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5 Simple Ways to Create a More Productive Workspace

5 Simple Ways to Create a More Productive Workspace

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 September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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