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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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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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