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The Coronavirus Crisis Proves Reasonable Workplace Accessibility Has Been Possible All Along

As the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic has set in, people around the world are experiencing the trials of isolation and exclusion of quarantine and social distancing for the first time. We are entering a new norm where a video call is the new meeting, virtual travel is the new weekend activity, and “self-isolation” is a common phrase.

Yet for so many people with disabilities, this same experience of seclusion has long been familiar.

The impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak have been astounding for nearly everyone, and devastating for many. In the midst of all this upheaval, these changes could also be promising for a more inclusive future.

We’ve seen adjustments being made on a widespread scale. Businesses and communities have made significant adjustments to adapt their working conditions and culture to new norms. As more measures are made to control the spread of infection, working remotely and flexibly has become standard across almost all sectors as workers across the globe are being asked to work from home to reduce the spread of outbreak. Employers are working closely with their employees to navigate the associated challenges in communication, productivity, and wellbeing.

In other industries, supermarkets are dedicating separate shopping times for the most vulnerable customers. In the fashion industry, where there were more clothing lines for dogs than there are for people with disabilities, we have seen a huge shift in creating products for specific needs, such as face masks that don’t look unpleasant or medical. A fashion show in Nigeria even celebrated face masks as a high-fashion accent.

Buried within this crisis is a lesson that must be taken forward to the future of workplace behavior: Businesses have clearly demonstrated that when it becomes an absolute necessity to drastically adapt working culture and introduce flexible models, the shift for many corporations is possible—and can be implemented within an incredibly short timeframe.

It hasn’t been without its challenges, and understandably, not every corporation’s infrastructure can support such widespread measures. But companies are putting in genuine efforts, actively seeking solutions, and seeing rapid results.

What stands in the way of accommodating people with different abilities?

Many of these accommodations and adaptations are the same ones that disabled employees have sought for so long to have approved for their working lives in order to enable them to fully engage with and contribute to their careers meaningfully.

A UK survey showed 67% of disabled workers who had asked employers to make reasonable adjustments in their workplace had all or some requests rejected.

Measures like remote and flexible working can be a critically important factor in enabling employees with disabilities to fully engage with their jobs. Yet up until now, there hasn’t been enough support or understanding from the business landscape. A November 2019 report by UK union organization UNISON surveyed nearly 2,900 respondents and found that 67% of disabled workers across the UK who had asked their employer to make reasonable adjustments for them in the workplace had had all or some of their requests rejected. Meanwhile in the US, according to marketing research firm The Standard, only 40% of human resources managers surveyed are confident in the way their company handles disability accommodations.

By neglecting to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities, businesses are missing out on valuable opportunities and resources.

By neglecting to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities, businesses are missing out on valuable opportunities and resources.

2018 study by Accenture, in partnership with organizations Disability: IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, found that companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were four times more likely to witness higher total shareholder returns.

Working with employees with disabilities to implement the reasonable adjustments they need in order to thrive in the workplace would help to ensure companies remain economically active in times of great stress and change, like the present, while simultaneously bringing more talent and diversity of thought into the workplace. These are proven key drivers of innovation and progress across industries.

After the storm

It is truly promising and reassuring to see how in the face of a crisis, we are witnessing businesses coming together to work with their employees to ensure working life can continue while protecting their wellbeing.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc. Yet it’s also been a catalyst for resilience, as companies prove that they can successfully adjust and adapt to dramatic change. We cannot revert back to business as usual once the storm dies down.

So, what happens when the perception that accommodations such as working from home, live streaming events, paying for sick leave, or online instructions would be completely counterproductive has now been disproved?

Hopefully the answer is that businesses and society can become rooted in accessibility and inclusion, well beyond this pandemic.

Originally published at Quartz by Caroline Casey, Founder, The Valuable 500
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Work From Home – The New Normal

What does the future of remote work mean for us? Are we heading towards a change in work life?

The world is changing. I am talking about the work-life affected by the coronavirus.

Today, the pandemic has got around 3 million tech employees confined to their homes and working remotely in India. But there was a time when companies were uncomfortable with the idea of following a WFH based model. I for one know of a company that would not provide equal growth opportunities to remote employees because their contributions were not considered at par with the ones working from the office.

Pre corona days, IT companies like TCS, Accenture, and a few startups did employ remote teams but a significant amount of work was being carried out in the offices. Now, with most of the employees working from home; companies are sure to realize the extent of work that can be done remotely. Moreover, pressing issues like traffic congestion, high carbon footprint, and overcrowded cities will be addressed.

Imagine if you can work in an MNC of your choice from your home and pursue a career growth path. Won’t that be truly revolutionary? I am eagerly looking forward to living in such a world and it is only a matter of time till work from home becomes the norm.

Here are some software and devices that facilitate working from home. Take a look.

The Work-from-home Toolbox 

1. Zoom
It is the most intuitive and easy to use video conferencing software. It is compatible across multiple devices and can be embedded in Google, Outlook and Yahoo calendar. The basic plan is free and meant for personal use. The meetings can host up to 100 participants and comes with multiple features of video and web conferencing. Check out the complete pricing plan here. 

2. Simple Time Tracker
I recommend this tool for tracking the time you spend on specific tasks. The Chrome extension is easy to use and is a great way of analyzing productivity. If you want to find out how you are spending your work time then this is a hassle-free and valuable extension to add.

3. Google Keep
It is a simple yet versatile tool that helps in allocating tasks, setting own goals and taking notes. I have been using Keep notes to quickly jot down minutes of the meeting, make a shopping list and a to-do list, add reminders to the lists, make notes and share them with my colleagues. All the information gets automatically synced with my Google account as it keeps the information stored in the cloud. Watch this tutorial video on how to use it.

4. Wifi Extender
It is a device that boosts the wifi signal from the router to expand its coverage. In case you have weak wifi signals to your room then an extender can come handy to facilitate uninterrupted work. Here are links to some brands like Leoie and TP-Link that make wifi extenders.

5. Bluetooth mouse
While a laptop touchpad is a workable option but using a mouse increases your speed of work. The touchpad tends to become unresponsive and is easily manipulated whereas the mouse gives a better grip to the hand and facilitates smoother functioning. Check out some of the options in Bluetooth mouse by Logitech, Zebronics, and Microsoft.

P.S – I am sure you are already using Whatsapp but the desktop version can come handy while sharing documents and images. Try it if you haven’t till now.

(One up your career is a daily newsletter by Akshay Datt aimed at helping you grow professionally. Subscribe to it here:

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

Originally published at Business World by Akshay Dutt (Guess Author for Business World)

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Here Are Few Tips While Working From Home

Here are a few tips that would help all the employees while they work from their new work place, home.

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused almost all firms to mandate the work from home practice for employees. While some may be a veteran in working from home whereas the one’s relatively newer to this concept may take a while to get adjusted.

However, here are a few tips that would help all the employees while they work from their new work place, home.

Work area

The first thing is to find the right space in your house that is appropriate for working from home. One of the major differences between working from home and working from your office is that in the former you are in-charge of the surroundings while being accountable for the job responsibilities.

Hence, it is essential that workspace at home should feel separate rest of the home to create the physical distinction between office and home. Workspace at home can be made comfortable with a small table and chain where in one can spend at least 8 hours a day. It is important to be seated in natural light as it is said to keep up the mood and enable you to remain active for longer durations. And, it is wise to keep the workspace corner as much away from distractions like TV, Food, family lounge areas, etc. as possible.

Work routine

Working from home can be quite challenging as compared to working from office only because we’re used to the whole office setup and routine. Working from homes comes along with distractions, lack of socialism, and major change in daily routine, etc. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to fix up a daily routine and most importantly stick to it. Specific hours can be set aside for client calls, team e-meetings, answering emails, have lunch, etc. Everyone working from home must clear know when they’re working and when they’re not.

Dress up

The whole act of changing clothes serves as signal to the mind that it’s time to get in motion to get things done. Hence, the power of dressing up suitable for public viewing should not be underestimated. One does not need to dress, as formally as they would while working from office however, comfortable clothing, which is presentable from Video Calling perspective, should work. Dress up also implies to other appearance-based activities such shower, brushing, makeup, etc. that make you ready for taking on the world virtually.

WFH tools

It is essential to be equipped with the right variety of tools that are going to be essential while working from home. For instance, Internet and WiFi is going to be extremely crucial for working from home from connectivity standpoint. Computer/Mobile apps like Skype, Zoom, Slack, Teams etc., would be very important from communication standpoint. Gadgets like earphones, mic, printer, scanner, etc. would be much useful during such times for efficient functionality.

Communication is the key

Most of the people while working from office are bound to spend time with their bosses, managers and teams in proximity making the the whole communication aspect effortless and easy. While working / managing teams remotely the communication no longer feels as natural as in the former case. Hence, it is important to keep communicating with your managers, bosses, teams about every single thing because out of sight can lead to out of mind impacting overall productivity. Clear and constant communication will help in understanding expectations, feedbacks, changes in the strategy, updates, etc via variety of tools available.

Originally published at India Today by Aayushi Lakhapati, Co-Founder, CHRO and the Chief Health Officer at 23 BMI, a healthcare venture.
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The Coronavirus Is Forcing Techies To Work From Home. Some May Never Go Back To The Office.

Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Twitter are encouraging workers to stay home.

As the coronavirus spreads in the United States and tech companies ask their workforces to do their jobs from home, some in the industry are looking at the outbreak as a test case for the long-gestating but never-arriving moment when working remotely will broadly replace working in person.

“We’ll never probably be the same,” Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, told BuzzFeed News of the company’s workplace practices. “People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”

Twitter — whose CEO, Jack Dorsey, said he wanted to move toward a distributed workforce in the most recent earnings call — is one of a number of companies asking employees to work from home as the coronavirus hits the US.

Square, which Dorsey also runs, asked the same of its employees this week. Job board website Indeed has mandated it. Amazon asked employees to test VPNs, anticipating they might need to work from home as well. And some tech workers are starting to clock in from home before their companies roll out an official policy of having most or all of their employees work from home or outside a central office.

“I do think we won’t go back.”

Jack Dorsey – Twitter CEO

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive reactions to going in this direction in terms of putting our safety of our employees first,” Christie said, “and so some other companies might be willing to take a leap.”

As of Wednesday, the number of reported coronavirus cases in the US had risen to 153 and the death toll to 11.

After Twitter announced its work-from-home policy, some employees remained at the office, but at their discretion. For the most part, the company now has an entirely distributed workforce. On Tuesday, Twitter held its monthly all-hands meeting entirely online — via Google Hangouts and Slack — with Dorsey dialing in from an undisclosed location.

With no in-person component involved, the Q&A portion of Twitter’s all-hands was livelier than usual. “The number of questions that came in, the people that were responding on Slack — it just was so much more engaged,” Christie said. “We’ve got a lot of introverts in the company. It’s also a little bit of…not a level playing field. You have people in San Francisco, and then people dialing in from around the world who feel like they’re not quite having the same experience. It was much more level setting.”

The push for working remotely wasn’t limited to Twitter. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, major Bay Area employers, including Microsoft and JPMorgan, were also encouraging workers to stay home. Google told most of its workers at its Dublin, Ireland, offices to stay home after a coronavirus case was reported there.

Ed Zitron, a tech PR veteran, told BuzzFeed News he’d welcome a move to a virtual workplace. “There are no positives in the case of the coronavirus, but I’m definitely seeing a reevaluation of whether meeting in person is truly necessary. You can really see people moving away from having in-persons that they know deep inside are just for the comfort of seeing someone for some reason,” he said. “I just wish it didn’t take a global pandemic to make people rethink the necessity of in-person meetings. That’s the valley for you, I guess.”

One tech worker in New York, who has social anxiety, said he started working from home ahead of any company policy, looking at this virus as a chance to prove he can do his work outside of the office. “I’m probably jumping the gun, but since most of my job — really pretty much all of my job — can be done remote, I’m taking the opportunity to prove that,” he said.

Still, workers whose jobs cannot be performed remotely won’t have an easy transition as the virus takes hold in the US. Twitter, for instance, has facilities and cafeteria workers whose jobs require them to be in the office. The company will continue to pay these people even if they have to work on a reduced schedule, Christie said. “We’re not going to put people out and not not pay them.”

Originally posted at BuzzFeed News by Alex Kantrowitz
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These Are the Best Ways to Optimize Your Lunch Break When Working From Home

30 minutes is all you need to fuel the rest of your day.

As the clock strikes noon, most of us begin to wonder about lunch plans. And on busy days when we’re working from home, it can seem so much easier to simply power through tasks without a pause, and skip a lunch break entirely.

On one hand, we know how beneficial even a few minutes of downtime can be when it comes to our focus and performance. In fact, researchers at George Mason University found that study participants who took just a five-minute break during a 45-minute attention task outperformed those who took no breaks at all. Another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work and Organizational Psychologyconfirms that lunch breaks allow workers to recover during the day and can increase their energy levels over time.

And yet, with so much evidence pointing to the positives of taking lunch, so many of us fail to take advantage of the opportunity to recharge. It’s especially important to take breaks as we adjust to working from home. Over 70 percent of 5,000 respondents in a Thrive Global survey about pain points related to the coronavirus crisis worry that they won’t be able to focus as much as usual while working from home. But the truth is, taking small breaks throughout the day, like making time for lunch, can help us channel our focus when we need it most.

These strategies will help you make the most of your lunch break so you can take on the second part of your day feeling energized and inspired. 

Create a plan with your partner to make meals for each other 

Depending on the demands of your work schedules, you might be able to take turns making lunch for each other. It’s a great way to share the load and find time to connect — and having a plan in advance will help you avoid throwing together last-minute unhealthy meals.

Swap a healthy treat for your go-to sugary comfort food 

If you find yourself reaching for unhealthy comfort foods, find a delicious snack that still feels like an indulgence — without the sugar. Try a bowl of berries instead of a cinnamon bun, or a fruit smoothie instead of ice cream. 

If you can, open a window and take a breath of fresh air 

Harvard research shows that allowing in fresh air from outdoors can actually help reduce transmission of airborne pathogens. As an added bonus to your mental well-being, you’ll feel less isolated and more connected as you take your lunch break.

At the end of every lunch break you take, ping a coworker to ask how they’re doing 

This way you’ll habit stack forming valuable connections on top of a healthy meal. 

Originally posted at Thrive Global by Jessica Hicks, Associate Multimedia
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Work from Home: Getting it right

A leadership coach on how to use this time to redesign your life, routine and career choices, and make working-from-home work for both you and your family

Working from home requires self-leadership. We can be productive and creative as well as enjoy a balanced life when we give attention to our life holistically. Here are some ways to get this balance right.

Exert your free will

Our productivity is influenced by our state of mind. We can either allow Covid-19 to rule our minds or we can avoid getting caught up in the fear of unknown. Currently, more than ever, technology is a boon and bane, and to be used wisely, with awareness. There is an avalanche of information. We need to be disciplined to know when to pull the plug on our gadgets.

Take ownership of your role

Typically, we have a team at hand to discuss and delegate to. Social distancing calls for the need to plan and prioritise, since one can’t walk across an aisle to chat. When we take ownership of our role and recognise that we are equally responsible for keeping the economy and businesses running, we can deliver excellence.

Work collaboratively

We can be efficient and productive when we work collaboratively and let go of attachment to identifications. By anchoring ourselves with our inner voice, we can engage strategically with others to achieve our goals.

Opportunity to be creative

We can use this slowdown as an opportunity to expand our horizons, change gears, redefine perspectives and reshape our lives. While I recognise that many businesses are battling existential crises, fear is not going to help us find out-of-the-box solutions. In that state of silence, we can access a reservoir of possibility, to move forward creatively and fearlessly. Nelson Mandela emerged as a stronger spirit to fight apartheid. Newton’s great works occurred during his confinement from plague.

Stay connected

Communication is critical at a time when work-from-home is not a luxury but a necessity. Every CEO is writing personal letters to assure the team that they are cared for and needed for the company to emerge from this crisis. Communicating frequently will help ensure that everyone is on-board and aligned. With plans rapidly changing with the evolving situation, staying connected with the team will facilitate agility. Also, clarity in communication of expectations, timelines and deliverables will help enhance efficiency.

As the geographic boundary between home and office blurs, we need to enrol every member of the family and be transparent about our commitments and constraints to get their support. By drawing up a schedule for work, play, family and self, we can use this time as an opportunity to work as well as discover ourselves as human beings at a holistic level. We can use this time to reflect on our relationships, our passions, our career choices and choose this time to redesign our life.

Originally posted on Forbes and the writer is founder and CEO of Arka Leadership

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Remote Work: 9 of the Best Jobs You Can Do From Anywhere

In America, 4.7 million people are classed as remote workers. That’s 3.4% of our total working population.

And, the numbers are increasing day by day

Of course, at the moment that figure would be much higher! People around the world are being told to set up their computers, get online, and do their job from the safety of their homes.

A lot of workers are loving it, too. What’s not to like? You can work more flexible hours and set up your workspace wherever you want – once the lockdowns are over, of course. If you’ve picked up a taste for working outside the office, this doesn’t have to be a one-off.

Discover remote working jobs you can do from anywhere and see if it’s time you made a career change.

1. Personal Assistant

There’s always been a lot of money in becoming a personal assistant, and now you don’t even need to leave the couch to do it. There are plenty of busy workers out there looking for someone to keep them organized remotely.

From booking hotels to keeping track of their schedule, it’s a job with lots of variation. Every day, you could be working on a different set of tasks. Find out how much to charge to see what you could make.

2. Online School Tutor

People always want to learn, and they’ll pay good money for it too. If you have a specialist subject, look into the types of remote jobs that involve teaching through virtual classes, resources, and e-books.

Check out Skillshare and Udemy to see more about teaching jobs for remote workers.

3. Online Language Teacher

Language teachers are in high demand, and just like with online tutoring you can do this over the web. English is in very high demand and you can get started on Qkids. For other languages, take a look at italki.

4. Copywriter

The online world is full of words, and someone’s got to write them all! You can make hundreds writing the copy for a website, or create blogs and social media copy. There’s a lot to write about out there and it’s one of the easiest jobs to do from home.

5. Social Media Manager

3.5 billion people are on social media, so it makes sense that businesses would want to be too! Help them reach their audience from your home, a hotel, or an exotic beach – with these jobs you can work from anywhere.

You’ll be posting regularly and replying to message and comments for the brand’s social media, making this one of the entry-level remote jobs anyone can do.

6. Web Designer

If you’ve got an eye for design, becoming a web developer could be your dream remote job. You’ll be asked to create websites for companies that reflect their brand, have great user experience, and convert browsers into buyers.

7. Programmer

When it comes to jobs you can do from anywhere in the world, becoming a programmer is a great option. It’s a tough skill to learn – computer coding is basically a whole new language – but it pays very well. Start learning how to code with online courses.

8) SEO Specialist

SEO (search engine optimization) is the biggest thing in modern-day marketing. By spending some time to become an SEO expert, businesses will pay good money for your help!

From your laptop, you can help boost the traffic to their website and help them thrive. Learn more about SEO with this cheat sheet.

9) Videographer

Videos now account for over 70% of web traffic, so why not make some money creating your own? From animations to short social media videos, there’s a huge demand for quality videographers. If you own a camera, get out there and see what you can do.

Jobs You Can Do From Anywhere!

There are lots of people wondering “what is a remote worker?” right now, so be quick and act soon! Start trying out any of these jobs you can do from anywhere and see how it works for you.

Originally posted on Kake by their dditing team
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17 Tech Tips and Tricks to Make Working From Home More Productive (and Fun)

Because of coronavirus, a lot of people are suddenly finding themselves working from home for the first time. Technology makes this possible. But beyond the technology you’ve already used in your job on a regular day, how can you use tech to make it easier to work remotely?

Here are a few tech tips, tricks, and hacks—from Muse employees, Muse career coaches, and other experts—that will make working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic easier and a little more fun.

Looking for general work-from-home tips? Read more here.

1. Try a Different App for Meetings

Many workplaces already use Slack for text-based communication, but the software does much more than that. (Full disclosure: Slack is a current client of The Muse.)

Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, recommends using Slack for online meetings as well. “The video calling with Slack allows you to easily transition from a chat to a video call while the chat remains open so you can still take notes.” In addition, Slack’s screen share function allows everyone on the call to make notes on the screen, cutting down on misunderstandings.

2. Recreate a “Live” Office Environment

Outside of meetings, Slack can also be used to recreate some semblance of being in the office. “Whenever possible, ask your questions in a group channel,” says Richard Dillman, Senior Application Developer at The Muse, who works remotely full time. “Asking in private chats is like whispering in someone’s ear, while [doing the same] in the team room is the equivalent of spinning your chair around and asking. The ability to overhear conversations and possibly contribute is the biggest thing missing in WFH.”

3. Share Video Messages

Loom is a browser extension that lets you share your screen and record video messages. You can do both at the same time with their camera bubble feature that shows you talking off to the side of your screen recording.

“Whether you need to present something, ask for help on something, or just share something that you came across, you can use Loom to send it to your team and they can view it at a time that is convenient for them,” says Kiara Martilla, founder of the public relations and social media agency Kiara Jennifer & Co. That can mean fewer video conferences for you and your team, and it’s also more inclusive of anyone who can’t be online all day—folks who have to step away to take care of their kids, for example.

You can also use Loom to “send progress updates [and] morale boosting messages to managers, clients, and teams,” suggests Muse career coach Evangelia Leclaire, founder of Ready Set Rock, which offers business and job search seminars.

4. Create Training and Presentation Videos

Another use for Loom: building out a repository of how-to, training, and FAQ videos, Leclaire says. This can be especially useful now, when in-person trainings are impossible.

Loom has made their technology much more accessible in response to COVID-19, by increasing what you can do with the free version, reducing prices, and even eliminating fees for the education sector.

5. Share Files Easily

If your company uses Google Drive and Slack, you can integrate them to automatically import any files when you share them. Just share a Google Drive link on Slack and Slack Bot will automatically ask you if you want to integrate. If you do, Slack will notify you if anyone in the channel you’re sharing with doesn’t have permission to access the document. You can also get Slack notifications of comments and changes to the document.

6. Make Your Calendar More Visible

Installing Slack’s Google Calendar App will connect your schedule to the platform so it can let your coworkers know when you’re in a meeting if they try to message you—helpful when there’s no in-person visual cue (you’re not at your desk) that you’re not available. You can also turn on Calendar notifications to receive Slack messages when your next calendar event is about to start.

7. Stay on Top of Your To-Dos

Asana is another tool that can integrate with the Google Suite to boost productivity. “There is a free version that you can integrate with Google Calendar to keep on top of all of your to-do items and priorities along with due dates,” Martilla says, allowing you to see at a glance on your calendar which tasks and projects you need to complete when. “That way when a Netflix binge feels tempting, you won’t leave anything forgotten and undone.” (Full disclosure: Asana is a current client of The Muse.)

8. Increase Your Focus and Productivity

Zenware is a type of software that cuts out all the excess bells and whistles (toolbars, icons, side rails, etc.) and only shows you what’s important, says Kathryn Vercillo, author of Internet Addiction. For folks who need to do heads-down writing work, try WriteRoom ($9.99 in the Mac App Store), which blocks out your whole screen so all you see is the text you’re writing, or OmmWriter ($6.69 for Mac or PC), which turns off email and chat notifications and lets you choose a soothing background.

9. Block Your Biggest Distractors

“One of my favorite tech apps is called ‘SelfControl,’” says Muse career coach Joyel Crawford. “I can put all of my websites that I frequently visit that rob me of my productivity time and set a schedule for the app to block those sites. It’s terrific when you have a tight deadline to make.” So if you know your biggest time wasters—for me it’s Twitter, but for you it might be Instagram, the news, or even your personal email—you can temporarily block these sites when you need deep focus.

The app is free, but it is only available officially for Mac. Since it’s open source, however, it’s been adapted for Linux and Windows.

10. Pretend You’re in Outer Space

Having trouble getting a good camera angle for your Zoom meetings? Once your camera is on in Zoom, click on the small caret next to the camera icon and you’ll see the option to enable one of its virtual backgrounds, including an outer space view and a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also upload your own images to use as backgrounds for future meetings. (Note: To use this feature, your computer needs to meet certain minimum system requirements.) Not only can you have some fun with this, but your coworkers don’t have to know you haven’t tidied up your apartment.

11. Brainstorm Better

PinItTo.Me is a simple (and free!) tool that lets you and a team collaborate as though you’re using Post-Its on a board, Dillman says. Everyone can create their own notes and drag and drop them across the virtual corkboard. You can use it for brainstorming, scheduling, retro meetings, or anything else you’d use a bunch of Post-Its for. Plus each corkboard has its own unique URL you can come back to later.

12. Liven Up Your Video Calls

Like many organizations, Sina Khanifar’s company, Waveform, has moved completely remote and employees are holding all of their meetings on Zoom. “We’re having a lot of fun with Snapchat’s desktop SnapCamera app,” Khanifar says, which applies Snapchat Lenses to your computer’s webcam so they can be used on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and other video platforms. “It doesn’t make work from home more productive, but it definitely makes it more fun.”

You don’t need a Snapchat account to use Snap Camera, and there are tons of different filter options. In any given meeting one person might be underwater, someone’s eyes might be popping out of their head, and others might show up as aliens. Plus, it’s free and easy to set up. (Pro tip: Double check that you don’t have any crazy filters on before you start a meeting where that wouldn’t be appropriate.)

Read more creative work-from-home tips here.

13. Pay Attention to Your Lighting

Since a lot of our face-to-face interaction for the time being will be through video, getting your videos to look and sound better can make the experience more pleasant for everyone and ensure that you’re being understood by your colleagues.

Think of your meetings like you would a video interview (albeit a bit less formal). Try to use either natural or softer lighting and if possible, position your lighting source in front of you and your computer. This will cut down on glare and keep your coworkers from feeling like you’re talking to them from the shadows.

14. Use Headphones With a Microphone

When you’re on video chat, use headphones with a microphone if you have them, especially if your home has a lot of background noise (i.e. roommates or kids). And pay attention to where your microphone lands—if your microphone is rubbing against your shirt or a beard for the duration of the meeting, others on the call will be able to hear it.

15. Cut Out Excess Background Noise

If you’re using headphones and a microphone but still having trouble with audio in your video calls, you can also try Krisp. Krisp is an app that will mute background noise during your calls. They’ve introduced a free tier and cut their prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

16. Hack Yourself a Second Monitor

“If you’re used to working with a bigger screen than your laptop has, there’s an easy fix that you can implement right from your couch. Consider using your TV as your desktop or second monitor,” says Amanda Cross, Senior Manager at Vizio. All you need is an HDMI cable (if you don’t have a spare, check what wires you already have plugged into your TV—you might already have a suitable one) or if you’d like to go wireless, you can use a Chromecast, AppleTV, or other streaming device. (Full disclosure: Vizio is a current client of The Muse.)

For video meetings, you’ll want to position your laptop in front of the TV instead of off to the side. Your webcam will still be on your laptop and you don’t want your coworkers to see only the side of your face for an entire meeting.

17. Give Yourself a Signal to Stop for the Day

“Overworking as a remote person is a real thing and happens to most of us,” Dillman says. Without the visual cues provided by people around you packing up and leaving for the day, it can be easy to get absorbed in your work and stay at it far longer than you would have in the office. “I personally have smart lights to brighten and dim along with the sun,” Dillman says. “So I have visual cues when I should start [and] stop work. Or I will forget and work till 2 AM.”

If you don’t have smart lights, or can’t get them while still adhering to the public health guidelines in your area, try to work in a room where you can get natural light, so the fact that it’s starting to get dark outside will tell you it’s time to shut down for the day.

Originally posted at The Muse Blog by Regina Borsellino
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Is Working From Home The Future Of Work?

One effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been a huge increase in the number of Americans working from home. The question is: How many of them will be able to do it when the COVID-19 crisis fades?

An early-April 2020 MIT survey of 25,000 American workers found that 34% of those who’d been employed four weeks earlier said they’re currently working from home. Combined with the roughly 15% who said they’d been working from home pre-COVID-19, that means nearly half the U.S. workforce might now be remote workers. And that’s also true, the researchers say, for workers 55 and older.

The Brookings Institution’s Katherine Guyot and Isabel V. Sawhill just wrote their take on remote work and COVID-19, calling the pandemic “among other things, a massive experiment in telecommuting.”

Some forward-thinking employers have taken extra steps to help their employees work remotely during the pandemic.

‘Work Is Forever Changed’ Due to the Pandemic

Today In: Retirement

In the recent webinar, Is Self-Quarantine the Fabled Future of Work?, co-host Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab at the nonpartisan think tank New America, said: “This virus is calling into question the way we work on such a huge level.”

Cali Williams Yost, a flexwork expert and founder of the Flex + Strategy Group in Madison, N.J. says that as a result of COVID-19: “Work is forever changed” because “flexible work was made for times like these.”

Working from home, research has found, can boost employee productivity, improve work/life balance and foster better mental health (not to mention reduce pollution from commuters).

(Read all of Next Avenue’s COVID-19 coverage geared toward keeping older generations informed, safe and prepared.)

Some forward-thinking employers have taken extra steps to help their employees work remotely during the pandemic.

For instance, according to the SHRM trade group for human resources managers, the Utah-based tax software company Canopy is reimbursing small expenditures like paying for a yoga ball to sit on for better ergonomics. And the New York City commercial real estate company SquareFoot has given employees laptops to use at home.

Federal and state governments have offered grants and loans to businesses needing to upgrade their remote-work technology, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York.

And many employers (including mine) have started Virtual Happy Hours and Virtual Coffee Breaks, to foster a sense of community and cheer.

Not Everyone Can Work From Home

But, let’s not forget that working from home is “a sign of privilege,” said Schulte, author of the bestseller Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play When No One Has the Time.

It’s mostly something that knowledge workers with computer-based jobs are being told to do. Millions of Americans — from grocery clerks to ER physicians — don’t have that luxury. And AARP analysts have noted that many older workers also live in places with lousy broadband access, making remote work difficult or impossible.

Also worth remembering: some people who are now working remotely aren’t doing so because their employer likes it, but because it’s become a necessity to get jobs done.

Neil Webb, a business development director in London, tweeted that he’d recently heard two people note that, “You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”

Still, remote work experts like Michael Solomon and Rishon Blumberg, co-founders and managing partners of 10x Management, say the “future of work has arrived.” Patricia Strach, interim executive director at the Rockefeller Institute recently said that “this forced work-from-home experience is showing us that work-from-home arrangements are a viable strategy for many businesses and that this is likely to be true even after the crisis is over.”

Skepticism About A Post-Pandemic Work-From-Home World

I’m not so sure about that, though I do think the future of work has changed.

My skepticism comes from the fact that before the pandemic, many employers refused to let staffers work from home full-time or part-time or didn’t allow it and I suspect after it, many will return to their old ways.

Some were dubious about whether jobs would get done if employees weren’t in sight, onsite. That’s a concern many still apparently have.

In a March survey of HR execs by the Gartner IT research firm, 76% said the top employee complaint during the pandemic has been “concerns from managers about the productivity or engagement of their teams when remote.”

Schulte calls these concerns part of “the facetime culture” of the workplace (as opposed to a FaceTime culture), where you need to show your face in person and where unplanned “hallway moments” can lead to work assignments.

Researchers have also demonstrated that face-to-face work teams perform better than virtual ones in creative assignments. During the Future of Work webinar, co-host Henry Grabar of Slate attributed this to what’s known as “psychological safety.” It’s about feeling comfortable expressing ideas with your co-workers.

“When you work online, it can be harder to read people,” Grabar said. “So, you see a kind of self-censorship.” Added Schulte: “It takes skill to communicate in a remote setting.”

And, before the pandemic, some employers just didn’t have the tech chops to allow remote work. For instance, According to writers Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, only 19% of local governments had any telework arrangements for their employees in 2019; fewer than half the states did.

What Employers Might Do Once COVID-19 Fades

But now that work-from-home has been shown to be possible for millions of workers, odds are that when the COVID-19 crisis is over, more employers will let some employees do it some of the time.

“Once businesses and individuals invest in the fixed costs of remote work,” the MIT researchers wrote in their recent report, “they may decide to stay with the new methods.”

Partly, that will be because staffers demand it after having worked remotely successfully. Partly, it’ll be to reduce the cost of the employer’s real estate.

But employers also know that not every worker will want to work from home, either due to tech issues or the lack of sociability. In’s 2019 State of Remote Report, 19% of remote workers called loneliness their biggest struggle with working from home and 17% cited collaborating and/or communication.

And employers also know that managing remote workers takes work.

So, rather than having either an everybody works in the office policy or an everybody works from home one, look for a hybrid of the two.

A New York Times NYT article on “tomorrow’s workplace” just quoted RXR Realty Chief Executive and Chairman Scott Rechler as saying: “There could be A teams and B teams working [remotely] different days.”

And in the post-pandemic offices, look for employees to be sitting further away from each other than in 2019 — with bottles of Purell on every floor.

Originally posted at Forbes by Richard Eisenberg, follow him on Twitter. Check out his website
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WFH 101: Stay Productive Wherever You Work

As working from home becomes a reality for more people around the world, productivity can be a challenge if you’re not used to working remotely. For this edition of 52 Weeks of Productivity, we created a simple set of tips that will help point you down the right path if you’re working from home, now or in the future.

Define your space

Choose a counter, corner or room and make it your work bubble. When you walk in, or sit down, you need to know that you’re at work and not at home. Setting defined boundaries is the key to feeling purposeful and productive while working from home.

Organize your office

Remember, your office is wherever and whatever you choose to make it. So, make it great. Start by streamlining your workspace and try to avoid accumulating stacks of paper. Try popular productivity methods like bullet journaling, Pomodoro or GTD to organize your thoughts and tasks. In addition, use free paper to digital app, like Adobe Scan or Acrobat Reader, to turn piles of paperwork into discrete digital documents. Less (clutter) is more (productivity).

Stick to a schedule

Solid schedules promote productivity. You don’t need to physically clock in and out of your home, but you should determine your working hours and communicate those times to your co-workers. When you stick to a set schedule, you’ll know when you’re supposed to be on the clock and when you’re off. If you create a defined line between work and home, both will benefit, and you won’t end up constantly wondering what you should be doing when.

Use collaboration tools

No matter where you work, everyone feels more connected when they collaborate. You can access cloud-based business tools, like Adobe AcrobatAdobe SignGoogle Suite or Microsoft Office 365, inside or outside of the office, to keep business moving from anywhere. Slack, Teams, Adobe Connect and countless other chat and video apps are also helpful for keeping in touch with colleagues or clients.

Take breaks

Take frequent 5 to 10-minute breaks. Working from home shouldn’t turn you into a couch potato. Get up, walk around, fill your water bottle and go outside. Routine breaks, with a bit of light cardio and hydration, help clear the mind and reset your focus.

All in all, working from home doesn’t have to be as disruptive as it may feel at first. If you define your space, organize it, stick to a schedule, collaborate with colleagues, and take time for yourself, you’ll realize that you can still be productive in a new work situation.

Originally posted at Adobe Blog by Document Cloud Team