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5 Simple Ways to Create a More Productive Workspace

5 Simple Ways to Create a More Productive Workspace
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Have you ever noticed how workspaces look so simple and organized in stock photographs? You know, like the image I’ve used for this article? That setup is so efficient it looks like work will practically do itself! Give me a break. No one’s desk really looks like that. Which can be a problem when it comes to productivity.

How Your Physical Workspace Affects Productivity

In 2011, OfficeMax conducted a workspace organization survey in which over 1,000 adults participated. A whopping 77% of participants said clutter damages their productivity.

Disorganization makes it hard to find things, and the time you spend searching through jumbled stacks of papers and folders is time you could have been using to accomplish a task.

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Over half of all respondents in the OfficeMax survey said that “disorganization impairs their state of mind and motivation levels.” Sooner or later, you start to feel buried under the conglomeration of materials you’ve accumulated. Getting your office or cubicle in order will help reduce stress and increase productivity.

Realistic Changes that Will Help You Get Organized and Be Productive  

I’ll guess that when you first started working for your current employer, the clutter you now face every day was not required for a job well done. Am I right? So there is no reason why you can’t get back to the basics of a more minimalist work station today. Don’t worry, your family photo can stay where it is.

1. Identify the Essentials

A great place to start is identifying what items you need to perform your job. We’re getting back to basics, here. Determine what your bare essentials are and then give each item a designated place where it is always within an arm’s reach.

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What should you do with the non-essentials you’ve had lying around? Toss them, file them, gift them, or return them to the appropriate person or place.

2. Establish a Filing System

Depending on the line of work involved, filing systems often vary from person to person. But there are some recommended basics to keep in mind when determining your method.

  • Separate “read” from “not read:” The papers you have already read should be placed in a separate folder or tray from the papers you have not read yet.
  • Categorization: Once you have read a document, categorize it appropriately. For some people this means color coding papers with post-it filing tabs to distinguish high importance items from standard, daily tasks. Others may prefer to file documents according to particular projects or clients. Choose the categorization method that makes the most sense for your job and—here’s the most important part—stick with it!

3. Minimize Noise

Has your office adopted an open floor plan? If so, you’re forced to work amidst disruptive noise. A study published by Cornell University reports that noise decreases productivity, increases stress and illness, and can lower job satisfaction.

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Your productivity also declines when listening to music, according to cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Levitin and a growing number of research studies on the subject. “In almost every case, your performance on intellectual tasks such as reading and writing suffers considerably when you listen to music,” explains Levitin.

What should you do? Since asking for your own office is probably out of the question, try investing in some noise canceling headphones and foregoing the music while you’re at work.

4. Prepare Your Work Area Ahead of Time

It only takes five or ten minutes to prepare your workspace for the following day. Set aside about ten minutes every evening before leaving the office to clear your desk of trash, clean mugs and other dishes, install necessary updates on your computer, and create a to-do list for the next day. These few minutes of organization will allow you to come into work each morning to a functional workspace that encourages productivity.

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5. De-clutter Your Computer Desktop

Not only do many office workers feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter on their physical desktop, they also get stressed by the state of their digital desktop. If you’re working in an office environment, chances are pretty good that you rely heavily on a computer to carry out your duties. So it’s important to keep this part of your workspace clean and functional.

Create a digital filing system that provides quick, easy access to all of your documents. Again, the structure of this system will depend on your preferences and job function, but there are some guidelines that will help you along.

  • Avoid putting everything in one folder: This pretty much says it all. Saving all your files in the same folder is like dumping all of your papers and office supplies into one desk drawer. What a mess!
  • Logical categorization is key: Try taking the same categorization method you chose for your paper filing system and applying it to your digital documents.
  • Don’t go overboard with subfolders: Subfolders are great. But be careful not to over-complicate your system with too many of them. When important files are four or five clicks away, your intricate storage system starts to be a time waster instead of a time saver.

A workspace and the items within it should facilitate productivity rather than hinder it. Implementing these five changes will have you well on your way to accomplishing more each time you sit down at your desk.

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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