Working From Home For Dummies book cover

Working From Home For Dummies

By: Tara Powers Published: 08-25-2020

Your essential guide to working from home and staying connected

In today's networked global economy, working from home is no longer a novelty. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and organizations everywhere are embracing the game-changing benefits of allowing employees to work outside the office, and the results are profound: managers benefit by saving money and resources and by having access to talent outside their zip codes, while employees enjoy greater job opportunities, productivity, independence, and satisfaction—in part from the time saved not commuting. According to one source, 85% of businesses say that productivity increased along with greater flexibility—and 90% of employees say that flexibility boosted their morale.

Working From Home For Dummies, gathers the expertise of multiple industry experts, featuring best of the best content from  Virtual Teams For Dummies, Managing For Dummies, 3E, Company Culture For Dummies, Zoom For Dummies, Microsoft Teams For Dummies, Slack For Dummies, Mindfulness For Dummies, 3E, and Stretching For Dummies, as well as new material from award-winning author Tara Powers on setting expectations and boundaries, and more.

  • Set up your workspace
  • Stay connected to your team
  • Run productive online meetings
  • Get in the right headspace

This book is the full guide on how to successfully work with virtual teams, whether you are a team member or a manager.

Articles From Working From Home For Dummies

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9 results
Working From Home For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 04-08-2022

The secret is out: Working from home can be a sustainable, successful option for professionals in today’s global economy. As you jump into working from home, be sure to follow a few pieces of important advice, as well as some virtual meeting etiquette.

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How to Create a New Zoom Account

Article / Updated 02-19-2021

Like many apps and web-based services today, Zoom requires users to establish accounts online if they want to host meetings. If you're working from home as an independent contractor or freelancer, you need to create your online account. Someone in your organization may have already created a Zoom account for you. That is, management may have already subscribed to one of Zoom’s premium plans and registered you. In this case, you don’t need to create a new account; you’ll just log in with your existing email address and password. If you’re not sure, just check with your employer’s IT department. To create a new Zoom account, follow these steps: 1. Go to the Zoom web portal. 2. In the upper-right corner of the website, click the orange Sign Up, It’s Free button. From here, Zoom provides you with three signup options via An email address Google Facebook If you select the second or third option, Zoom makes you authenticate your new account through that service. At a high level, you’re granting Zoom permission to access some of the data that you’ve provided to Facebook or Google. Admittedly, this practice is quite common. For example, for years Spotify has allowed people to sign up for new accounts with Facebook. When they do, new users don’t need to provide Spotify with their names, dates of birth, email addresses, and the like. Facebook already stores this information about its users — and plenty more, depending on how much they share on the social network. If that thought terrifies you or you don’t use those popular services, simply select the first option and continue. The following instructions assume that you’re signing up for Zoom with your email address, and not via Facebook or Google. 3. Enter your email address and click the Sign-Up button. Zoom informs you that an email confirmation is on its way. To minimize spam and the impact of bad actors, Zoom blocks certain domains from registering new accounts. For example, Zoom rejected [email protected] because people often use that domain to create disposable email addresses. 4. Check your inbox and open the Zoom authentication email. The message resembles the following figure. A Zoom email requesting account authentication. 5. Open the email and click the blue Activate Account button. Zoom takes you to a new window or tab in your default web browser. 6. Complete your Zoom account by entering the required information. Zoom requires you to enter your first and last name. You’ll also need to create and confirm your password. When you click the password field, Zoom prompts you with guidelines about what your password can and cannot contain. For example, setting your password as starwars won’t fly. Try again, young Skywalker. 7. Click the orange Continue button. The Don’t Zoom Alone screen appears. 8. (Optional) Invite your friends, family, and/or colleagues by entering their email addresses. You can skip this step by clicking the button in the lower-left corner of the page. Zoom ultimately directs you to a page that lists your personal Zoom web page or URL, such as the one shown. 9. Check your inbox again. Zoom sends you an email confirming your account and listing the features of your current plan. Congratulations! Your Zoom account is now active. You’re halfway home. To take advantage of the powerful features in Meetings & Chat, you’ll want to install the Zoom desktop client. Just as with many services today, you can create Zoom different accounts with different email addresses. In fact, you may want to create a personal Zoom account independent of your work account to separate church and state. Download and install the Zoom desktop client To be sure, Zoom users and customers can participate in meetings no matter where they are as long as they can connect to the Internet. Again, Meetings & Chat runs on anything: smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop. Still, to take advantage of all of Zoom’s robust functionality, you’ll want to install the Zoom desktop client. Fortunately, if your computer runs macOS, Windows, or even Ubuntu/Linux, Zoom has you covered. A desktop client is an application running on a desktop computer. Although purists will probably furrow their brows, the terms desktop client and computer app are used interchangeably. By the way, you can run that desktop client on your laptop. To install the Zoom desktop client on your computer, follow these steps: 1. In the Zoom web portal, hover over the word Resources in the upper-right corner. A drop-down list appears. 2. Select Download Zoom Client from the drop-down list. Zoom takes you to its Download Center. 3. Click the Download button. Depending on your browser and how you’ve configured its settings, you may receive a warning that you’re about to download a file. If you do, proceed. 4. Save this file to your computer. The specific location is generally a matter of personal preference, but it’s wise to follow these common conventions: For PC/Windows users: C:\Program Files For Mac users: Hard-drive name\Applications Remember where you save this file. 5. When the download completes, locate the file. The specific type of file hinges upon your computer’s operating system. As of this writing, here are the filenames and extensions: For PC/Windows users: An executable file with an .exe extension, named exe For Mac users: An installer package archive file with a .pkg extension, named pkg. Remember where you saved this file. You’re going to need it for the next step. 6. Double-click the file to launch Zoom’s installation wizard. The exact steps that you follow depend upon your computer’s operating system. If you’ve ever installed a new program on your computer before, you’ll recognize the steps required. 7. Complete the steps in the wizard. When you do, the Zoom desktop client is installed. You can easily host audioconferencing and videoconferencing calls with people on any device across the globe. If you want to access Zoom directly via your web browser of choice, you’re in luck. Download and installthe extension for Chrome, Firefox, or another browser. Note, however, that using Zoom via a web browser means that you won’t be able to do everything that you can on the desktop client.

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How to Manage Virtual Teams

Article / Updated 10-02-2020

With the changing nature of work today, managers have to adapt to new circumstances for managing employees. How can managers keep up with an employee’s performance when that employee may not even have physical contact with the manager for weeks or months at a time? The following discussion can help. Increase your interaction Today’s managers have to work harder to manage distant employees. If you value strong working relationships and clear communication (and you should), you need to reach out to your virtual employees to be sure adequate communication is taking place. Some of the answers to managing virtual employees effectively lie in a return to the following basics of human interaction: Make time for people. Nothing beats face time when it comes to building trusting relationships. Managing is a people job — if you’re a manager, you need to take time for people. It’s part of the job. And you need to do so not only when taking time is convenient, but also whenever employees are available and need to meet. Increase communication as you increase distance. The greater the distance from one’s manager, the greater the effort both parties have to make to keep in touch. And although some employees want to be as autonomous as possible and want to minimize their day-to-day contact with you, other employees quickly feel neglected or ignored if you don’t make a routine effort to communicate with them. Increase communication by sending regular updates and scheduling meetings and visits more frequently. Also, encourage your employees to contact you (communication is a two-way street, after all), and go out of your way to provide the same types of communication meetings with each work shift or to arrange meetings that overlap work shifts or duplicate awards for each facility. Use technology. Don’t let technology use you. Use technology as a more effective way to communicate with your employees, not just to distribute data. Promote the exchange of information and encourage questions. You can set up communication channels on your company intranet or within a password-protected area of your company’s website. Other platforms you can use include: Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Provide long-distance recognition Every employee needs to be recognized by a manager for a job well done. Just because an employee is out of sight doesn’t mean that person should be out of mind. Consider some steps you can take to make sure your virtual employees feel just as appreciated as your regular employees: Ask virtual team members to keep the leader and other team members apprised of their accomplishments, because they can’t be as readily seen. Keep a recognition log of remote team members so that they don’t fall into the cracks — a particularly important consideration for mixed teams (with both traditional and virtual team members). Make sure that virtual team members are appropriately included in recognition programs by ensuring that remote employees are kept fully in the loop. Provide some “treat” for virtual team members who can’t join in face-to-face socials and celebrations. Utilize recognition activities and items that are appropriate for a mobile workforce, such as thank-you cards and gift certificates. Tap into the recognition capabilities of email, such as virtual flowers or greeting cards. Involve executives in recognition activities by way of conference calls, videoconferencing, or periodic in-person awards programs. Make a point of employing a variety of team recognition items (such as coffee mugs, T-shirts, jackets, and so forth) when rewarding members of virtual teams. Such items help remind them of their team membership. Use the Internet Managing employees is a challenge when you’ve got them right there in front of you. However, when your employees are across town — or on the other side of the globe, nine time zones away — this challenge is multiplied many times. The good news is that, just as the Internet has brought the world closer together in many different ways, the Internet can help bring your far-flung employee team closer together while making your job of managing easier. These tools can do just that: Teleconferencing and videoconferencing: You can find a number of Internet-enabled teleconferencing websites, including Zoom and com. Some of these sites provide service for free, but others require you to pay. All offer a variety of different features, including instant conference calls, scheduled calls, recording, conversation transcription, and more. If you want to conduct videoconferences, many of the teleconferencing companies’ sites can also do that. Skype allows you to set up videoconferences for free. Virtual meetings: If you’ve got a group larger than just a few people and you want to integrate your computer into the proceedings (to display documents, spreadsheets, graphics, and so forth), consider checking out some of the providers of virtual meeting services. Some of the most popular are Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting. Prices for these services vary, but most offer a free trial period, so be sure to try before you buy. Project collaboration sites: One of the most difficult challenges in managing virtual employees arises when you’re working together on a project. Usually team members need to swap a lot of documents and files; plus, occasional get-togethers are necessary to ensure that everyone is working from the same page. Project collaboration sites such as Slack, Basecamp, and Easy Projects make the job much easier and more effective. Most offer a variety of online project-collaboration tools such as project milestone charts, project updates and check-ins, shared task lists, virtual brainstorm sessions, and much more. Again, prices and exact services vary, so be sure the system meets your needs before you make a long-term commitment. Of course, you can still use your telephone, as well as email or text messages, to conduct the majority of your interactions with your virtual employees. And don’t forget to schedule an occasional in-person team meeting where everyone has an opportunity to spend some time together and put faces behind the voices. However, when you need to manage a project or pull together a meeting with more than an employee or two, these Internet-based tools give you a distinct advantage.

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Text-Only Communication in the Virtual Workplace

Article / Updated 10-02-2020

Studies show that texting has replaced voice calls and even emails as the primary form of communication. In fact, in a recent poll by Time, 32 percent of respondents said they’d rather communicate by text than phone, even with people they know very well. This shift to text isn’t just for personal communication. It’s even truer in the business world, where people prefer to email or text with colleagues. Even though more and more people are using text-only communication (instant message [IM], phone text, and chat functions) in the workplace, it does have its pros and cons. Learn how you can effectively use text-only discussions in your virtual teams. The pros and cons of text-only communication The following are the pros to using text-only workplace communication, which includes texts, IMs, and chats: When you text, you can expect an immediate answer. Of the 6 billion daily text messages in the United States, the average response time is three minutes. Email response times are getting slower in the wonderful world of spam, and voice calls often aren’t answered due to inconvenience or intentional avoidance. Sending and receiving texts is a breeze. You don’t even need to open an app. You don’t need to worry about time zones. Similar to email, you can send, read, and respond to texts at your convenience — not someone else’s. The text message says exactly what you want it to say and it’s sent to specific, targeted audiences. When you send a text message and receive a response, there is an accurate, written, and printable proof of what was sent, when it was sent, and to whom it was sent. And here are the cons of using text-only communication: They’re an interruption. Although texts are immediate, people can become overwhelmed when they pop up and interrupt their work, so they may not respond right away or even ignore the communication all together. They can hinder interpersonal skills. Developmental psychologists have been studying the impact of texting, and they’re especially concerned about younger adults because their interpersonal skills haven’t yet fully formed. Most older adults already had fixed social skills before the era of smartphones, although these skills have eroded recently with high text usage. Without body language, facial expressions, or vocal tone, text messages can be misinterpreted or misunderstood. It’s far too easy for a sarcastic comment to be misconstrued as genuinely hurtful. The real meaning of your message gets lost through the medium. Your message can be miscommunicated in the following ways: Unspoken feelings: With text-only communication, you can miss out on the opportunity to discover feelings behind a message or a person’s general attitude and understanding about the message that you’re conveying. Your intent can easily get lost in translation when you only use words to communicate. Tone of voice: Tone of voice is an important aspect of communication when working virtually. By using text-only communication, you lose the opportunity to build your personal brand, trust, and influence with team members. Using your voice, you can come across technical, verbose, factual, direct, enthusiastic, friendly, funny, or informal. If you’re concerned with building team culture, consider choosing another communication method other than text-only communication. Diminished language: Texting creates poor grammar habits. An entire vocabulary of shortened (misspelled) words, acronyms, and emoji not only can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, but it also makes communication much less formal and even can make genuine statements seem insincere. Most important, using poor grammar is highly unprofessional. Impersonal communication: When people communicate primarily via text, they’re much less likely to have meaningful conversations. For highly sensitive or emotional conversations, such as an apology or a contentious issue, people are avoiding having real conversations and instead taking the easy way out and using text. How to use text-only communication effectively The big question is how to use texts, chats, and IMs effectively while still encouraging meaningful communication on your virtual team. It boils down to choosing the right medium for the right message. Ponder two important questions when considering your communication purpose and intent: What’s the chance that the message could be misunderstood? Consider whether the message is highly technical or contains a lot of details. Ask yourself if the receiver of the message has the knowledge and skills to understand or comprehend it. What is the risk to the relationship? Think about your current relationship with this person or group. Have you had a recent conflict or issue that may have damaged trust? If so, then you need to consider the risk to the relationship if the receiver misreads your message and makes any assumptions about its intent. Do you know the receiver well? Does he trust you and believe that you have his best interest in mind? Depending on your answer to these questions, you can choose the right method of communication. The figure shows a virtual team communication method matrix that can help you determine what method of communication is best to use, ranging from impersonal to more personal methods of communication. If you want your team to become better communicators, build communication agreements that incorporate different methods of communicating for different situations and reasons. A communication agreement basically defines how your team will communicate, by what method, and for what purpose. Be sure to discuss the communication method matrix and agree on when texting is and is not appropriate.

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Working from Home: Setting Healthy Boundaries

Article / Updated 10-02-2020

When you work from home, it’s your responsibility to set up your space, your schedule, and your boundaries to create a healthy work–life balance. For many people, the idea of working from home sounds heavenly. No commute, no cubicle, no annoying coworkers, no more expensive dry cleaning, no more office politics — the list goes on. To others, banishment from the office doesn’t sound ideal. They may be concerned about social isolation, boredom, and career limitations, as well as fear that they won’t be productive working on their own. Here’s a great list of best practices to help you and your team have healthy boundaries: Set up a dedicated workspace. Create your space and make it work for you. Don’t try to reproduce a corporate office. Make it your own by filling it with things that make you happy (family pictures, diplomas, awards), safe (ergonomic desk and chair), and productive (good lighting, efficient filing system, stable Internet connection). Don’t bring your work into the rest of the house, and try to never bring it into the bedroom. Set working hours. Working on a virtual team is all about flexibility, but to maintain boundaries and to be transparent with your colleagues, you must establish working hours. You can (and should) still block time for picking up kids from school or taking your favorite spin class at the gym, but the consistency of working hours can ground you. Schedule lunch and breaks. Just as you do in an office, you need to eat and take breaks. Make sure you book them throughout your day. Get dressed. Yes, working in your PJs and sweats is tempting, but you need to maintain some professionalism. That doesn’t mean you have to put on a power suit and a full face of makeup, but no one needs to see your bedhead on video calls, so take a shower and make yourself presentable. More than likely, you’ll also feel productive. Go walking, preferably outside. Get some real-world time every day, even if it’s just to stand out on your porch for 15 minutes. Walk, get some sun, smell the fresh air. There’s no better way to quickly get some perspective and clear your head. Set clear boundaries with nonwork friends. Just because you don’t work in an office doesn’t mean you’re available for unannounced visits from friends. A quick reminder usually does the trick. Don’t do chores. Setting parameters is key. If you’ve scheduled an hour in your day to run personal errands, that’s fine. Just don’t get in the habit of haphazardly jumping back and forth between work projects and home projects. You won’t do either one well. Drink plenty of water. In the absence of an office watering hole, keep a large water bottle on your desk and sip it throughout the day. Stop working when the workday is done. Although being connected to your virtual team is important, it’s equally important to shut off when the workday ends. If you’re available all hours of the day, people will expect you at all hours and your work–life balance will be nonexistent. Create and stick to a schedule Effective time management is essential if you want to hit your deadlines when you’re working from home, so use your calendar as a success tool and use it wisely. So, how do you create a schedule? Instead of leaving your calendar as a blank open slate for others to populate, block time to support a healthy body and mind and to do focused work when you’re most productive and alert. Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day so that your schedule is consistent. Allowing yourself two weekly schedules to choose from for different types of work (for example, project work versus networking/relationship building) can address boredom, sustain your attention, and reduce the chance of multitasking, which can eat up 80 percent of your productive time. Time chunking The best way to get things done when no one’s watching is to organize your time as efficiently as possible. People used to think that multitasking was an efficient way to accomplish many tasks as quickly as possible. That’s true for some simple tasks. But as soon as you attempt two simultaneous tasks that require critical thinking, they’ll both suffer. Multitasking fractures your attention and frequently ends in frustration. The alternative to multitasking is time chunking, which is the concept of breaking up your day into larger chunks of time for important work, instead of reacting to constant interruptions. It’s the answer to “working smarter, not harder.” The more chunks of time you can devote to specific tasks, the less start-up and restart time you’ll have and the more efficient you’ll be. And because you set aside a specific amount of time to accomplish a specific task, you’ll be more focused and do it better. Here are the simple rules of time chunking: Block your time by breaking your work hours into chunks of hours for specific purposes. For example, you may chunk time for project work, administrative work, follow-up calls, sales calls, team meetings, personal time, planning, downtime, and exercise. Block time for harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them. Maybe you’re best during the first few hours of the day, or maybe you’re most focused right after lunch. Use slower points of the day to knock out less demanding tasks on your plate (for example, answering email). Block time on your calendar to align with those energy windows. Discuss how to coordinate those energy windows with the energy windows of the others on your team. Do one task at a time and avoid interruptions of any kind during these times. Stick to your plan. When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on how much time you spend on each task by setting up an activity log. If you’re an independent contractor, this is helpful for billing purposes. If you’re an employee, it’s a good way to document for your team how you’re spending your time and where. Ultimately, seeing when you’re most productive during the day will allow you to carry out complex tasks during that time. A good time manager creates an at-home work schedule that pairs periods of sustained focus with periods of rest and exercise in a way that works with her natural energy and brain. Taking breaks Sitting at your desk all day, eating lunch in front your laptop, and staring at a computer screen for hours on end is a recipe for disaster. Without taking adequate breaks from work, your productivity, mental well-being, happiness, and overall performance will suffer. Remote workers already feel like they need to be available and online at all hours of the workday, so they’re at a higher risk of working long hours without breaks and sitting for long periods of time. Take advantage of one of the top perks of working from home, which is having a flexible schedule. Schedule breaks through out your day. Be sure to include short breaks every hour just to step away from your desk, stretch and breathe for five minutes, and grab a snack, as well as longer breaks in which you can exercise, walk your dog, work in your garden, or call a friend. Being outside is ideal, but anything you can do to recharge your batteries midday is valuable to your energy and focus and ultimately your work. The research is clear on the benefits of taking regular breaks. Here are a few examples: Increased productivity: Taking breaks may sound counterintuitive to boosting productivity, but the gains in focus and energy after stepping away from your desk are real. Taking an actual lunch break, where you step away from your workspace, can help prevent a midafternoon slump. Improved mental well-being: Everyone should set aside time throughout the day to recharge. Reducing stress and improving mental health can be as easy as taking a quick walk outside or cooking a healthy breakfast. A boost in creativity: Taking a break, clearing your head, and getting oxygen to your brain can give you a fresh perspective on a challenging project. More time for healthy habits: Regular breaks give you time to get fresh air, exercise, meditate, or engage in any other self-care activity. Building in quiet time Scheduling quiet time is often the only way to get things done when working from home. This is a time you decide to shut off phones, shut down email and instant messaging, not allow interruptions from housemates, and allow yourself to fully immerse for a certain amount of time in a project or just to think and ponder next steps. Nobody crushes every minute of the workday. Your motivation and energy naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. When you’re working from home, it’s even more important to understand your energy peaks and valleys and plan your schedule around it. Establishing a routine The benefits of following a routine are clear. Routines helps people cope with change, reduce stress, create healthy habits, and get things done efficiently. And when you work at home without colleagues to support you, a routine provides much-needed structure. A daily routine doesn’t have to be rigid. In fact, working from home gives you a chance to be more flexible with your work hours, a major upside for remote workers. A daily routine is simply there to help make sure you’re dedicating time to the things that matter most. Humans are creatures of habit and routines help us do the right thing even when we’re tempted to lie in bed watching movies all day. Establish a routine for working at home by following these suggestions: Go to sleep and set your alarm for the same time every day. Exercise, meditate, or do light stretching in the morning. These activities will put you in a positive mindset and warm up your body for the day. Refrain from checking the news, Slack, or social media when you first get up. This is almost never helpful for your mindset. Shower and get dressed for work. Everyone knows how tempting it is to wear pajamas all day. But resist the urge — it really blurs the lines between working and relaxing. Yes, you can dress comfortably, but getting dressed for work signals an important mental shift. Have a healthy breakfast and drink water. Prepare for your day by building your to-do list, setting goals, and planning connection time with team members or friends. Start work at the same time every day. Establish a daily routine for taking quick breaks, stretch breaks, lunch, exercise, and fresh air every day. At the end of every day, spend 15 minutes preparing for the next day and reviewing your appointments and high-priority items. This will help create a sense of clarity and calm for the mind so you can truly “shut off” from work at the end of the day. Quit work at about the same time every day. That means closing your laptop, silencing your phone, and walking away from your workspace. Creating this boundary is essential for your emotional well-being.

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How to Build a Connection Culture When Working from Home

Article / Updated 10-02-2020

Building meaningful relationships starts with you. When remote employees join your team, what you do in the first 48 hours to welcome them to the group sets the standard for how the rest of the team will connect. Valuing the unique skills, abilities, and backgrounds of all your team members helps them feel appreciated and cared for. Openly encouraging dialogue, debate, and feedback provides the opportunity for contribution. All these examples can help you to build a culture of connection and create a team of high-performing, happy remote workers. How to be a leader your virtual team wants to follow Chances are, you’ve had both good bosses and bad bosses, and you can probably easily explain the differences in approach, credibility, and style. Why not make the decision to be a leader that people choose to follow? Here are a few tips to help you: Don’t ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself. Don’t reinforce common hierarchy standards. If you want your team members to believe that you have their backs and aren’t above any type of work, prove it by stepping in when needed. Lead in alignment with a strong sense of purpose and values. Make sure your team knows what you stand for. Be vulnerable and courageous. It’s okay to acknowledge failure. Show your team that learning from mistakes is an opportunity to grow. Share information with your virtual team early and often. When you have new information, share it. Be as transparent as possible. Create space for innovative solutions to be considered. Be open to trying something that hasn’t been done before. Give people license to present new ways of doing things. Encourage creative thinking by using brainstorming in meetings. Be a skillful listener. Practice effective listening. Acknowledge what is being said by repeating back in your own words what you believe was the meaning behind the message. Practice self-care. Model healthy behaviors when working from home. Exercise, don’t text or email after 6 p.m., and check out when you take vacation. Get to know your virtual team members The challenge for the virtual leader is to transcend the boundaries of space and develop a supportive, collaborative connection with your team. Many of the best ways to establish a personal connection are also fun and sometimes even a little silly. Humor and laughter put people at ease and help you open up, so don’t brush aside these ideas immediately. Instead, figure out which ones you can try with your own team over the next few weeks: My Window: Ask team members to take a picture of what’s outside their window and upload it ahead of your virtual meeting. Team members share a story about what’s outside their window. Highs and Lows: Have each team member share a high and a low from the past week. TableTopics: Invest in a card deck of TableTopics (tabletopics.com) and ask questions that allow people to share their insights and opinions on different topics. Two Truths and a Lie: Use this activity to get people to share three things that the team wouldn’t know about them. Two of the facts are true and one is a lie. Your team members have to guess the lie. This activity always leads to some amazing discoveries about your team members. Our Global Team Map: Have a map of the world and a virtual pin in each location you have an employee. Ask your team members to share something unique about their country, city, or hometown. A Day in the Life: If your team is coming together for the first time, have your team members put together a collage about their lives that includes their families or friends, hobbies, pets, favorite movies, favorite books, and so on. Dine Together: This is another great idea to get to know more about someone’s heritage or ethnicity. Have each team member share a favorite family dinner recipe. Once a quarter, send a grocery list and gift card to each team member to buy the ingredients and cook the recipe. Have a virtual dinner together while your team member shares information and interesting facts about her family recipe. Reach out and build rapport with your virtual team A key reason to take the time to connect with your virtual team members is to build rapport. Building a sense of camaraderie on your virtual team or increasing accountability and engagement is impossible if you don’t have a plan for reaching out and staying connected. Effective virtual team leaders create time in their schedules for building relationships and rapport. They make a conscious effort every day to build more effective relationships. If you want to know how you’re doing, rate yourself on how well can you answer the following questions: How effectively are your team members meeting expected results and performance measures? What performance will be needed from them in three to six months given their role and where the business is headed? Are they prepared? What are their aspirations at work this year and in the future? What makes their work (and their objectives) meaningful and satisfying to them? Why are they here? What motivates them? What stresses them? How do they like to be recognized, acknowledged, and rewarded for a job well done? What limits them from delivering their best? What are their derailers? What support, tools, resources, skills, or empowerment do they need from you as their manager to be more effective? Adopt a reach-out strategy with your team to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with each team member and make sure they’re getting the support and feedback they need to achieve their very best. Don’t try to adhere to a rigid schedule; instead, reach out as needed in 10-, 20-, or 30-minute sessions. The following table shows reach-out recommendations. Reach-Out Recommendations Reach-Out Timing Purpose How Often Questions 30 minutes Talent development/career advancement discussion. This reach-out needs an analysis conversation with a future focus. Quarterly Where are you? Where would you like to be? What do you love to do? When are you in the zone? How does this fit with our strategy? What is needed in the department and from your role to move the needle forward? What’s needed now? What’s needed in the next 18 months? What skills or experiences would you like to develop to help you grow in this role or in the future? What’s your plan for development and how can I support you in getting there? Based on our conversation, what will you start/stop/continue doing as a result? 20 minutes Tactical conversation with a current focus used to assess and support what tasks and projects they’re involved in that are making progress toward their goals and development plans. Monthly What opportunities exist right now on this project or task to move the needle? What one or two things are you focusing on to grow? What opportunities are available to develop the skills we discussed? How can I best support you? Based on our conversation, what will you start/stop/continue as a result? 10 minutes or less Feedback conversation with a just-in-time focus used to provide immediate feedback, coaching, and support. Weekly Can I sit in on this call with you? How about we brainstorm your approach with this customer/vendor/team member? Would you like to role-play how you’ll handle this conversation? Tell me how it went? What was challenging? How did you handle it? What feedback do you need from me? Based on our conversation, what will you start/stop/continue as a result?

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Stretches You Can Do from a Desk

Step by Step / Updated 10-02-2020

This article gives you a few stretches to do when you can’t get away from your desk whether you're working from home or stuck in a cubicle. Doing these sitting stretches several times during the day can help energize you and keep those aches and pains away.

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Step Away from the Desk: Standing Stretches

Step by Step / Updated 10-02-2020

Whether you’re working from home or working in an office, there comes a time when you tend to sit for way too long. Sitting too long on a regular basis can, over time, shorten your hip flexors and the muscles in your hamstrings, chest, and back, resulting in uncomfortable muscle tension. Experts recommend getting up out of your chair a couple of times an hour or, more specifically, taking 3- to 5-minute breaks every 20 to 40 minutes. Whenever you get up from your desk in your home workspace, choose from the following selections of stretching exercises to help lengthen your muscles, reduce stress and tension, and get your blood pumping again — and, in turn, sitting still will feel a lot less like hard work.

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How to Choose a Home Workspace

Article / Updated 10-02-2020

The first order of business when working from home is setting up a workspace that’s as functional and comfortable as possible, even if you have limited space. If you work from home, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer, or a remote team member, you need to have a dedicated space to get work done. Home offices are as individual and varied as the people who work in them. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, degrees of privacy, and ability to control noise and interruptions. What works for some can be completely nonfunctional for others. If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated office space in your home, good for you! But if your home office is in your basement without natural light and with terrible Wi-Fi reception, you may need to rethink where to work each day. How to pick the best room When you’re finding a place for your home office, you’ll want to consider factors such as location, lighting, the amount of space, and the level of privacy. A separate room in your home is not required to get work done. So, as you read through the following sections, consider all your options to find the spot in your home that meets your needs, whether that’s a spare bedroom or a corner of your living room. When you’re choosing a place for your home office, consider the following factors: Location: Consider the type of work you do and the equipment you need. If you’re a graphic designer, you may require a design table, along with a desk for your computer. If you’re a consultant, you’ll most likely need space for filing cabinets, shelves for books, and possibly a seating area to meet with clients. Try to find a space in your home that provides some quiet and privacy (for example, when you’re having an important meeting). Ideally, your home office will have a door so you can block out distractions and noise, have phone and video calls, and effectively separate your workspace from your home space. If you don’t have a separate room to dedicate to your home office, try to find a place that’s removed enough from the main living space that you can get some quiet when you need it (maybe by asking your housemates to go in another room for short periods of time). Whether you have a door or not, choosing a dedicated location to get work done will set a boundary for housemates, letting them know that when you’re there, you’re working and you may not be available. Light: There are many reasons to consider lighting in the early stages of your workspace planning. Having enough light is necessary to reduce eye strain, headaches, drowsiness, fatigue, and depression. Whenever possible, try to get light from natural light sources (sunlight streaming through a window) as opposed to artificial ones (a lamp). The benefits of natural light include alertness and an overall sense of well-being. And where there’s natural light, there is likely to be a view of the outdoors. Turning away from your computer every few minutes and looking outside can create a moment of mindfulness and peace. This simple strategy can affect your overall productivity and motivation. It doesn’t take much natural light to fill a small space and elevate your mood. Even if your workspace gets plenty of natural light during the day, you’ll need to add a light source to have enough light for winter months and evenings. Be sure to keep supplemental lighting indirect and avoid working under the direct glare of overhead lights. Use lampshades to soften and diffuse the light. Floor lamps can provide a lot of light but also take up coveted space in small areas and can make it feel cramped. Consider hanging pendant lights to keep the light source off the ground and free up valuable space. Wi-Fi: Having access to a strong, reliable Internet connection is essential for home-based workers. Before you settle on your workspace, make sure you can get online and stay online consistently throughout your workday. Choosing a space that’s close to your router can help provide a stronger Wi-Fi connection. Electrical outlets: You need power outlets near your workspace to plug in a computer, printer, lighting, phone charger, and potentially a router or a wireless booster. Consider whether you’ll be doing a lot of video calls and test out a mock call in potential workspace areas of your house to see how it looks. A plain wall that isn’t too distracting is a good backdrop, and proper lighting will make the video quality better, too. Don’t worry if your workspace isn’t ideal. You don’t need a soundproof home office. Ask yourself the following questions before randomly choosing your workspace. You don’t want to set up shop in one area of the home only to have to move to another spot if it’s not working for you. What is the regular work that you’ll be doing and how much space do you need to spread out? Where is your router? If you can’t set up your workspace near your router, can you get a booster if your router isn’t close by? Will you need some type of room divider to separate your workspace from your personal space? Where is the natural light best in your home? Are there enough electrical outlets for all your gadgets and a surge protector? Is the workspace quiet or can it be if necessary? Is there enough room for necessary equipment like a computer, printer, storage, shelves, chair, desk, monitor, and/or paper shredder? Is the background acceptable for video calls and meetings with clients? Create an effective home office layout Your home office may need to fit into a small or unique space or even share space with another room in your house, like a living room, dining room, or bedroom. This can absolutely work for you! By getting creative with space, form, and function, you can create an optimal home office space that is effective and allows you to be productive during the workday. Using the space you have When space is limited, you’ll have to get creative when figuring out where your designated workspace will be. If you’re using your living room or bedroom for this dual purpose, consider putting your desk behind your couch and adding a throw rug under the desk to create an area that’s at least visually separate from the rest of the room. If you’re using your bedroom, a room divider can help to keep your personal space, well, personal. Try using an entire wall in a room for your workspace. That strategy can create a clear, organized area for work without distracting from the rest of the room. Consider adding shelving on both sides of the wall for your office equipment and storage. Don’t overlook those nooks and odd corners in your house that are currently being used as decorative space. If you follow the flow of the room, you can keep it pleasing to the eye and easily fit your workspace there. If you like to visualize how you can move around your furniture to make a space in your home for an office, several online design tools can help you get creative and determine what will work best: Planner5D RoomSketcher Roomstyler 3D Home Planner Applying the principles of feng shui The Chinese philosophy of feng shui is a practice of arranging your living space and working environment to achieve harmony and balance with the natural world. The Chinese words feng and shui translate to mean “wind” and “water,” respectively. Feng shui offers smart guidelines to consider when setting up your workspace at home: Try to create as much division as possible between your workspace and your bedroom. Eliminate all unnecessary clutter. Incorporate natural elements like wood and plants, or even a small desktop water fountain if you have the space. Position your desk in a strong position (not up against a wall, preferably looking out a window or door). Focus on function. Do you need space for taking notes, spreading out, and to see monitors clearly? Make sure you have fresh air circulating. Position your desk near a window so that you have natural light. Decorate in ways that motivate you and remind you of your goals.

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