Five top tips for working at home efficiently and maintaining your mental health

productivity Apr 23, 2020

Many companies have adapted to the Coronavirus lockdown measures by asking staff to work remotely from home, but how do you do this efficiently and also protect your mental health?

Much as we love them, a prolonged period stuck in one place with our families can sometimes be stressful, especially if remote workers are combining working with home schooling their children.

Of course, another complication can be the facilities and space available at home, where cramped conditions can add to the stress of trying to work efficiently while staying healthy.

Here are some tips to help you maintain your mental health and efficiency:

1. Discipline and routine are important: Creating and following a timetable of tasks and activities gives structure to the day, and on that note it is much easier to get into “work” mode if you can work at a desk or table and if you don’t do it in your pyjamas!

Lists are also useful, not least because if you break down your day’s work into...

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How to manage an efficient online conference

As we all adjust to the new realities of working remotely while we self-isolate during the Coronavirus pandemic, we still need to maintain contact with staff, clients, suppliers and others where online conference calls and video meetings are proving much better than the phone.

But how do you avoid an online conference descending into anarchy with people talking over each other?

There are some simple rules that are not so different from those we adopt during face-to-face meetings.

One of the meeting platforms that is becoming increasingly popular during the pandemic has been Zoom, but there are plenty of others such as Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business and even WhatsApp. Security is an issue and all are constantly improving their security measures following concerns about uninvited intruders, in particular for Zoom which seems to have become the most popular platform.

It is important that the chair should host (convene) and be familiar with the technology since each platform has...

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In a crisis it is crucial that SMEs keep staff updated, especially those working at home

In the current Coronavirus-induced crisis people are understandably worried and frightened, for their jobs, their families and their health so it is crucial for SME employers to communicate changes as quickly and sympathetically as possible.

After all, while you as SME owners are currently facing unprecedented challenges to your business and feeling bleak if not panic ridden about your prospects for survival, at some point this crisis will come to an end and you will hope to still have a business.

With all the financial support measures recently announced by the Government, most SMEs do not need to close their businesses or dispense with staff.

I have posted the latest information with advice for SMEs on how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on onlineturnaroundguru.com and will update as the details become clearer.

While in the short term SMEs may have had to ‘furlough workers’ (see the above advice link for what this means) but eventually staff will be needed back...

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Using the Pareto 80/20 Rule as a guide in your business

Many people in business are familiar with the Pareto 80/20 Rule, particularly the idea that 80% of their business comes from just 20% of customers or clients, or that 80% of their profits comes from 20% of orders, or that 80% of their profits come from 20% of products, or even that 80% of their sales are generated by 20% of their sales staff.

Understanding this can influence behaviour such as protecting the 20% that contribute the most or looking at how to improve the lower performing 80%.

Essentially the Pareto 80/20 Rule is simply a way of demonstrating that most things in life are not distributed evenly.

This can apply to everything but focuses on considering productivity as an output of time spent or as a return on investment. It looks at resources, in terms of people, time and cost with a view to optimising the output. Analysis of turnover and profits by customer, market segment and products to produce a pie chart is likely to highlight aspects of the Rule.

The 80/20 Rule...

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Employing millennials should not be a problem

Employing millennials should not be seen as a problem but according to some reports in the business press many employers would prefer not to.

The reasons given range from this generation having a poorer grasp of language to being less loyal than older workers, and allegedly having higher absence rates.

Quite apart from the fact that age discrimination is outlawed under equal opportunities legislation, millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 2000) now make up the bulk of the workforce.

While it would be fair to say that employing millennials means bosses need to understand that this age group may view their careers rather differently from previous generations, it is also true that each generation comes with skills and attitudes that are a benefit to their employers. It is also true for many employers that they are customers who need to be understood.

Approximately 10 years ago PwC produced a report that focused on the millennial generation, examining their career...

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If you want more effective meetings don’t use PowerPoint or bullet points

leadership productivity Jan 14, 2020

Effective meetings depend on discussion that is constructive and to the point, and on wasting as little time as possible.

It has been calculated that the average executive spends around 50 percent of his or her time in meetings of which at least a third are useless.

This was the finding of a 3M study carried out by Annenberg school of communications, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1989.

Studying effective meetings has been ongoing for years and certainly since the 1960s and there has been a growing body of evidence to support the 1989 findings, which suggests that executive productivity could be much improved.

There is an assumption that using lists or PowerPoint presentations can result in more effective meetings, but in fact, this has proven to be incorrect, as Amazon CEO @Jeff Bezos and subsequently others have proved.

A couple of years ago Bezos banned the use of PowerPoint and bullet point slides in executive meetings requiring instead that...

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Starting the day right helps effective leaders to stand out

productivity success Jan 07, 2020

Starting the day right can take as little as two minutes and will make a difference to the rest of your day.

Thought leader @Guy Kawasaki recently highlighted one approach on Facebook, the two-minute routine, based on writing down just three simple statements with which you identify: 

  1. I will let go of ….
  2. I am grateful for ….
  3. I will focus on ….

The idea is that we all wake up with thoughts swimming round in our heads that crop up to distract us, even if they are only in the background, as the day progresses and that to function at our most effective we need to settle and let go of these thoughts.

There are always massive demands on the time of busy executives and so starting the day with a clear mind and focus is important as is scheduling the day and being able to stick to tasks without distraction.

This simple technique also allows you to acknowledge concerns that are on your mind by considering them and then put them in a box so you don’t obsess...

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Purpose oriented leadership gives employees a reason to be engaged

employees productivity Dec 17, 2019

Performing tasks to order is not enough to motivate 21st Century employees and instead they need purpose oriented leadership to understand the “why” of their organisation.

The purpose needs to be defined and made meaningful in a way that simply stating “making a profit” or “increasing sales” do not.

Generally, workers will perform more effectively if they believe in what their company is doing and how it is contributing to the common social good. This has been described as having a higher-oriented purpose. 

But this means that the most successful leaders need to be able to communicate their vision and to have good narrative skills in order to do so.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, has banned PowerPoint in executive meetings. Instead, he believes that “narrative structure” is more effective because human brains are wired to respond to storytelling.

good example of effective purpose oriented...

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Fair treatment of employees is a cornerstone for improving productivity

Improving productivity is a concern for all businesses but it is harder to achieve if employees do not believe they are receiving fair treatment.

As I have said in many previous blogs, a motivated workforce is more likely to go the extra mile if they feel valued as people, this means managers treating them with respect, listening to them, showing consideration to them, recognising their contribution, rewarding their contribution and protecting them from inappropriate behaviour by others at work. In summary treating them with respect and showing them that their effort is valued.

Recognition can simply be saying “thank you” for a job well done, it is not just about money.

However, money can become an issue when there is a clear disparity in pay. While discrimination is illegal and applies to any disparity of remuneration on grounds of gender, race, religion or ethnicity, this is not about legislating for staff motivation.

To be motivated staff need to feel they are treated...

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UK productivity – is it time to move to a four-day working week?

economy productivity Aug 20, 2019

The UK’s comparatively low productivity and how to improve it has long been a source of debate and analysis.

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) has reported a reduction in UK productivity for three successive quarters and according to the Resolution Foundation productivity is now 28% below the average rate before the 2008 financial crisis.  Yet this is a time when employment levels in the UK are the highest they have ever been.

Business productivity has traditionally been calculated by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period and is used as a determinant of efficiency.

Productivity in both national economies and individual businesses is much scrutinised by governments, business commentators and business owners as an indication of performance, efficiency and economic health.

All of this is based on the assumption that perpetual growth and competition are the cornerstones of...

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