Tag Archive | "productivity"

How to Stay Productive Working from Home

Working from home can be convenient to employees and help companies save money, but it’s not the right fit for every worker. Distractions are plentiful when you are home, and often it’s only the most disciplined who can remain productive and efficient, reported Fox Business.

“Working from home should be considered dangerous and could be a disaster when you consider the potential impact on your quality of life,” warns Grant Cardone, author of If You’re Not First, You’re Last. “The level of discipline it takes to work from home and generate solid results is intense and most people fail at home because of this one fact.”

If your idea of working from home involves wearing pajamas and juggling personal and work responsibilities at the same time, it’s time to reshape your priorities. Follow these five tips to effectively manage work and life as a remote worker.

1. Have a Separate Office Space

Just because you don’t have to go into an office and sit behind a desk everyday doesn’t mean you can stay in bed or in front of the TV with your laptop trying to complete your work.

Career experts recommend setting up a specific office area in the home so you can “go to work” and not be distracted by dirty dishes, a crying child or a favorite TV show.

“Where your workspace is makes a big difference,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs and a at-home worker for nearly 10 years. “When my second son was born, I realized it was really important for me to get more separation, so I moved my office to a space above our detached garage rather than in the house.”

2. Set Clear Boundaries

Having a dedicated work space is half the battle, but you also need to set rules about who and what can enter your office.

“Create very strict boundaries where there are no dogs, kids or spouses allowed,” says Cardone. “The door needs to remain shut with only those that have top clearance allowed access.”

The work space should also be void of distractions. For instance, forgo putting a TV in your office or checking Facebook five times a day.

3. Keep Regular Work Hours and Prepare

Maintaining normal office hours can help maintain productivity.

According to Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level, not only should you strictly abide by your work hours, you should make sure your family and friends also respect the rules.

“Your family and friends need to pretend you simply aren’t there, unless it’s a dire emergency,” says Garfinkle. “Remind your family of these hours and let them know you expect them to respect your work time so that you won’t have to work when you should be spending with them.”

In addition to setting the hours, career experts say it’s a good idea not to work all day in your pajamas. Keep your normal preparation routine, take a shower and get dressed, even if your commute is just down the hall.

“People brag about working from home in their underwear, but that is no way to grow a successful business,” says Cardone. “Have a set time, wake up, shower, and get dressed just as you would if you were commuting to a professional office space and you will be more productive.”

4. Change Your Mindset

Avoiding a long commute and having more flexibility over your schedule are enticing results of working from home, but there’s more to it than these perks.

“The main motivation of convenience or comfort, which most people who work from home have, is flawed,” says Cardone. Yes, it’s more convenient to not have to go to an office every day, but remote workers can’t view it as an excuse to slack off.

While self-starters are better suited for working at home, according to Sutton Fell, she says being a proactive communicator is the “secret weapon” to being successful.

“By taking initiative to communicate, you have a motivated and leading role in the connection with your colleagues’ activities and keeping them abreast of what you’re achieving and keeping on the pulse on everyone’s expectations.”

5. Know When to Throw in the Towel

If your productivity is declining or it’s difficult to balance work and life, then it may be time to re-evaluate your work situation.

Perhaps you need more interaction with co-workers or bosses or maybe being at home is too distracting, but it’s important to be honest, says Garfinkle.

“It’s OK that you’re not well-suited for working from home,” says Garfinkle. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

4 Things Employees Need to Boost Productivity

Every company wants to find the secret sauce, the magic bean, or just a competitive edge that could increase engagement, productivity, employee retention, and profitability, reported Inc.

Well, Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of consulting firm The Energy Project, and Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, conducted a 19,000-person survey and found out what employees need to be more satisfied and productive.

The survey, which was conducted through Harvard Business Review’s website, reached employees from all levels and positions from many different companies in a broad range of industries to answer a series of questions aimed at uncovering “what stands in the way of you being more satisfied and productive at work?”

The duo, who wrote about their results in Harvard Business Review, found that employees “feel better and perform better and more sustainably when four basic needs are met,” Schwartz and Porath write. See the four core needs explained below.

Renewal (physical).
Everyone needs rest. Working your employees seven days a week, emailing them late at night expecting a response, and telling them to put off vacation until the winter will only make them burn out, unravel mentally, and deteriorate physically. Give them a break, it’ll make them be more productive when they come back. It’s obvious, but does your policies reflect this common sense? “Is there any doubt that when we feel more energized, appreciated, focused and purposeful, we perform better? Think about it: The opportunity and encouragement to intermittently rest and renew our energy during the work day serves as an antidote to the increasing overload so many of us feel in a world of relentlessly rising demand,” Schwartz and Porath write.

Value (emotional).
Do you let your employees know how much you value their dedication, hard work, long hours, and great ideas? You may value them, but you need to show it. “Feeling valued creates a deeper level of trust and security at work, which frees us to spend less energy seeking and defending our value, and more energy creating it,” Schwartz and Porath write.

Focus (mental).
Are your employees able to sit down and focus? If your office environment is distracting, doesn’t have private space to concentrate, or you are sending entirely too many emails, you should think about making some chnages. “In a world in which our attention is increasingly under siege, better focus makes it possible get more work done, in less time, at a higher level of quality,” the two write.

Purpose (spiritual).
If your company doesn’t have a deeper mission than work hard and go home, your employees will feel as though you’re sucking out their soul. Give them purpose. “And finally, a higher purpose–the sense that what we do matters and serves something larger than our immediate self-interest–is a uniquely powerful source of motivation,” Schwartz and Porath write.

The effects of meeting core needs.
Although the core needs are a bit obvious, many companies do not meet any of them. But if you meet just one of these needs, employee productivity will increase, Schwartz and Porath discovered. “We found that meeting even one of the four core needs had a dramatic impact on every performance variable we studied,” they write.

Measuring for engagement, likelihood of retention, stress reduction, focus, life satisfaction, and positive energy at work, Schwartz and Porath found that when employees at a company feel any one of their four needs has been met, they report a 30 percent higher capacity to focus, almost 50 percent higher level of engagement, and a 63 percent greater likelihood to stay with the company.

Schwartz and Porath say there is a “straight dose effect” when an employee’s core needs are met, meaning “the cumulative positive impact rises with each additional need that gets satisfied.” In other words, when all four needs are met, engagement rises from 50 percent for one need to 125 percent. The duo also found engagement positively correlates with profitability. “In a meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies, employers with the most engaged employees were 22 percent more profitable than those with the least engaged employees,” Schwartz and Porath write.

One important thing to note is how stress levels change less drastically. When a single need is met, stress levels only dip six percent. If a company meets three needs, employee stress levels reduce by 33 percent, and meeting four needs produce a 72 percent drop.

“The message to employers is blindingly obvious. None of us can live by bread alone. We perform better when the full range of our needs are taken into account,” Schwartz and Porath write. “Rather than trying to forever get more out of their people, companies are far better served by systematically investing in meeting as many of their employees’ core needs as possible, so they’re freed and fueled to bring the best of themselves to work.”

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

5 Beliefs that Hinder Productivity in Small Businesses

Via Business 2 Community:

Running a successful small business doesn’t just require the right resources. It’s also about adopting the right mindset. These are well-intentioned but outdated beliefs that small business leaders should get rid of.

That’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it Syndrome
The DIY approach is a time-honored tradition among small businesses. It’s an endearing trait that makes them more personable than towering corporations. But the reality is, you’re not a genius and you don’t have a set of clones to do your bidding. There are options to help you get a leaner team and a streamlined business such as back office outsourcing.

The glass is always half-full
Pep talks have their value. It’s depressing to get up on a Monday morning to work in a dreary workplace. In an attempt to motivate employees, some would sugar-coat a “problem” and call it as an “opportunity”. But this implies that the problem can be ignored and delayed, which turns it into a minor blip waiting to be a catastrophe. Problems should be treated as it is. Find a balance between pragmatism and idealism.

Everybody needs to get on-board
The top-down command approach is archaic. Today, it’s all about collaboration and an open workspace. But if you wait for everyone to get on-board, it will take ages to get anything done. Worse, either you or the expensive manager you hired turns into a mediator. The leader must be able to make a sound decision for the growth of the company.

The silent approval
The boss has the final say. But what happens if none of the employees speak up and the plan doesn’t work? Possibly six months down the drain for a product that didn’t fit the market. Employees should be given the right to challenge or counter their leader’s ideas without feeling like they’ve just put their neck on a noose.

Everything should be perfect
Now that you have your own business, you’ll want everything to be perfect. But nitpicking will waste your time into things that aren’t important – like that 10th PowerPoint revision when the 2nd gave the important points needed, or three reports when one would suffice. Learn to prioritise and identify which areas need your attention the most.

Small businesses are always taught to be adaptable and flexible. But before that can happen, leaders should adopt the same approach.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

Seven Ways to Kill Your Meetings and Unleash Productivity

Have you been wondering how to get more work out of your staff? There’s one easy way: Stop having meetings. Unnecessary meetings cost the U.S. economy $37 billion a year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics once estimated.

As Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone recently commented, “When multiple times a month, I get an auto-reply saying ‘I’m in an all-day meeting,’ your company is broken.”

Nobody loves to go to meetings, except maybe deadwood employees who’re looking for a way to avoid their tasks. The basic fact is that while workers are in meetings, they are not accomplishing their work.

Still, we can’t kick the meeting habit. Despite all the statistics that show meetings are a colossal waste of time, they continue to be scheduled — some three billion of them annually, by some estimates. And yet sometimes we need teams of people to coordinate what they’re doing, or to plan something that needs to happen.

The good news is, there are ways to get this done while spending a lot less time in meetings. Here are seven suggestions:

1. Have a limited, focused agenda. Meetings that ramble on or try to tackle too much end up a confusing, unproductive, overlong mess. Don’t try to solve all your company’s problems at one meeting. Instead, keep it to one theme and leave other topics for another time.

2. Reconsider regularly scheduled meetings. Maybe that regular weekly staff meeting could be a biweekly or monthly meeting, if there aren’t so many pressing issues to discuss.

3. Cut the attendee list. Consider carefully who really needs to be at a meeting, and let everyone else skip it. Send them a memo afterwards if they need to be in the loop.

4. Shorten the timeframe. Think hard before scheduling a meeting to run over an hour. Most participants will be completely glazed at that point and won’t absorb much more.

5. Use the internet. Instead of assembling everyone at once, which is bound to be inconvenient for some participants, use a platform such as Campfire to collaborate and share views. Many training meetings can be abolished in favor of online-based trainings workers take when it fits their schedule.

6. Send a memo. If the meeting is simply to impart new policies or plans, make a video explaining it, write a post for the company blog or send a good old-fashioned memo.

7. Reinvent your meetings. If workers are snoozing at your meetings, you can learn to make your meetings engaging and useful. There’s even a new book, The Culture Game, on how to make meetings productive.

This article has been published in Entrepreneur magazine and written by Carol Tice.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

10 Must-Have Business Apps for 2011

No matter your weapon of choice from iPhone to iPad, BlackBerry, Android or Palm device, apps make every entrepreneur’s life that much easier. But with thousands available for download on dozens of mobile gadgets, it can be hard to tell which are really worth their weight in microchips. Following are 10 of the top business apps for entrepreneurs to help you get started. All of them put the power to boost productivity right in the palm of your hand.

1. Square (Free, www.squareup.com) – Process credit card payments from anywhere using your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with Square’s free card-reader accessory. An intuitive interface and single universal fee (2.75% on each transaction), with no monthly charges or contracts, makes it easy to use for both individual contractors, freelancers and small businesses. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are all accepted.

2. Evernote (Free, www.evernote.com) – Ever feel like the absent-minded professor? Stay on top of tasks with this service that lets you take virtual memos on-demand. Capable of storing text, photos and voice recordings, you can dictate, snap pictures and automatically synchronize updates across your computer, smartphone or electronic tablet. You can also tag notes by location.

3. Scanner Pro ($6.99, www.readdle.com) – Instantly transforms your iPhone into a portable, multi-page document scanner than can capture electronic copies of invoices, business cards and signed documents. From meeting notes to contracts, its high-quality image processing and automatic edge detection readily handle conversions. You can also produce and skim email-ready PDFs on-demand, set up custom page sizes and password-protect your files.

4. Flight Track Pro ($9.99, www.mobiata.com) – Staying on top of flight delays and gate changes is easy with this handy travel tracker. Import trip data from an airline confirmation email, and it will monitor your itinerary, alerting you to delays, cancellations and alternate boarding plans. The program also provides satellite and weather imagery and maps of airport terminals — in case you need to sprint for a connection.

5. MightyMeeting (Free, http://app.mightymeeting.com) – Upload presentations and product videos to the cloud, then access them nearly anytime, anywhere with this handy demonstration tool. Allowing you to quickly call up clips and slideshows on your smartphone or tablet PC, it makes it easy to showcase sales pitches or market overviews on-demand. Users can also connect mobile devices to a widescreen projector for added impact.

6. Gist (Free, www.gist.com) – Lets you organize and update contacts in a single location with minimal fuss. Capable of importing email, phone and address data from multiple sources (inbox, social network, smartphone, etc), the program makes it easy to keep up with ever-changing contact information. Also has an option to view colleagues’ real-time Facebook and Twitter feeds without exiting the program, which is nice.

7. LinkedIn (Free, www.linkedin.com) – Makes it possible to access the leading social network for professional users while on the go. Search for new workers, mentors or strategic partners; mingle with peers; and share business tips, news and insight with like-minded people.

8. Print n Share ($8.99, www.mobile.eurosmartz.com) – Dream of printing right from your smartphone or tablet PC? Wish granted. Wielding this nifty app, you can send documents straight to a WiFi printer, or one connected to a Mac or PC. Requests may also be issued remotely over 3G wireless networks, so you can pick up copies of contracts or insertion orders the next time you’re in the office.

9. Jump Desktop ($19.99, www.jumpdesktop.com) – Offers the option to control your desktop remotely, regardless of where business takes you. Armed with an Internet connection, you can manipulate files or folders via touchscreen, and actively browse on your home or work computer. Compatible with Mac or PC systems, it lets you be productive without having to lug your laptop.

10. OmniFocus ($19.99-$39.99, www.omnigroup.com) – More expensive than most apps, but cheaper than an executive assistant, this full suite of utilities for task management makes plotting a daily agenda much simpler. Capable of organizing tasks by groups, contexts, tools, locations and resources, it helps you keep tabs on ongoing engagements and prioritize to-do lists. Also supports synchronizing between multiple devices.

This article was written by Scott Steinberg and published in Entrepreneur magazine.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

One-Third of U.S. Workers Ready to Quit

Employers could soon see a major slowdown in productivity, new research suggests.

Thirty-two percent of U.S. workers say they are seriously considering leaving their employers, according to a survey released Monday by Mercer LLC, a global consulting company. Mostly young workers — 40 percent of employees ages 25 to 34 and 44 percent of those 24 and younger — have one foot out the door, reported The Wall Street Journal.

The survey was conducted at the end of 2010 on Mercer’s behalf by research firm Toluna, which polled more than 2,400 U.S. workers nationwide. While respondents hail from employers of various sizes – the smallest with between 100 and 199 workers and the largest with 5,000 or more — the findings could prove particularly troublesome for small-business owners. Their workforces are normally limited in size, and the weak economy has forced many in recent years to downsize to even lower levels.

The survey offers a few possible reasons to explain why so many workers are tempted to seek out new jobs, even though there the competition for employment these days is stiff. The Labor Department reported a national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent in May.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their base pay, down from 58 percent in 2005, the last time this survey was conducted. Sixty-eight percent rated rate their overall benefits program as good or very good, down from 76 percent in 2005, while 59 percent say they are satisfied with their health care benefits, down from 66 percent.

But the survey also showed some areas of improvement. For example, 41 percent of respondents said they believe that their employers are doing enough to help them prepare for retirement, up from 38 percent in 2005. Forty-two percent of employees today agree that promotions go to the most qualified employees in their organization, up from 29 percent in 2005, and 46 percent agree that their organization does an adequate job of matching pay to performance, up from 33 percent.

“Employees see a ‘disconnect’ between what employers are promising and what they are delivering,” said Mindy Fox, a senior partner at Mercer in a statement. “Organizations should re-examine their deals – both the traditional and non-traditional elements – then support them with effective administration and consistent, authentic communication that fosters a sense of belonging and helps employees make better rewards choices and career decisions.”

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)