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6 Tips on Designing the Perfect Remote Office

6 Tips on Designing the Perfect Remote Office
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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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6 Tips on Designing the Perfect Remote Office

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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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