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Greening Your Home Office

Greening Your Home Office
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    When you work in an office building — even if you’re just a member of the cubicle farm — someone else is usually in charge of handling environmental details. You may be asked to switch off your computer before you leave for the evening or to throw paper into a separate trash receptacle, but that’s likely to be the extent of your responsibilities. But when you’re in your home office, the decision to have a greener office is up to you rather than some manager in the sky.

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    Plenty of us choose to ignore those little opportunities to make our home offices greener, even if we work entirely from home. There are other incentives, however: a green office is often cheaper to run. I’ve listed out a few tips for several areas of greening your office — most of which I’ve tried out. The exceptions are in the ‘Extreme Green’ category. Don’t limit yourself to my suggestions, though. There are many options for greening your office: you just have to find the right ones for you.

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    Power

    My local electric company basically doubled their rates in the last year, and I use plenty of power in my home office. When I started investigating options to make my electricity bill a bit cheaper, just about everything I ran across was an option to make my office more environmentally friendly. Most options, of course, didn’t bring down the bill by a huge amount, but they did stack up to a respectable savings.

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    • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Bonus: these bulbs last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs, making them cheaper over time.
    • Turn down the heater during the day. I’m a big fan of wearing a sweater, rather than running the heater full blast. I also keep the office chilly enough that I’m encouraged to get up and move around regularly — which can help with a few health issues.
    • Dump the CRT monitor. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a flat panel monitor, here it is: LCDs use less power and are better for the environment.
    • Limit peripherals. I’ve got the whole range: scanner, fax machine, two printers. But I’ve divvied them up between a few power strips, and if I don’t need them at the moment, I turn off the entire power strip.

    Trash

    Even though I limit the amount of paperwork I print out, I still wind up with an incredible amount of trash all the time. It goes far beyond paper, of course, but that seems to be the largest source of trash.

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    • Shred paper. I shred everything, from old business documents to random junk mail — the more stuff you shred, the safer your important information will be. I don’t recycle a significant portion of my shredded papers: I use them as packing material whenever I need to mail something out.
    • Use reusable cups. Most people tend to have a drink of some sort sitting next to their computer. Rather than buying individual servings of juice or soda, though, consider a larger bottle and a cup. I go for the kind with a lid, but then again, I’m known for accidentally knocking over my drinks.
    • Digitize your paperwork. I’ve worked with people who print off every email they receive. They read their email on paper and then, usually, wind up throwing it away. I try to avoid printing off anything that I don’t absolutely need in print (contracts and such being things worth printing off).

    Travel

    Even for those of us who work entirely at home, there are plenty of times that we must leave our home offices: errands, meetings, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to make our travel both greener and easier.

    • Stay out of the commute. For many of us, the greatest perk of working at home is staying out of the commuter traffic. But we lose that opportunity any time we schedule a meeting first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.
    • Batch errands together. I try to run all my errands in one go — I save time, gas and the environment all at once.
    • Explore alternate means of transport. Bikes, feet, public transport, car pools, pogo sticks: there are plenty of options for getting out of your office, and odds are you might have a little more leeway on time, as well.

    Extreme Green

    If you’re serious about operating a green home office — and by extension, a home — there are some hardcore options to make your entire building more environmentally friendly. If you’re living in an apartment or rental, I would recommend thoroughly discussing these ideas with your landlord before implementing any of them. I am not necessary advocating going this far — I know I’m not hardcore enough to handle these sorts of options, at least at this point — but there are further options out there.

    • Go solar. One of the easiest ways to use less power from your local electric company in an existing building is to put solar panels up. It can be an expensive investment, though.
    • Implement water saving technology. Greywater recycling, low-flow toilets and other options can sometimes be added to existing buildings, but are much easier to add if you’re building from scratch.
    • Buy a hybrid vehicle, or make your own. Everyone knows about the Prius and other hybrid cars, but there seems to be fewer people interested in converting their diesel vehicles to run on biodiesel or other fuels, perhaps because it takes a significant amount of work.

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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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