, have taken longer to emerge from that mindset than others, but recent years have seen a substantially more adaptable approach on the part of many bosses as the lifestyles of employees as well as consumer expectations change.

Employers’ Obligations to Consider Home Working Options

In recognition of these new realities legislation exists to ensure that every employer gives reasonable consideration to a request for flexible working arrangements, subject to certain conditions having been met. Employees have redress if stipulated procedures, such as a meeting to discuss such an application, are not followed. There is some evidence to suggest that employers’ attitudes are changing as it becomes clear that removing unnecessary areas of conflict between an employee’s private and working life leads to greater work satisfaction and increased productivity. A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has argued that implementing flexible working practices can improve engagement and motivation amongst staff.

But changing workplace cultures and the attitude of employers is only half the story. Working successfully from home is a strict discipline to which the employee also needs to adapt if the arrangement is to prove successful. The home and life within it are filled with potential distractions and without a positive effort being made to tackle these it is unlikely that productivity will benefit from relocation away from the workplace.

Overcoming Distractions and Obstacles to Working From Home

This is no small obstacle to overcome. Having to attend to children and family business, simple domestic obligations like laundry, shopping, cooking and the television can all compete for the employee’s attention. Without supervision some will undoubtedly lack the discipline to work the required number of hours with the required level of concentration to be able to replicate the performance they would provide in the workplace. Even people who work privately and independently from home, following such disciplines as freelancing, creative writing or filling in online surveys, are aware of the importance of creating the right ambience in which to work. Sometimes relocating to another room, or to an entirely different environment, may be necessary to ensure the right conditions.

Informed opinion seems to suggest that flexible working from home, where the nature of the work permits, engenders greater productivity and enhanced employee satisfaction and thereby loyalty, but this is only achievable when focus and concentration are maintained, work is structured and distractions can be eliminated.