As offices close due to COVID-19, we all need ways to make working from home easier

If you usually work in a city centre office, then it is likely you have been working from home instead over the past nine months. Coronavirus has changed the working life of a lot of people, and working from home is a trend that seems set to continue in the future, even if the pandemic is resolved. Of course, you will still need to interact with colleagues, share information and perform other tasks as a team. Cloud computing allows you to do these things and more. You will also need to get into a regular working pattern, which can be hard from home since it is much harder to discipline yourself and get things done with numerous temptations or family around. Read on for some information on how cloud computing could help you work from home, and some other tips to structure your day and make sure you’re productive.

Stick to a schedule

When you are working from home and don’t have the pressure of your manager hovering over you, it can be easy to put off work. However, the more you put off work, the harder it will be to catch up. A day off can turn into a week, putting you behind schedule and annoying your manager. Building a routine is key to keeping on top of things. Set your alarm, get up on time, have a healthy breakfast, shower, then get started. If you can, have a dedicated space in your house to work from. Working sitting on your bed or the sofa can lead to you being distracted and too comfortable. Set up your home office as close to the design of your normal office as possible. Work for a set amount of time, then stop. If you don’t work from your normal office after six o’clock, don’t do it from home either. Remember, everyone needs rest and relaxation, especially in present circumstances.

Take care of mental and physical health

Your mental and physical health may be suffering due to being stuck at home during the pandemic. Take heed of the tips above and get plenty of exercise and eat well to take care of your physical health, but don’t abandon your mental health either. This is a trying time for everyone, as we are all living with the uncertainty of what may happen next, or if we or our loved ones are at risk of catching the virus. Our bodies and brains are stressed constantly, so be kind to yourself. If you are struggling, find something you enjoy, like a good book or a good bottle of wine, and spend a few hours relaxing. Take regular breaks in your workday to let your batteries recharge. Make sure you follow all government instructions in regards to the pandemic, but if you are allowed, get out and meet a friend for a walk. A bit of social interaction can do wonders for your mental health. You will find that you are not alone and lots of people are suffering too, so have a chat and get it all out.

Leave the house

Getting out of the house is essential if you work from home. It is not healthy to be stuck at a desk inside all day, and some fresh air will reinvigorate you, clear your head and help you sleep better. You could start doing some exercise during the day to break up your work schedule a little. Going for a run at lunchtime is even better than a walk, as it will burn even more calories and use up some energy. – Read more

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How to prevent video conferencing fatigue: Make online meetings more productive

Online conferences and in-person meetings are fundamentally different from one another.

Working from home has transformed from a highly sought-after job perk to a bottom-line expectation.

Employees who used to travel from meeting to meeting are now relying on video conferencing technology to interface with customers, vendors, and team members. Free from the hassle of traffic and interoffice travel, these people are filling their schedules with back-to-back meetings supported by digital technology.

Until they burn out.

It turns out that scheduling back-to-back virtual meetings all day actually reduces productivity. This is true even for people whose pre-pandemic workday involved hours of back-to-back meetings.

Employers everywhere are starting to ask, “What’s the difference between video conferencing and in-person meetings?”

It turns out there’s plenty different. Employees whose jobs depend on productive meetings need to treat online meetings differently than in-person ones. For many businesses, preventing video conferencing fatigue is the best way to mitigate the risk of workplace burnout.

What is Video Conferencing Fatigue?

Video conferencing fatigue, also called virtual communication fatigue can drag productivity down for entire teams. It is caused by prolonged, excessive use of platforms. This kind of fatigue presents itself in several ways:

  • Lack of Focus.
  • Chronic Irritability and Frustration.
  • Reduced Input.
  • Headaches and Migraines.

Each of these symptoms can take a serious toll on anyone’s quality of life, and they will rapidly decrease the productivity of teams that rely on digital meetings and video conferences. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to combat video conferencing fatigue the moment it starts setting in.

1. Lack of Focus: Signs and Solutions

People lose focus in real-life meetings, too. But in a digital environment, it becomes a much more difficult problem to deal with.

In the office, it’s relatively easy for someone to catch up after losing focus for a moment. At any given moment, there are numerous side-conversations going on, and ample opportunity to communicate contextual clues silently.

In the digital environment, getting back on track after a momentary lapse in focus is hard to do. The more it happens, the harder it becomes to remain focused. In the end, it becomes a cyclical, self-reinforcing problem.

The digital medium adds additional layers of complexity to the problem. In a real-life meeting, it’s perfectly acceptable to look out the window for a few moments to gather your thoughts. In a digital video conference, looking anywhere other than at the screen indicates a lack of interest.

This is an especially tough problem for employees who need to interact with customers. Every customer believes (rightfully) that they deserve your absolute and undivided attention. They don’t appreciate companies that can’t deliver.

There are several things that employers can do about team members who appear to be losing focus during digital meetings:

  • Keep Meetings Organized to Schedule. The better organized your meetings are, the easier it will be for your team members to balance and prioritize their attention to them. It’s important to accept that not every attendee needs to pay attention to every second of every meeting. Schedule presentations in a way that allows people to organize their time around the subjects being discussed – rather than letting meetings dictate their schedules to them.
  • Enable Closed Captions. Some people have a much easier time reading than listening. With the right video conferencing software, you can enable real-time closed captioning during digital meetings. Giving attendees the ability to turn off their sound and read the discussion in real-time can offer much-needed breathing room for meeting-heavy enterprises.
  • Include Virtual Time Off. Employees who have to travel from meeting to meeting throughout the day get to enjoy small mini-breaks in between meetings. Whether it’s a quick coffee in the break room or a drive from one office to another, the day is essentially paced by the time between meetings. Schedule meetings with some downtime between them, and don’t be afraid to take a break right in the middle of longer meetings, if necessary.
  • Allow Attendees to Block Cameras. For meeting attendees, seeing the speaker’s face helps improve focus. Seeing their own face, on the other hand, is a distraction. It’s not something that adds value to the meeting experience. Encourage meeting attendees to block their cameras when not speaking, and try focusing more on screen-shared content using an extension like RecTrace.

Video Conferencing Fatiguesource

2. Chronic Irritability: Signs and Solutions

In-person meetings are relatively simple operations. You get everyone into a room, have the host present the subject, and then start discussing it. Unforeseen complications are rare, beyond the occasional projector mishap.

The digital meeting environment is significantly more complex. Network glitches, dropped connections, spotty Wi-Fi, and badly timed software updates can all get in the way of an online conference.

To make matters worse, many of these problems are highly technical in nature. The average non-IT office employee simply doesn’t have the expertise to troubleshoot the dreaded, “Please check your network connection” error message. – Read more

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How to automate workflows so you can focus on your business

If you’re wondering how to automate workflows, chances are good that you’re exhausted with your current approach to running your business.

Maybe your typical morning looks a little something like this: You have your sights set on tackling one of your biggest business priorities. Let’s say you’ll be ironing out the details of the new service you plan to offer.

But first, you get sucked into your inbox and respond to dozens of emails. Then you get saddled with some data entry. Next, you need to resolve a customer support issue that keeps coming up. Before you know it, it’s three in the afternoon and you haven’t even touched the strategy you wanted to hash out today.

Sound familiar? We thought so—and it’s proof of the value of workflow automation.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is when you identify a repeatable pattern of tasks and then use technology so that business process can happen without you.

Automation sounds complex and intimidating, and a whopping 73% of U.S. adults fear that artificial intelligence will eliminate more jobs than it creates. However, automation doesn’t need to be complicated. Many automated workflows can be accomplished in two simple steps.

For example, imagine that someone fills out the contact form on your business website. An automated workflow could take that response and automatically create a task in your project management software.

See? That’s a simple business workflow, but it removed a manual step from your own plate.

The benefits of workflow automation (hint: you’ll save time)

Process automation is all about reducing the amount of repetitive, manual processes that you and your team are responsible for. In and of itself, that removes bottlenecks, streamlines your systems, and keeps work moving forward.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s look at some of the other big benefits of workflow automation.

1. Workflow automation saves time

You spend more time than you think on repetitive tasks that could be automated. In fact, the typical office worker spends one-third of the working year on these types of administrative responsibilities.

As a business owner, these types of time-consuming tasks cut into the hours you could invest in working on your business—rather than in it. Research from The Alternative Board found that business owners spend only about 32% of their time working on important business development activities.

Process automation will save time and eliminate inefficiencies, so you can spend less time on mundane tasks and more time growing your small business.

2. Workflow automation reduces human error

Automated workflows happen without you. You’ll set up templates and other business workflows so that manual tasks occur reliably without your input.

Not only does this free up time, but it also reduces the possibility of human error. After all, you aren’t perfect, and you know that little mistakes can lead to a whole bunch of headaches.

For example, imagine that a customer submitted a question via email. You forgot to pass it along to the right team member, so that customer has been sitting without an answer for days—or even weeks.

With an automated workflow, that email could’ve been automatically directed to the right person, who would’ve been notified that a response was needed.

3. Workflow automation ensures consistency

Related to the above, automation also makes your business processes more consistent. When you’ve set up the automation, it happens reliably again and again—the exact same way.

No more worrying that one member of your sales team logs an entry in an Excel spreadsheet one way, while another employee does it completely differently. By cutting humans and real-time input out of the equation, you ensure greater cohesion of your repetitive tasks.

4. Workflow automation improves your culture

Some grunt work is unavoidable, but if it’s making up the bulk of your employees’ responsibilities, they’re bound to become frustrated. They want to do more than take care of mundane and mindless tasks.

Automation frees up more of your employees’ time so they can focus on job responsibilities that adequately use their skills, passions, and creativity.

Not only does this improve company culture, it also helps your business thrive, because you’re getting the most out of each member of your staff.

The building blocks: 3 basic components of a workflow

Your eyes have been opened to the perks of workflow automation. But how do you get started with streamlining and systemizing your own business processes?

Let’s start with the basics of a workflow. As digital workplace Kissflow explains, the basic components of a workflow are:

  • Predefined steps: This is a predetermined sequence of tasks that makes up the workflow.
  • Stakeholders: These are the people who carry out the various tasks in the workflow. Note that, in some workflows, steps are completely automated and don’t need an assigned stakeholder.
  • Conditions: These are the rules of the workflow that explain when a certain step should be taken.

Here’s a simple example of a workflow using these three components. Maybe you’ve turned your attention to your human resources processes, and you’ve noticed that you’re frequently answering the same questions from job applicants.

You decide to implement the following automated workflow: When an interested candidate submits the job application form on your website, they automatically receive an FAQ-style email that thanks them for applying and provides answers and links to helpful resources.

Within that workflow, your predefined steps are:

  • An applicant submits the application form on the website.
  • The FAQ email is sent to the applicant.

This process will happen without human intervention, so there isn’t a stakeholder. The rule is that the FAQ email will be triggered by the receipt of the application. – Read more

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