Out of Office

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What if every weekend was three days long?

Lisa Evans writes on the Future of Work blog about a couple of companies that have instituted a four-day working week (Monday to Thursday) boosting employee morale and improving productivity. Lisa lists the following benefits of a three-day weekend:

  • Employees return to work recharged
  • It’s a benefit other companies don’t match
  • When employees spend less time at work they are more efficient when they are there
  • It creates a sense of urgency
  • It improves teamwork

Out Of Office workers have the freedom to structure their working week to best suit their lifestyles. Have you tried a four-day working week? If so then please let us know how it worked for you. If not, it might be worth trialling.

Read Lisa’s article in full at Fast Company’s Future of Work blog.

A Teleconference in Real Life

A humorous portrayal of an office meeting if it was run like a teleconference:

I came across this clip on a high-value blog.

The Challenges of Out Of Office Work

Anna Duggal writes in the Workshifting blog on the Challenges of Workshifting. Anna lists seven challenges and proposes solutions for each:

  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • Keeping up with co-workers
  • Sick of solitude
  • Staying focused and motivated
  • What are your working hours?
  • Knowing your workspace
  • Staying professional

Read Anna’s article in full.

Home or Office? You Decide

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org. Sarah is a Houston-based freelance writer and blogger. Please contact Sarah if you have questions and comments.

Like other opportunities we encounter, a chance to work at home is a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. The idea sounds ultimately appealing at first: a chance to stay home during the day, are you kidding? But there are actually some negative aspects to telecommuting, requiring attention if you’re to succeed.

While they may not be for everyone, work from home alternatives are growing in popularity for entrepreneurs and employees alike, working in all kinds of industries. Before you set your sights on home-based work, consider the pros and cons thoroughly, so you don’t sign up for too much of a good thing.

Technology and Shifting Standards
Overall, about ten-percent of the global workforce conducts business from home on a daily basis. When you include those who claim frequent, but not daily, telecommuting the number rises to twenty-percent. While a majority of people still travel to their workplace, a significant portion or workers stay home; and the number continues to grow.

While there are a number of possible explanations, technology and shifts in business standards are the most influential causes for the move toward work-at-home employment roles.

The advent of computers, in the 70s, planted the seed for growth in remote employment, increasing portability of information and consolidating how we conduct business. Internet technology is a game changer, which shows no signs of slowing down. Enhanced communication alternatives, beyond telephones and snail-mail, revolutionized work roles by connecting Internet users globally. And as technology continues to advance, private networks, groupware, and video conferencing are increasingly integrated into all aspects of business.

In fact, the Information Age is responsible for a standards shift, which now recognizes telecommuting as a legitimate employment option. Where employers and clients may have seen home-based workers as unavailable or disconnected in the past, the state of modern technology keeps telecommuters available at all times, erasing some of the advantages of going to the office.

Pros and Cons
At arm’s length, working from home seems like a rosy proposition, but under further scrutiny a few hitches come to light. The most important ingredient is balance, achieved by maintaining workplace standards at your home office.

  • Flexibility – The ultimate takeaway for telecommuters is flexibility. Meals, quick errands, and even wake-up times are scheduled at your discretion, furnishing a sense of autonomy rarely felt at the office. Telecommuters quickly learn what happens when leashes get too long, creating unmanageable situations at home. Instead of kicking routines to the curb, successful home-based workers set established work hours and stick to them.
  • No Commute – Spending less time on the road keeps you safer and burns less fuel, actually saving you money. And time is shaved off each end of the workday, rewarding telecommuters with less travel time to the job. But staying home as others leave for work can sometimes make home-based workers feel disconnected, even lonely. To combat the feeling, periodic trips out are recommended for telecommuters, furnishing exposure to the hustle and bustle of daily life. Even using public Internet access keeps things fresh, providing much-needed changes of scenery for home workers.
  • Fewer Interruptions – Facilitating the exchange of information and ideas is a vital function of central workplaces; but it also takes time, leading to decreased productivity from staff. You are on your own at home, but the variety of potential distractions can get in the way even more than co-worker interruptions. To keep yourself honest, set up a workspace at home and use it just like a formal office.

Telecommuting continues to grow in popularity, partially due to Internet enhancements and other technological advancements. In addition to telecommuters from wide-ranging industries, home-based opportunities exist for entrepreneurs, call-center staff, transcribers, and independent consultants.

oDesk and Elance Announce Merger

Leading talent markets oDesk and Elance have announced that they will merge over the next four months. For the time being the two entities will continue to operate separately and most of the changes will be behind the scenes. The benefits of the merger cited in the press release are:

  • Significant investments in technology
  • Higher quality results for all customers
  • Accelerated growth and scale

I wouldn’t be surprised if in the longer term the two operations merge. Elance provides primarily fixed-price freelancers while oDesk focuses on hourly rates. The merger could provide a one-stop-shop for sourcing both types of work.

You can read more about the merger in the press release and FAQ.

Top Tips for a successful video conference

The tools to conduct video conferences have become ubiquitous, so it’s easier than ever to hold a video conference. Doing it well is another matter.

Tony Schwartz: Relax! You'll Be More Productive

Out of Office workers are necessarily judged by their outcomes. One way of achieving more might be to work longer hours; something that’s all too easy if you work from home. Tony Schwartz, of The Energy Project disagrees. He writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times that such an approach has a negative effect on productivity as it results in fatigue. Schwartz cites research that suggests it is more productive to rest during your work day. Tony advises working for short periods – he advocates 90 minutes – followed by a relaxation break.

The Pomodoro Technique suggests a similar approach: 25-minute work sessions separated by five-minute breaks. Gihan and I prefer work sprints of about 40 minutes followed by a short break.

Regardless, of the times you use the underlying principle is the same; focus on work for an extended period (25 – 90 minutes) followed by a short relaxation break. You’ll avoid mental fatigue and your productivity will improve.

Read Tony Schwartz’s article in full

What Not to Do In a Webcast

It’s becoming so much easier for Out of Office workers to use video for on-line collaboration and communication. But it’s also easy to make simple mistakes that can ruin the experience. The clever video below shows you what not to do when using video, particularly for Webcasts.

I came across this video posted on this very useful blog.

The Work From Home Disadvantage

InternetProvider.org have created the infographic shown below, which summarises the survey article The Hidden Perils of Working From Home. Fear not though – the article includes several tips on dealing with these “perils” – as, of course, does our book.

The Work From Home Disadvantage

Ken Myers: Home Professionalism

Today’s article is a guest post from Ken Myers, founder of Longhorn Leads.

Home Professionalism
Let’s face it, working from home is the dream job of a great many people in the world. Not only could this provide a great deal of comfort, but it gives you the chance to spend time with family. However, working from home isn’t without its hazards. A certain amount of professionalism should still be maintained in order to be productive. This isn’t saying that you need to wear a suit and tie to your computer desk every morning, but you should monitor some form of professional appearance in your work area.

  • Cleanliness – Having a clean work area can do wonders for your mental stress levels. A cluttered desk could hinder productivity if you are unable to find particular tools or supplies. Even the desktop computer screen can probably stand to be cleaned up in order to help practice good organization skills. You’ll be amazed at how different you feel sitting at a cleaned off desk over one that is cluttered with coffee cups, candy wrappers, and other bits of trash. Once you practice this for your professional life, it makes a difference in your personal life.
  • Dress for Success-ish – Although you don’t need to put on a tie for working at home, sitting in your underwear at your desk doesn’t help the professional mindset. Dress comfortably but presentable. Dress as if you were expecting someone to come over. If you are comfortable in sweat pants, then that is what you should wear. But if you don’t answer the door in your underwear, maybe you should put something else on in order to work. You are trying to give yourself the sense of professionalism, not a spokesperson for Fruit of the Loom.
  • Distractions – Working at home can provide a great deal of distractions that may seem next to impossible to overcome. This is especially difficult for those who don’t have much willpower to begin with. It is easy to burn up hours at a time watching YouTube or playing games on Facebook that wind up destroying your productivity. You need to focus on your job and play later. The faster you complete a task, the more time you will have to play games at the end of the day.
  • Easy Access – As part of practising good organizational skills, make sure all of the tools on your computer that you will be using are readily available. If this work entails specific websites for research or work completion, make sure there are easy to access shortcuts provided. Everything you need for working at home should be easy to find and use at a moment’s notice.
  • Time Management – Always give yourself enough time to complete tasks in a timely manner. While this may depend on the type of work you do and the circumstances surround why you are working from home in the first place, management doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Try to get your work done as quickly, and as efficiently, as possible. This doesn’t mean you should try and rush through it, however. In fact, rushed worked rarely ever comes out as well as it should. Just be mindful of the clock and try to be as consistent as possible with your workflow.

You can work comfortably from home while providing yourself with the mindset of being professional without turning your office in a cubicle. Most of this mindset can be obtained by simply harboring a standard for organization. You need to realize that although you may work from home, your office still needs to be an area that is productive and free of distractions. You wouldn’t want to jeopardize your job and wind up having to hire on at a fast-food restaurant because you couldn’t pay your bills.

Author Bio
Ken Myers is the founder of http://www.longhornleads.com/ & has learned over the years the importance of focusing on what the customer is looking for and literally serving it to them. He doesn’t try to create a need, instead he tries to satisfy the existing demand for information on products and services.

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