WFH Halloween Event Boosts Team Engagement

halloween

A South Yorkshire-based printing company, adamant to keep traditions alive despite working from home, has adapted their annual workplace fancy dress contest to take place online.

Hosted by the largest UK-based online printing company, instantprint, The spooktacular fancy dress contest set out to help maintain both staff engagement levels and personal relationships amongst the team as one of the initiatives helping drive the printing firm’s people strategy.

Staff were encouraged to go all-out with a ghoulish get-up and could enter to win an individual prize or as a group, who would win the coveted title of ‘instantprint’s Halloween Champions 2020’. The contest was designed to encourage team members to talk to each other about things not related to work, help improve communication and also provided a safe corporate social activity.

Following the competition, managers noted an uptick in engagement, productivity and overall happiness, which was reinforced by the results of their monthly employee satisfaction surveys showing a boost of up to 20% in engagement and happiness-based rankings.

Speaking to Head of Team Experience at instantprint, Vicki Russel, she told us:

Like many businesses, we run a series of seasonal events so our team can bond outside of working hours.

While our full office teams are working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been keen to maintain this same level of commitment, especially since it can be more difficult to feel engaged and connected during lockdown.

Events like this present a multitude of benefits for employees and, ultimately, the business as a whole. As well as engagement, it keeps our strong team culture alive while we’re away from the office and offers a sense of togetherness, which has never been more important than it is right now.”

Vicki’s Tips for Banishing Disengagement Demons

There are a number of disengagement demons lurking in the shadows when it comes to remote working. These 6 tips can help you combat them this Halloween and beyond.

 

1. Don’t be terrified by the tech

One thing we had to learn quickly was to embrace technology – we still have a lot of face-to-face meetings, just over video call now. As well as offering all of our in-house training digitally, we also provided every member of the team with the equipment they need to complete their jobs to the best of their abilities, including laptops and extra screens.

 

2. Value your heroes

Every story, especially the scary ones, need a hero to save the day. One of the ways we banish disengagement demons is by encouraging the team to nominate each other as brand heroes, or value champions. Not only is singing each other’s praises engaging, but creates a positive work culture as the team is always on the lookout to show their appreciation for one another.

 

3. Dust away the cobwebs daily

Not saying we have any lazy Lucifers here at instantprint, but by introducing daily check-ins for our teams, we can help make sure everyone’s on track with their tasks. We have team meetings every morning to catch everyone up on where we are with our latest projects and troubleshoot any progress blockers and find solutions to these as a team.

 

4. Exorcise the demons

One policy that hasn’t changed during the pandemic is our dedication to providing monthly 1-2-1s to give employees a chance to give honest feedback on the month to their managers. Scheduling regular 1-2-1s is a great opportunity to refocus any negative mindsets and offers both parties the chance to give feedback to each other which is a fantastic way to keep staff engaged.

 

5. Apparition appreciation

A little staff recognition goes a long way! As well as sending out certificates for our brand heroes, we also celebrate milestone employees’ anniversaries with the business by giving them a special gift and handwritten card from a manager.

 

6. Channel your spirits

There’s no such thing as over-communication. Not only does effective communication between staff lead to better relationships, but it also means a smoother journey for the customer. No need to get out your crystal ball – just have a team leader in each department send out a team-wide email with any important updates once a week to keep everyone in the loop with business developments. 

Small Business Woes: How to Keep Everything Neat and Organized

organised

Starting a business is no small feat. Many have tried and failed, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be one of them. As you get your small business off the ground and going strong, it’s super important that you keep everything neat and organized, from security to the internet and from storage to printing. If you’re not sure how to keep your business neat and organized, read on below for a few tips to help you with your task. 

 

Keep Everything in One Place as Much as Possible

From files to printing paper and from records to receipts, there are tons of things out there, such as managed print services, to help keep everything all in one place. For example, a managed print services company keeps track of your printing, copier, scanner, and fax machine needs all in one place, so you don’t have to.

 

Manage Your Office Space and Storage

Before you do anything else, you need to make sure that your physical surroundings are organized, neat, and clean. This ensures that you and your staff are able to operate at an optimum level. Having a well-kept storage system for paperwork and other stuff is just the beginning. You might want to keep things that aren’t needed daily offsite, instead of having them clutter up your business and making it hard to focus and get tasks done. 

 

Plan Social Media Campaigns in Advance

The one thing you don’t want to do when running a small business is to have to rush to get things done. If you plan things like your social media campaigns in advance, you’ll be much more organized and much less stressed. For example, instead of posting marketing stuff on social media every few hours, take a couple of hours at the beginning of the month and schedule your stuff to post automatically. Then all you have to do is check those sites to reply to comments on the posts you’ve made. 

 

Go Paperless

Face it,  a bunch of papers always equals a whole lot of clutter. If you truly are serious about keeping your small business neat, clean, and organized, then you’re going to want to go paperless. This means that instead of keeping track of dozens of documents and files at a time, you just go digital with everything. Not only does going digital keep your business organized and neat, but it’s also better for the environment, which is something everyone should be looking towards to become more eco-friendly. 

 

Train Your Staff to be Organized and Clean

Just as it’s important for you to be organized in your small business, it’s just as important for your staff to be organized as well. Train them from the day they start on how things are done, and you’ll have a much more organized and easy to run business because of it. 

 

Hire a Cleaning Service 

While you can depend on yourself and your staff to organize things in your business and even to make sure that their own workspace is clean, you really need to hire a cleaning service to come in at least once a week to do the cleaning for you. With Covid on the prowl and lockdown possibly in the future once again, you need to ensure that your small business is clean, up to code, and healthy for you, your staff, and your customers to be in. 

These are just a few of the things that you need to do to keep your small business neat, clean, and organized. Remember, you and your staff need to be healthy and organized so that your business will succeed. 

Is Working From Home More Appealing?

female entrepreneur

COVID-19 is altering the lives of many individuals. Prior to the pandemic, most people worked away from home either in an office, factory or at a job site. Today, after several months at home, many people are taking a closer look at the possibility of working from home full time.

 

Saving Money Working from Home 

Initially, when you start out on your own, the salary may be much less than at your current job. Thankfully, there are ways to save money on your household expenses. Things like cable and cell service are two areas that you can reduce monthly costs. Switching to a bank that offers a free checking account, using coupons, and looking for discounts on the items you need are a few examples of additional ways to save money and reduce overhead.  

 

On Your Timeline

One of the advantages that comes with working from home, is the ability to work on your timeline. You decide when you want to work. If you have children, you no longer have to miss out on class trips, games, or other events. Additionally, book a vacation when it’s best for you and attend any family social gathering of your choosing. There’s no need to schedule a doctor’s appointment for early evening or weekends and running errands is whenever it is convenient. If you want to take additional classes to advance your career you can study by receiving tutoring lessons online.  

 

No Workplace Gossip or Favoritism

A typical office environment always has a few individuals who like to spread gossip. When you work from home you remove yourself from it completely. There are no more whispers by the water cooler and no favorite employee who can’t seem to do anything wrong. 

 

Cut Back Expenses

Leaving your home daily and entering into the workplace comes with many additional expenses. There’s the wardrobe, wear and tear on your vehicle, gas and tolls, lunches, and coffee. If you have kids, you may also have childcare expenses. When you work from home, all of these expenses end. 

 

Your Office is Anywhere You Want It

If you are near retirement and have a spouse who is retired, you can literally have the best of both worlds. You can spend several months in a warm climate to avoid the cold weather months and return in the spring. So long as there’s internet service available, you can work from anywhere. 

 

No Salary Cap

One of the hardest things to do as an employee is to ask your boss for a raise. Even though you deserve it, it’s an intimidating experience from the walk down the hall to the room where the door closes behind you. When you work from home for yourself, you put an end to the groveling for a raise. You can make as much as you desire. 

 

It’s Your Business

The nice thing about owning your own business is that it’s yours. You are the head honcho and, as such, make all the decisions. You decide what practices to utilize and how to best run your business. Unlike working for someone, where you have to suppress thoughts, you can openly decide what policies work best. You also make the decision on what days of the week and hours you want to work. You can create a schedule that truly works for you.  

 

The Drawbacks

Of course, there are some drawbacks to working on your own from home. First, the benefits package is pretty slim. While you can take all the time off you want, you won’t see any pay. You also won’t have paid sick days, retirement benefits, or health insurance. Another thing to keep in mind is that you will need savings to fall back on for months with a low income. 

Working from home may appeal to more people in the current environment. Just make sure to weigh the pros and cons carefully ahead of making your final decision. 

Tips for Maintaining Health and Safety at the Office

office health and safety

This is something positive that comes from the recent pandemic. With many office buildings starting to call back their staff, employers now have a focus on maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. Listed below are a few tips for business owners to create a healthier and safer environment.

 

Indoor Air Quality

There are many things that can contribute to poor air quality in the workplace. Chemicals, poor ventilation, and an outdated or under-serviced HVAC system are a few examples. Improving ventilation will allow for a quick release of toxic fumes. Replacing the current HVAC system, or contacting a Santa Rosa HVAC repair company service (or someone local to you if you don’t live in Northern California), will improve the air quality considerably. Headaches, difficulty breathing, and fatigue are some of the common symptoms resulting from poor air quality.

 

A Clean Office

Most business owners have a cleaning service that comes in once or twice a week to perform general cleaning jobs. However, with the virus still present, owners must follow CDC guidelines. Using disinfectants on desks, floors, and other surfaces is a requirement. Having hand sanitizer available is also necessary.

 

Adopting the Stay-at-Home Policy

In the past, some employees would come to the office even if they felt sick. Today, that’s simply not acceptable. If an employee has a fever or any symptoms of covid or the flu, they must stay at home. The good news is that, due to the pandemic, many companies have systems in place that enable workers to work remotely. 

 

Returning to The Workplace

Some people who recently worked from home enjoyed the environment. They didn’t have to deal with office cliques and negative or mean-spirited employees. Returning to this environment once again after several months away can bring about excessive levels of stress. In order to achieve a healthy environment for all your staff, it’s important to address any issues immediately. Weekly meetings that allow for open discussions can be productive. 

 

Safe-Proofing the Office

There are many hazards in the workplace. Unsecured rugs, wet floors, loose handrails and uneven steps can lead to a slip, trip, or fall. Cluttered high-traffic hallways, exposed wires, and open metal utility cabinet drawers can cause serious injury. Doing a thorough check of the interior and exterior of the building will reduce the possibility of any development. 

 

Safe Handling of Heavy Equipment, Packages, and Boxes

Lifting injuries are another potential hazard in the workplace. Having procedures in place that identify the proper way to lift boxes and move heavier equipment is essential. Make sure that you include it in monthly meetings and post material to encourage safety. 

 

Sufficient Lighting

An office that lacks sufficient lighting and is either too dark or too bright can cause strain on the eyes and increase the risk of an injury. Overhead recessed lighting is ideal. Make sure that when a light bulb goes out that you replace it quickly and that your lighting doesn’t produce dark areas, glare, or shadows. 

 

Ergonomic Equipment

You may spend a bit more acquiring an ergonomic chair and keyboard. However, in the end, reducing the potential for injury is worth the investment. Your staff remains seated for a good portion of their workday. After several hours, a regular office chair and traditional keyboard can cause back and neck pain and bring about carpal tunnel. 

 

Encourage Breaks

Sitting at a desk for 8 hours daily can lead to poor circulation and fatigue. Having scheduled breaks every few hours allows your employees to get up, stretch their legs, and clear their heads. When they return to their desks they will feel energized and ready to tackle problems. 

There are many hazards in the workplace. However, through awareness, you can avoid a serious injury.

How to Get Into a Flow State at Work

finance

If you’re doing work that you love and focus on tasks that are challenging but not too difficult, then you’ve probably noticed that you sometimes fall into a time-out-of-time state when you can knock out a lot of work without much effort. In fact, you become so absorbed in what you’re doing that an hour feels like ten minutes. Psychologists call these wonderful, focused times, “flow states.” 

Flow states, as defined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi after interviewing artists, musicians, athletes, and other people who fell into a rapturous state while performing their best work, is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” 

Unfortunately, you probably only get into this magical state of mind at work on rare occasions. The good news is that flow states aren’t necessarily happy accidents. Here are some things that you can do to increase your likelihood of getting into flow states at work so that you can happily do your best work quickly. 

 

Tackle Procrastination

If you’re procrastinating, find out why you’re doing it. Forcing yourself to work when you just can’t get motivated to do anything is counterproductive. Perhaps you’re procrastinating because you’re comparing yourself unfavorably with others, or you’ve set unrealistic goals for yourself, or you’re working when you’re in an energetic slump, or you’re not managing your time well. Find out why you are procrastinating so that you can take proactive measures to get motivated again.

 

Control Indoor Climate

You’re much more able to be productive if you’re comfortable in your office. If it’s too hot or cold, then you won’t be able to focus on what you’re doing. Instead, you’ll focus on how hot or cold you feel. So, at this time of the year, with many hot days still ahead of us, it’s important to have good air conditioning.

Good air conditioning (AC) is essential for helping you stay focused on your work. It’s difficult to get much work done if you find the heat unbearable. So, if your AC isn’t working, then it’s a good idea to get it fixed. If, for example, your AC smells bad, it isn’t something you should ignore because it’s a sign that there may be a problem with the drip tray or the cabin air filter.

 

Reduce Interruptions and Cut Out Distractions 

It’s difficult to get into a flow state when you’re interrupted by other people or distracted by digital devices. When you get down to work, turn off all your smartphone notifications and let all incoming phone calls go straight to voicemail. If it’s possible, close your door and hang up a “do not disturb sign.” If you’re in an environment where you can’t take such liberties, then speak to colleagues accustomed to interrupting you when you’re at work, asking them to give you some space so that you can finish your project. In short, identify all the things that might pull you away from your work and do your best to minimize interruptions and eliminate distractions

 

Enjoy Your Work 

Your attitude has a lot to do with whether you slip into a flow state. If you’re focusing on meeting a deadline or wondering if your work is good enough, or trying too hard to do everything perfectly, then your self-critical attitude will prevent you from getting into the relaxed state necessary for you to enjoy your work. Focus on all the things you enjoy about the task at hand and try to clear everything else from your mind. If, for instance, you’re coding, focus on the creative aspects of your work rather than worrying if your boss or customer will like it.

 

Keep Practicing Getting Into a Flow State 

The more you practice getting into a flow state, the easier it will be. You’ll eventually reach a point where you can minimize all environmental distractions and internal expectations and just focus on the joy of doing the work itself.

Tech Tools and Resources for Small Businesses During The Pandemic

ecommerce 2

Business hasn’t been the same since the coronavirus pandemic started. First, there was the temporary closure of all non-essential companies to slow the spread. As a result, employers had to let go of some of their employees to remain afloat. Then, the skyrocketing unemployment rates caused consumers to slow down on their spending. Though restrictions have been lifted and businesses have been allowed to reopen, keeping employees and customers safe is an uphill battle. 

As the global health and economic crisis continues, businesses have had to make adjustments to accommodate everyone. While making operational changes in brick-and-mortar establishments have effectively reduced health risks, many entrepreneurs turned to tech tools like those listed below to adapt. 

 

Collaboration Tools

Remote teams have become the norm during the pandemic. It’s an effective way for businesses to comply with COVID-19 health and safety regulations and keep operations going despite budget cuts. With employees working from home, however, managing was another hurdle to jump. 

Fortunately, technological resources, like collaboration software, made things more manageable. The applications provided managers with a platform to delegate tasks and manage employee time, progress, and payroll. On the other hand, employees found it easier to organize assignments, collaborate on projects, and virtually communicate with team members. 

 

Video Conferencing Software

In-person meetings came to a screeching halt amid the pandemic. For industries that rely heavily on client interaction to provide quality service, this put a damper in their operations. Video conferencing software and other remote communication tools paved the way. Attorneys were able to hold remote depositions, doctors were able to schedule telemedicine appointments, and other industries could conduct virtual meetings without risking anyone’s health. 

 

Outsourcing

Though entrepreneurs decided to let go of employees to conserve money, the workloads became a problem for existing staff. As employees’ physical and emotional well-being is crucial to company success, executives opted for a more affordable solution known as outsourcing. By hiring an independent contractor or outside agency to complete specific tasks, businesses could boost productivity, improve employee morale, and enhance customer service. 

 

Project Management Software

Contractors and construction companies needed an efficient way to continue providing services to their commercial and residential customers. Their jobs often require in-person meetings to discuss everything from estimates, project ideas, budgets, and deadlines with clients. Managers also needed an efficient way to manage teams and productivity. Project management software possesses all these features making things safer and more manageable. 

 

eCommerce Platforms

When brick-and-mortar establishments had to close up shop, business owners turned to the internet to reach their customers. Designing eCommerce platforms gave customers 24/7 access to products and services from the comfort of their homes. It also enabled teams to remotely while saving a ton of money on overhead expenses. As eCommerce platforms became so successful, some companies decided to switch to exclusive online operations going forward. 

 

Delivery Services

While online shopping is a convenient way for consumers to access products and services they need, there’s just one disadvantage. Unfortunately, it takes a few days for the merchandise to arrive. That’s why many businesses turned to same-day delivery service providers to get consumers their items faster. From convenience stores to department stores, online shoppers now can shop, pay, and receive their purchases within 24 hours. Restaurants also tapped into same-day delivery companies so customers could get delicious meals despite not being able to dine in. 

The temporary closure of non-essential establishments, events, and activities, the unfortunate loss of valuable employees, and a decline in sales, left businesses large and small in a bind amid the global pandemic. While some companies were unable to survive, others turned to technological resources and tools like those discussed above to weather the storm. With modern technology adaption, industries have climbed out of the hole, reduced employee and customer risks, improved morale, boosted productivity, and increased sales despite current times. If your small business is currently struggling, consider investing in the above resources to increase your chances of success. 

For The Good of The Mind: The Future Office

happy office

By Beth Hampson, Commercial Director, The Argyll Club

Many of the virtues of flexible working have rightly been celebrated during the pandemic. However, as we begin to face up to the prospect of protracted lockdowns and long-term home working, the flipside of the transformed world of work is becoming clear: Covid-fatigue, reduced productivity and loneliness. Is another pandemic – a mental health crisis – hot on the heels of Covid-19?

2020 has exposed the critical role that offices and cities play in maintaining the nation’s mental health. Despite the Government’s U-turn on returning to the office, the Prime Minister himself has stressed that we can still go into the office if homeworking is detrimental to our mental health. Meanwhile, JP Morgan has publicly declared its offices will remain open for those who need them for mental health reasons.

For many, the novelty of homeworking has worn off – over the summer and into the autumn months, London’s professionals told us time and time again how excited they were to regroup with their team, how much they missed London and how long-term lone working was affecting their productivity and happiness in their job. Look at the statistics, and they tell the same story. According to a recent Opinium poll, a startling 62% of UK workers have struggled with their mental health over the past year and 26% felt working from home had negatively affected their mental health.

Of course, during a pandemic, we must continue to redefine the world of work. But mustn’t we also remember our brains as well as our bodies? Offices are more than just a house for a business, they are also a home for employees to meet, chat and collaborate when needed. They are a facilitator of good mental health.

In this new era of the hybrid office-home model, there are ways in which business leaders can bring people together for the good of their minds, without compromising the health of their bodies.

 

Rethink the commute

In cities like London, some workers are keen to reduce their reliance on public transport in the wake of the pandemic. However, this doesn’t have to remove the office from their working week entirely. We’ve seen 80% of members seeking spaces with bike storage and shower facilities since lockdown, and a 10% uptick in demand for suburban offices.

Cycling is becoming a new commute for many. As well as allowing employees to save on public transport costs and avoid buses and trains, 86% of employees believe that cycling to work has led to health benefits and 60% believe that it has improved their productivity at work, according to research by Cyclescheme.

Harnessing workspaces that are close to ‘Boris Bike’ docking stations and cycle lanes, and that facilitate a cycle to the office with showers, means you can get teams together safely as well as ensure they arrive feeling empowered. Now, wellness at work must, and can, extend beyond the office door.

 

Quality not quantity 

Just because we’re working from home more doesn’t mean we have to work from home all the time. Periodic face-to-face meetings must be a crucial element of the world of work going forward – think about monthly team meetings or a weekly office day as a group. In response to this shifting business demand, the office market has launched a range of flexible products: from dedicated desks and ‘day offices’, to meeting rooms on demand and video conferencing.

The option of an office for the day can offer businesses ultimate flexibility: their own private space to work and collaborate, whenever and wherever it is required. It removes the burden of a standard long-term lease without removing the ability for a team to work together when they need to. For employees – particularly those fighting Zoom fatigue – day offices prove a welcome relief. Given that the nation’s property owners and building managers have invested significant time and resource into ensuring their spaces are Covid-secure, these types of workplaces are safe as well as supportive of mental health.

 

Matching tasks to moods

Finally, we are seeing the business world’s understanding of an office change. Historically, a day working from home provided some calm away from a busy business; now, our members are telling us that a city workspace provides calm away from the hectic home.

It is clear that sitting at a desk in the city five days a week may not be the norm for most businesses for the remainder of this year. However, for many employees, there will be certain tasks – whether it be a big research project or an important client call – where they need space, quiet and calm to complete it to the best of their ability and to reduce the stress of trying to complete it from home.

Now, by utilising tools like day offices, meeting rooms and flexible workspaces, business leaders should be encouraging employers to think about what tasks they have on that week and where they would be best accomplished. There are safe spaces, and safe ways to get there, for employees who need a break from home. It is the role of the leader to ensure those conversations are taking place and teams have those options.

Whilst public health is paramount, mental health can’t be left behind. Offices are transforming, and are now spaces that you can use more flexibly – for the day or a few days a week – and use differently with improved cycling provisions. 2020 has taught us how important they are to the nation’s mental health. Employees are telling us they need these collaborative spaces and require time with their team. Business leaders mustn’t be too quick to lock the office door, but instead think how they can use the space differently.

5 ways to deal with troublesome colleagues in the workplace

If we were to go by what Hollywood films tell us, bad work colleagues would be incredibly easy to spot all the time. Sabotaging your presentations, stealing your food, or in some cases, just upright badmouthing you in front of your face. But, for better or worse, the real workplace will never be that black and white. Bad work colleagues come in all shapes and sizes, and work and act in many ways. It’s inevitable that at some time in your career you’ll encounter people you won’t  get along or agree with, and how you react to them will, in some way or another, affect how people will eventually view you and how professional you are. It’s a tough balancing act to get right – you don’t want to be seen as a pushover or gossip, but you also don’t want to have to dread going into work every day (well, at least not because of someone you don’t like).

Here GearHungry’s Resident Career Advisor Charlotte Moore breaks down 5 ways to deal with a co-worker you just never seem to see eye to eye with. ‘How is it possible to work with someone who no matter what you do seems to take everything the wrong way, or worse, outright pushes your buttons? The first thing I always suggest to people is to remember that no one’s perfect, and that we all have our faults when working. Before attempting to resolve the issue, always ask yourself first ‘is it them or me?’ or sit down with someone you trust at work and go over the situation, asking for their honest opinion. Try to see it from their point of view. Are they nagging you about your work rate, or have you repeatedly been late with your projects over the last few months?’

‘In most cases, it is usefully a mix of two people with crossed wires, rubbing each other up the wrong way. It is possible in these situations to avoid each other and let things settle down. Unfortunately, sometimes the tension never seems to resolve itself, and in these circumstances, it is best to take positive action. Below are 5 tips to help you conquer those troublesome colleagues.’

Identify the issue

We all dislike someone in our lives, from people we have close contact with, to famous people on the television. But for many, it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment you started to find a person annoying. ‘Humans are petty, and when we work in a place, we’re not happy in that pettiness can increase to a point that there’s no logic behind it. Because of this, the smallest irritations can send us off into a rage. Try to pinpoint exactly the moment you started to clash with someone at work, and determine if it really is a big deal, or something that has mutated over time. If it is something small, like breaking your favourite mug or criticizing a project of yours, then the likelihood is that relationship can be repaired. I’m not suggesting you’ll become the best of friends but finding the cause of the issue and resolving it can give closure to you and your grievances.’

‘Another thing to do is determine if the person you don’t get along with actually knows that there’s an issue. Do you have a problem, and they seemingly have no idea? Do you like them and for no reason they have a problem with you? Or do you both outright dislike each other? In all of these cases, dealing with the issue is normally the same, but it’s vital to work out where the issue lies before trying to fix it’.

Put the gossiping on hold

Gossiping to a friend at work can seem harmless, but as Charlotte explains, it can quickly turn nasty. ‘We all gossip, it’s a fact of life, and gentle complaining has been proven to be good for moral in the workplace. But there’s such a thing as ‘blowing off too much steam’ with a colleague. Ranting about work is an important and natural part of life but it should be kept in check, and it’s necessary to know if there’s a line that’s been crossed. If not kept under control, complaining at work can turn an already negative and toxic workplace into a hostile one, leaving you focused on the bad qualities and blind to the good ones. If you feel a conversation is becoming negative put a stop to it by walking away, or changing the subject, and ask yourself after ‘do I feel positive or negative right now’ Most gossip sessions leave you in a negative mood, and you’ll carry that around for the rest of the day. Gossiping about a work colleague will also strengthen the divide between the two of you, as it helps build up the image of them you’ve created in your mind. If someone is late everyday it can be annoying, but if you complain about it 5 times to people, you’re convincing yourself that it’s a bigger issue than it actually is. Gossiping in the long run only hurts one person’s reputation – yours’.

Honesty is the best course of action

‘For many people the idea of confrontation can freak them out. Instead, they’ll either ignore the problem, make it worse by reacting to it, or fake smile their way through the tension. If your co-worker is doing something that upsets you, and you know specifically what that problem is, you should approach them and have a civil conversation about it. Cutting to the root of the problem as soon as possible before it reaches boiling point is best as the longer you leave it the harder it’ll be to correct. Be precise, reasonable and open to discussion. Remember, it’s a relationship, so be ready to hear feedback in return. Listen and talk over the issues you’ve both presented and work out how to resolve them in the future. You should also be able to gauge from this conversation if it’s actually a work issue or a personal issue – either way, agree to follow through with the outcome suggested.’

Surround yourself with goodness

‘Even after talking, resolving and problem solving, tricky co-workers can always rear their heads. Sometimes it’s inevitable that you just won’t get along with certain people you work with. Whether it’s a mild disliking, or outright hate from their side, one of the best things a worker can do is surround themselves with positive and happy people. Hopefully you’ve made a bond with at least one person you work with, and if not try to work on the relationships with people you consider good. Focusing on the positives is not only good for moral and relationships, it’s also good for your mental health. Remember, you’re spending at least 8 hours here a day, so you want to be comfortable in that environment’.

Asking them for help

‘Admittedly this can seem a bit weird to people, but it’s a proven technique that I’ve seen show many positive results over the years. Think of it a ridiculously cheap, and slightly weird, teambuilding exercise. Asking a colleague for help can kick start the relationship into action, showing both of you that you value the others opinion, and can work together. Approach them and ask their advice, or work with them on something that involves communication. Even if the results are not the ones you were looking for, focusing on work and not personal issues is the first step in moving on from your problems. In most cases, sticking to your work and reducing the time you both see each other is an effective way to overcome the fractured relationship, and hopefully after asking for help they’ll see that you’re just like everyone else there’.

Little White Lies When Working from Home: The Do’s and Don’ts

working from home

When working in an office space, it’s not uncommon to hear a few lies throughout the day. We’re not talking Machiavellian levels of deceit, but if someone asks you where their favourite mug is, and you know full well it’s sitting at the bottom of the bin because you accidently broke it last week then the chances are you might answer with “oh I have no idea” instead of the truth.

Most of us tell ‘little white lies’ from time to time, whether to save a bigger situation from developing, or to not hurt someone’s feelings. So, when it comes to telling little white lies at work, experienced staff have had years of practice, but with many workers stuck at home for the foreseeable future, it can almost feel like a new world of fibbing. Do you risk even bigger lies? Can you get away with anything? How do you stop yourself going form little white lies to huge whoppers if you’ve got no work colleagues to keep you in check? Here, we speak to GearHungry’s resident Career Advisor Charlotte Moore on the dos and don’ts’ of lying from home. ‘Office politics is a minefield when it comes to what and what-not to say. The obvious thing to do would be to always tell the truth, and the best places of work are built on trust, understanding and respect. But if a company has a demanding boss, or overeager workers trying to climb their way up the ladder, then an honest person can sometimes feel pressured into doing work that’s not their responsibility, covering for other people’s short-comings, or constantly being asked to do overtime.’

‘In a workplace, middle management and supervisors tend to lie the most, with 37% admitting to lying at least once a week, most likely because they have to relay information with people above and below them on a regular basis. So how do little white lies work, and can they get out of hand now that we are working remotely, and seemingly without repercussions?’

 

Lies in the workplace

‘Little white lies tend to be either used to cover a mistake on your part that could turn into something bigger if discussed, or to shield someone from getting their feelings hurt. When working remotely, these lies can get out of hand, from saying you’re working on something when you’re not, to covering poor time management. Here, I’ll discuss some of the ways you can stop yourself getting into hot water, as well as lies that will in some cases benefit you in the long run.’

 

The Don’ts

 

Don’t be agreeable when you really disagree

We’ve all at least once in our career taken on more work than we can handle, and usually it’s not by choice, as Charlotte explains. ‘The common misconception is that saying yes to things will help you do well in the office. To some extent, being agreeable is a great quality – it shows you’re open to work harder, are there for others when they need help, and want to help the business grow. But being too agreeable can quickly make the work pile up on your desk, and people less considerate than you will possibly see you as a soft touch and a pushover.’

‘Lying and saying that you have the time to take on some extra work when working from an office isn’t ideal, but for most of us we can leave it behind when we clock out. Overloading yourself when working from home means that it’s far harder to switch off, and suddenly you’re working till 9pm and missing out on a social life (or at least whatever social life you have left during lockdown).

Be honest with how much work you have on your plate and explain your timetable if they become pushy about you doing more. The price of being less agreeable and looking out for yourself means not everyone is going to like you but putting yourself and your time first is far more important.

 

Don’t play the blame game

Being light with the truth isn’t just words. A lot of fibbing is in facial expressions and body language, and when working from home a little white lie can be exaggerated, which can lead to misunderstandings.

‘One of the most common lies you’ll hear in the workplace is ‘They never told me to do that’ (with 36% of surveyed workers claiming to have used it). When used with body language it can easily be interpreted as a throw away excuse; even if your supervisor or co-worker doesn’t fully believe you the conversation usually quickly moves on. But when this lie is said in text or over email, it can come off as finger pointing as it loses its intonation and is presented as cold hard facts. It also raises the problem of not being able to explain the situation to the person you’re blaming. In a normal office environment, you can clarify why you said it, but when working remotely it can become a ‘he said/she said’ situation and can easily get out of hand. Stay clear from finger pointing at all costs, and instead own your mistakes in the workplace – it’ll help you grow as a worker, and staff will value the honesty.

 

Don’t Claim you’re working on something when you’re not

When 1000 salaried employees were asked what lies they told the most, 47% of them claimed to have lied about working on something when they’re not, with 24% seeing it as a harmless little white lie. ‘This is a classic work lie. Seemingly risk-free, easily fixable, and vague enough that it could mean I’m just about to start it or I’m just about to finish it. The problem is, when using this when working from home you run the high chance that the person you’re lying to will ask to see what you’ve done so far as proof. Putting pressure on yourself to complete something is never going to produce your best work and has been proven to create high levels of stress and anxiety.

Try to stick to a structured timetable and avoid distractions that can pull you out of the work zone. If you do start a project late, or not at all, it’s always best to pre-empt the discussion of lateness with an honest email, or message a time frame over that you expect to complete it in. Workers find it easier to work without the pressure of being asked when it will be completed, so keep your boss informed of your progress, as opposed to waiting for the dreaded ‘have you got that piece for me’ email.

 

Don’t continue with the same lies you used at the office

‘The most common lie at the workplace always revolves around lateness. ‘My car broke down’, ‘I missed my train’ or ‘my alarm didn’t go off’. I’m sure we’ve all heard (and used) them a thousand times. Unfortunately, with the changes to our work lives some of these little white lies have been retired for now. So for the 48% of you who regularly use ‘I was caught in traffic’, I’m afraid you either going to have to learn to get up on time for those zoom meetings, or find a new believable fib, though I’m not sure your boss is going to be too sympatric to ‘sorry, but the walk to the computer was really busy today’.

 

The Dos

 

Do go easy on colleague if they ask your opinion

‘Being brutally honesty is rarely a good idea in the workplace and shattering someone’s confidence while working from home is equally bad. For many, public speaking is a living nightmare, and the idea of having to do it over a video call with very little feedback is something that would fill many with dread. If a colleague asks how they did after bombing in front of the entire office, there is no need to kick them while they’re down. Find areas that they showed promise in and embellish some of the positives. Very few people deal with criticism well, and it’s far easier to lie a little and move on.’

 

Do say you’ll look into that

‘While working from home, you’ll find more and more that people will ask things of you, as opposed to at an office space where you’re usually allowed to get on with your tasks. This is down to the fact that when working from home, it’s impossible for them to see how much work you’ve got on. If someone asks for a favour that you’re uncomfortable doing, don’t outright say no – or worse, yes to please them – instead, say you’ll look into it when you get the time. It’s a classic brush-off technique, and in most cases the person who asked you will move onto someone else. Once again, this isn’t an outright lie, but more a way to provide you with added time to work on the projects you’re supposed to be working on, as opposed to looking other a piece of work that has nothing to do with you’.

 

Do say your camera is broken

‘it’s 9am, you’ve been asked to get up for a video meeting and talk about last week’s sales.  The last thing you want to do is put on a face full of makeup and wash your hair. Instead used the tried and tested ‘I can’t seem to get my camera working this morning’. This lie causes no harm and provides you with a much needed breck from all those staring eyes.’

‘Remember, lying at work overtime diminishes other’s trust in you, your trust in others, and will eventually create a confusing and uneasy environment. A little white lie here and there to save someone’s feelings at work will never reflect badly on you, just know where to draw the line’.

How to Stay Ahead of Your Competition in the Digital Age

digital age

In today’s digital age, customers’ expectations are growing, and companies need to evolve in line with their needs, using the newest tools. Brands that are looking to stay competitive, need to find a way to offer outstanding digital customer experience and excellent service. But in order to set themselves apart from the crowd, they have to be ready to go even further and make fundamental changes to the way they approach business.

Here are 6 recommendations that will help you stay ahead of the competition.

 

1.  Know Your Competitors

How can you stay ahead of the competition if you have no idea who your main competitors are and what they’re doing? Whether you are just starting a company or you have been in the business for a while, doing some competitor research can help you stay on top of your game. Here’s what you will learn from researching your competition:

  • Learn who your competitors’ customers are
  • Analyze their social media strategies
  • Discover what online marketing tactics your competitors are using
  • Identify what’s missing in their online marketing strategies and see if you can add that into yours

To start your research, check out your competitors’ social media accounts. Figure out who their target customers are and how they engage with those customers. This will allow you to identify their weaknesses but also enable you to develop your own social media strategy. You could also use special online tools to dig out extra information, like what keywords they’re using to target their customers and how they are performing organically.

 

2.  Social Selling & Shoppable Posts

The way the digital era is affecting how shoppers make decisions is clearly visible in social media. With more than 2.4 billion active social media users worldwide, digital marketing and social selling go hand-in-hand. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to know your way around the social media platforms, create a narrative that aligns with your brand’s mission and vision, and efficiently engage with followers.

Another thing to consider when it comes to social media are shoppable posts. According to Sproutsocial, after seeing a product on Instagram, nearly 80% searched for more information, and more than 45% made a purchase.

Shoppable posts offer a one-stop-shop experience: users can search for items without having to leave the app, add products to a shopping bag, and checkout. They cut the time from awareness to decision by providing everything the customer needs (details about the product, shipping options, payment methods, etc) in a single platform.

 

3.  Local SEO

If you are in the local league, you can’t afford to postpone your local SEO optimization anymore. If you want people to know about your existence, the least you can do is claim your business on Google My Business. Otherwise, a competitor may claim it on your behalf.

Today’s consumers rely on local searches to get the answers they are looking for. So, if your business isn’t out there, they simply won’t come to you. By creating a GMB profile, you will make sure that your business is visible in local search, as well as on Google maps in your area. Moreover, your customers will also get a chance to leave reviews for you (and, as you already know, nothing is better than a 5-star review!).

 

4.  Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral content is visual content that’s only accessible 24 hours. This can be a photo, video, live-stream, etc. Ephemeral content is very popular on social platforms like Instagram (Stories), Facebook (My Day), and Snapchat (Snaps).

Ephemeral content gets seen by millions of people. Bear in mind that Facebook has over 1.7 billion, Instagram around 500 million, and Snapchat 238 million daily active users. What’s more, this type of content expands your reach, evokes an immediate response from the audience, and allows customers to engage with your brand.

 

5.  AI-Powered Chatbots

There’s no denying that AI has become an essential digital marketing tool. If you still haven’t incorporated it into your strategies, start by leveling up your customer service with instantaneous and customized AI chatbots.

AI-powered chatbots can do much more than simply answering common questions. They use natural language processing to understand search intent, analyze past conversations with customers, and use conversational abilities to naturally interact with them.

 

6.  Voice Search Optimization

Currently, 20% of all queries on Google are voice searches and by 2021, voice search is expected to rise even further as more people are dependent on their mobile devices. That’s why optimizing for voice queries should definitely be part of your stay-ahead-of-the-competition checklist.

Ranking for voice searches isn’t that simple: there’s only one result for a voice query, and it’s your goal to be that result. And since voice searches are conversational requests, you need to learn how to create and optimize content for these queries.

 

Final Thoughts

If you want to maintain a competitive advantage in the digital age, you’ll need to develop some serious future-gazing abilities. Of course, predicting what’s going to be trending isn’t always easy, but it seems the next wave of innovation will be driven by AI and machine learning, voice search, etc. And it’s already happening. The key is how you will manage to combine these innovations with strategies that have been around for a while and are proven to be effective, such as local SEO and social media, to deliver a better user or customer experience.

Issue 10 2020

Welcome to the October issue of Corporate Vision Magazine. As always, we are a monthly publication devoted to providing you with the latest insight and news from across the corporate landscape. Whether it be the latest in marketing, coaching, and HR or the hottest new optimisation technologies, we seek to provide business owners and managers with the tools to drive the future of better business.

Future is really the key word in that mission statement. While the past is the past and the present can be seen as set in stone (the path we’re on decided by decisions made days, months or years ago), the future is almost optimistic by definition. Changeable. Malleable. While 2020 has been a textbook example of plans thrown out the window, 2021 is tinged with the promise of improvement.

With all of this in mind, this month’s inclusions are looking to the future to bring about change to their business and those around them. From next generation recruitment techniques to the latest IT project management technologies, we’ve spotlighted a few companies and their leaders who look to better the future.

As always, we hope you stay safe out there. Have a wonderful month ahead.

Hidden Fractures in The Workforce Point to A Ticking Timebomb Of Remote Working

remote working problems

At a time when WFH looks set to continue for many in both the short and long term, ‘hidden fractures’ are forming in the workforce which risk causing irreparable damage to cultures and productivity. That’s according to new research from Totem, the digital culture platform, which is urging employers to take action now to better manage remote working and prevent employee engagement and retention levels falling to an all-time low. 

Unless employers grip this issue, surviving and maintaining growth as the economy recovers after the Covid-19 pandemic will be a much bigger challenge. 

The research, which surveyed 1000 UK employees, found that the shift to home working during Covid-19 has been a positive experience for many. Nearly two thirds (64%) of employees feel that working from home has had a positive impact on workplace culture, meanwhile the majority (61%) say they are able to complete their work effectively whilst working from home due to Covid-19 – most likely due to the lack of office distractions.

But despite these benefits, a fully remote workforce is unlikely to be a viable long-term solution for many businesses as the lack of interaction, collaboration, recognition and support cause potentially lasting damage to workplace trust, culture and engagement. Whilst working from home due to Covid-19, over half (55%) of employees feel it has been harder to work as a team, 54% feel less motivated, and 51% feel it is harder to reach out for help from teammates – indicating that employees are lacking the peer support networks they’d have in the office.

However, with current circumstances meaning that remote working is likely to remain the norm for most in the short and medium term – and the research pointing to a preference to some sort of remote reality in the longer term – any action to repair workplace culture needs to start now. 

While the majority (88%) of respondents worked from an office before Covid-19, now many people would feel anxious (28%) or unhappy (18%) if their employer made it mandatory to return to the office full-time. And, if they could choose, just 25% would work from an office full time and 44% would choose hybrid working, with the remaining 31% choosing to work from home full time.

When it comes to the creating a positive remote working culture , the study points to some of the most important elements as being recognition for your work (33%) and accessible support and guidance when you need it (31%).

Marcus Thornley, CEO of Totem, said: “Workplace culture is fundamentally changing and this year’s shift to work from home has proved that being in a physical office is not essential. However, there are some significant and unseen problems developing amongst workers. Without access to the workplace and the culture it helps to facilitate, we risk creating a workforce who struggle to communicate or operate effectively as a unit. If left unchecked, this is a potential timebomb that could cause irreparable damage. 

“Remote working is and will remain a reality for many companies. But, in order to remain agile and resilient, maintaining a culture of trust, recognition and inclusion across the workforce, wherever they’re working from, is vital. Unless businesses take a proactive approach to recreating the recognition, community and connections normally built in the office, they may find that it’s too late by the time recovery happens and their business could be permanently held back. But employers can tackle this – without having to get everyone back to the office – by rethinking their employee experience and using digital technology to repair these fractures and recreate the links and support that have eroded.”