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6 Tips on Designing the Perfect Remote Office

6 Tips on Designing the Perfect Remote Office

As we’ve said in the past, the future is in remote working. But the question remains: How can we create a home office environment that is both conducive to productivity and overall work satisfaction – a place that encourages us as professionals and human beings? Working from home is, in the end, a way of seeing your life wholly; everything is in one place, and sometimes it’s hard to keep all those ends from bleeding together or from spreading us too thin. We have a few tips to help you with that.

1. Incorporate nature

Today we spend most of our time indoors, surrounded by the soft glow of laptops with the dulcet tones of Pandora drifting around us. We don’t often venture outside, at least, not nearly as much as we used to, and that’s a shame. Research has shown that nature has a direct effect on a person’s sense of wellness. Sunlight, in particular, is beneficial. It releases serotonin, a delightful chemical that helps us to wake up in the morning when the sun rises, as well as acting as a deterrent for work dissatisfaction, inefficiency, and depression.

So what do you do?

Choose a workspace with lots of windows, for plenty of access to all that healthy sunshine. And if you want to really make that home office comfortable, you could choose a room with a good view. The elements of the natural world can help alleviate stress and increase performance level.

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2. Choose the right colors

Article after article has been written on the science of color, especially in conjunction with productivity, and everyone pretty much says the same thing: Stick with the blues and the greens, the cool colors that inspire serenity. But Angela Wright, an expert on color, had more to add.

Colors, she’s learned, have distinctive impacts on us. For instance, blue is good for the mind, yellows are for emotions, red stimulates the body, and greens promote balance. The colors you choose should encourage the kind of work you’ll be doing. Blue helps you think, but utilizing accents of red or orange with it will help keep you energized throughout the day. So view your office as a cohesive whole, not just one color but a few colors that complement each other and your needs.

3. Keep yourself healthy

There are several ways to keep your health in mind while working from home. Simple steps like avoiding snacking and taking your eyes off the computer screen to give them a rest are obvious, so we have two other less salient options for you.

Since you are no longer obligated to even get out of your PJs to work, you don’t have to commute. Use that extra 20 to 60 minutes to your advantage: you could catch up on much needed sleep or exercise, preferably outside. Remember outside, where the sun shines?

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Now for the part that will give you nightmares, the second option that you may have missed: stand up desks. “What?” you say with a laugh. “Stand up desks aren’t scary!” And you’re right. Stand up desks aren’t scary, but the reason you should use one is…(Cue the foreboding organ music.)

Studies have found that those who spend most of the day sitting are 54% more likely to die from a heart attack. The results are the same for smokers and non-smokers, those who exercise regularly and those who don’t. Yep. Your chair is killing you. Have fun trying to sleep tonight!

Stand up desks are a remedy for such a chilling statistic, and while you may not want to fork over the cash for one or build one like Bob Vila, we still recommend getting off your butt often. Taking a break every half-hour to stretch and walk about for a bit and standing while making phone calls are both good alternatives. Working on your feet burns 60 more calories per hour than sitting, improves circulation, relieves your back and your backside, and straightens your posture, and who doesn’t want that?

4. Stay up to date and celebrate your progress

Solid contact through team updates is extremely important. Research suggests loneliness can have major effects on the brain, which can lead to depression and the deterioration of your overall health. One way to mitigate this risk is by feeling connected through reminders of who’s doing what. At Sqwiggle, we use lots of tools, but the best tool for great asynchronous updates is a simple yet powerful tool called iDoneThis.

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This awesome tool sends a daily digest of everything that’s been accomplished during the day to everyone on your team! Tools like this are an important part of staying connected with the people you work with.

5. Minimize distractions

It’s difficult to keep yourself focused on work when you’re all alone at home and endless cat videos on YouTube are just a click away, but nothing makes it harder to be pleased with your job than feeling unproductive, so avoiding diversions is key.

Coming up with a routine that suits you is a simple solution. We love the liberty of working from home, but the majority of us need structure or we’ll become ineffectual.

If you have children or roommates and have a hard time keeping them out of your area you could lock them out or make a sign to alert them to your need for privacy.

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Establishing that your work space is only for work is also important, not only in keeping curious little hands away from important paperwork, but also for keeping you in the right frame of mind while you’re working. Using that space for other activities transforms it into the room where you waste your life eating cheese puffs and playing World of Warcraft, so don’t hang out in your office, don’t eat meals there, and close the door when you leave.

6. Find a balance

Working from home has a way of encroaching on the rest of our lives. Your work isn’t merely ‘following you home’. Your work has moved in and is crashing on your couch eating Frosted Flakes out of the box, and it’s important for your sanity and that of your family – if they live with you – to fix boundaries.

Set time aside to do non-work related activities, and know when to quit working. Life is more than deadlines, and devoting time to the people we love reminds us of that.

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Published on October 8, 2019

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

1. Define What Success Is for You

There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

7. Pick Up Some New Skills

Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

9. Make Yourself Indispensable

Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

10. Get Off the Fence

People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

18. Join a Professional Organization

The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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