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6 Brilliant Brain Hacks for the Remote Worker

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What was once a niche work lifestyle has become commonplace. Millions of Americans now work remotely – and millions more are ready to join in. While remote working offers many benefits, it also has its own distinct challenges that must be worked through. Understanding how to power through friction and optimize productivity for better output is the goal. Here are six brilliant brain hacks for the remote worker.

Do you know where to start? Here is a practical guide to on-boarding remote engineers from a topmost expert. Consider these 6 brilliant brain hacks for the remote worker.

The Upward Climb on Remote Working

If you work from home, you used to be the anomaly. Today, you’re in good company. Pretty soon, you’ll be part of the majority.

According to Global Workplace Analytics and Quarterly Global, the leader in PR, marketing and advertising, the number of individuals working from home has grown by 173 percent since 2005.

Overall, 4.7 million employees (roughly 3.4 percent of the overall workforce) work from home at least half the time.

Approximately 40 percent of American employers offer more flexible workplace options today than they did five years ago. But with 80 to 90 percent of the U.S. workforce saying they’d prefer to work outside the office at least some of the time, this number is expected to rise in the coming years.

As remote working becomes more commonplace, so will the need for better remote working strategies.

The Top Remote Working Challenges

Remote working is highly appealing and advantageous for freelancers, employees, and employers alike. But it’s not a perfect setup. There are plenty of challenges, including:

Blurred lines

Everyone wants to talk about tearing barriers between work and personal life, but too much overlap can equally problematic. One of the keys to maintaining optimal work-life balance is being able to separate the two. When you work out of the house, it’s challenging to carve out a meaningful division between each area. This can make you less effective in both aspects of your life.

Distractions

Have you ever tried to work from home when you have a house full of rambunctious children? Or what about participating in a conference call in the middle of a loud coffee shop? Wherever you’re working, distractions abound.

Procrastination

Whether you’re an employee or freelancer, your remote working status typically comes with greater freedom in how you manage your time. If you aren’t careful, procrastination can get the best of you. Over time, it may even become habitual.

Inconsistency

When working in an office, there’s something to be said for the predictability. You basically know what to expect. Your desk is in the same place, you see the same people, and you go through the same basic routines. Remote workers rarely have the luxury of consistency. This makes it hard to get in a state of flow.

Communication

We may have more communication methods than ever before, but there’s still nothing that can fully replicate being face-to-face in the same physical space. For remote workers, trying to communicate via a combination of phone, email, SMS, and video chat creates an extra layer of friction.

Isolation

Finally, remote working often gives rise to feelings of isolation – particularly in people with extroverted personalities. This can lead to boredom, pessimism, and a lack of drive. It can even have serious side effects, like anxiety or depression.

Most people ignore these challenges, and the results show. But if you’re someone who wants to increase productivity and maximize output, you need a better strategy.

You need to find what works.

And once you discover what works, you need to bottle it up and use it to your advantage.

Powerful Brain Hacks for Better Results

Brain hacking.

It sounds like a buzzword – and it kind of is. But that doesn’t make it any less valid.

Our brains are constantly being shaped by events, experiences, external stimuli, and other environmental factors. And as weird as it may sound, the human brain is subject to regular physical and cognitive changes.

The neuroplasticity concept says that the brain, like muscles in the body, becomes weaker or stronger over time. It’s continuously changing and rewiring. Over time, targeted techniques and purposeful strategies can morph into automatic habits and processes.

These targeted techniques and strategies are brain hacking. And it’s something that every remote worker can do to overcome the aforementioned challenges and optimize productivity and output.

Here are some brain hacks you may find helpful:

  1. Try Intermittent Fasting for Better Focus

Intermittent fasting is a biohacking concept that involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating. There are various techniques, but the most common is to eat all of your meals in one eight-hour window. In other words, you’re fasting for 16 hours every day.

If you’re someone who loves food, this probably sounds impossible.

However, it’s not nearly as difficult as it initially seems.

It basically means you eat your first meal at 11 a.m. and your last meal at 7 p.m. (or whatever variation works for you).

Aside from the fat loss and metabolism benefits, intermittent fasting actually helps with focus. The consolidated intake of food prevents wasted energy from digesting food. Instead, you’re able to allocate those energy reserves to concentrate on work-related tasks.

On a related note, be mindful of what you eat.

While health professionals have spent years telling people to avoid fat, the truth is that you need healthy fats to maximize cognitive functioning.

Why?

It’s pretty simple: The human brain is 60 percent fat.

When you eat, try incorporating items like eggs, avocados, nuts, salmon, trout, and coconut oil into your meals.

  1. Eliminate Digital Media from Your Morning Routine

Bing! Bing! Bing!

Your morning alarm goes off.

You slap the snooze button. Once. Twice. Three times.

Once you finally come to your senses, you grab your phone, pull up Instagram, and start scrolling.

Then you get out of bed, walk downstairs, and turn on the news.

While watching the news, you reply to a couple of late-night texts that came in while you were sleeping.

Over breakfast, you check your email.

It’s not even 8 a.m., and you’ve consumed more digital media than your brain can process. You’ve also unintentionally heightened your stress level, stifled your creativity, and destroyed your focus.

When you start your day with digital media, you’re actually beginning your morning playing catch-up on what happened yesterday. You’re also letting other people dictate how you feel. You haven’t even started working, and stress, worry, and discontentment become the resounding feelings of the day.

Try taking a digital fast for the first two to three hours each day.

In a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia, 124 individuals were asked to check their email frequently for one week. The next week, they were told only to check their email three times per day (and to disable all notifications).

The data was analyzed against the time spent viewing email, and participants reported feeling significantly lower stress levels and higher feelings of positivity when email exposure was limited.

Once you cut back on exposure to email, social media, news, and other digital media forms, you’ll start to feel the positive effects.

While everyone can benefit from less digital media exposure, it’s especially helpful for remote workers close to digital distractions like the TV, video game systems, and personal smart devices.

  1. Leverage the Pomodoro Technique for Better Scheduling

Americans have a love affair with multitasking. We wear our ability to juggle responsibilities like a badge of honor.

But research shows that multitasking actually suppresses productivity. And if you work from home, where personal distractions are omnipresent, it can severely limit your output.

Enter the Pomodoro Technique – a revolutionary brain hacking method that remote workers have been using for years to increase focus and productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique consists of breaking your workday into 25-minute sections of work separated by five-minute breaks. Each one of these half-hour chunks is referred to as a Pomodoro. Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros, you take an extended break of 15 to 20 minutes.

These 15- to 20-minute breaks can be used for remote workers to do tasks around the house – such as folding laundry, fixing lunch, or taking a shower. This allows you to be productive with work while also taking full advantage of the fact that you’re home.

  1. Use Parkinson’s Law to Avoid Procrastination

In a satirical piece written for the Economist in 1955, British naval historian Cyril Parkinson made the following statement:

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.�

He would later write a book that fleshed out this idea. Eventually, people would refer to this concept as Parkinson’s Law.

In a remote work setting, Parkinson’s Law states that the time it takes to complete a work project depends on how much time you allot for it. In other words, if you give yourself eight hours, you’ll slow down and make it take eight hours. If, however, you only give yourself five yours, you’ll block out distractions and get it done in five hours.

If you’ve grown weary of procrastination and hope to finish your work faster and more efficiently, you need to set tighter deadlines.

Instead of telling a client, you’ll have the project done by next Friday, tell them you’ll have it in by next Tuesday. By tightening the time constraints, you force yourself to work more efficiently.

  1. Optimize Your Home Office for Productivity

One of the major challenges of working from home is that you’re forced to create a professional workspace in the middle of a very personal place.

But this is also one of the distinct advantages.

You have the capacity to design your own workspace – so why not optimize your at-home workspace in a way that puts your brain in the right frame of mind to be productive?

For starters, choose a room in the house that’s as far away from communal living areas as possible. In other words, being located right off the living room isn’t ideal. You’re much better off positioning a home office in the back corner of the house.

Secondly, you need natural light. It plays a catalytic role in brain performance, creativity, and focus.

Thirdly, paint your office walls a soothing color. The principles of color psychology suggest cool greens, blues, or neutrals. Avoid colors like red and orange, which provoke feelings of urgency.

Finally, eliminate distractions by avoiding clutter. While some creative minds thrive in messy environments, the vast majority of people wilt. Clutter zaps up energy and makes it hard to focus on the task at hand. By adopting a minimalist environment, you can get more done with less effort.

  1. Keep a Schedule

The human brain thrives on predictability. Remote working is far less predictable than working in an office where you’re expected to show up, take lunch, and go home at the same time each day.

If you want to give your brain a solid framework to latch onto, a consistent schedule is necessary.

Start your day by having your alarm go off at the same time every single morning.

After waking, implement a consistent routine that helps you transition from personal duties to professional responsibilities.

Start working each day simultaneously and use a couple of familiar tasks to help your brain slip into the right frame of mind.

Taking lunch at the same time is also advisable – particularly if you’re leveraging intermittent fasting.

The hardest part for most remote workers is “clocking out� at a consistent time. It’s easy to continue working and filling time until late in the evening. To prevent this from happening, try scheduling obligations in the evening. This makes it less likely that you’ll keep working.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Not all of these brain hacks and strategies will appeal to you. It’s all about finding your best approach and leveraging whatever it is that helps you achieve a state of flow.

What works for you?

How can you set yourself up for max productivity?

Your approach will differ from the next person’s – so don’t try to mimic or replicate what others are doing. Instead, become like a scientist in the laboratory. Mix, match, and blend proprietary formulas until you discover a brain hacking system that puts you on a path for success.

Image Credit: David Cassolato; Pexels

The post 6 Brilliant Brain Hacks for the Remote Worker appeared first on ReadWrite.

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employee engagement employee engagement strategies employee productivity Productivity tips to boost employee engagement

Boost Employee Engagement in the Era of Digitization

boost employee engagement

Employee engagement lays down the foundation for the success or the downfall of any organization and is something that most managements tend to struggle with. This is very well demonstrated by the results of a study carried out by Gallup on employees across 142 countries. Here’s how to boost employee engagement in the era of digitization.

According to Gallup’s report, only 13% of the employees were engaged in their jobs, which explains why only a few organizations succeed while most struggle to survive the competition. 

In order to thrive in today’s highly competitive market, it is critical for businesses to improve employee engagement. This can only happen when one has absolute clarity on what employee engagement is all about, so let’s begin with that.

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement refers to the qualitative and quantitative relationship between the employee, the employer or leadership, and the organization that they work for. The engagement is determined by evaluating the employees’ commitment, loyalty, trust, and contribution to the organization and its success. 

Sadly though, most managers confuse employee engagement with employee workplace satisfaction.

Confusing engagement and satisfaction cannot be farther from the truth. In fact, employee engagement is something like the feeling of patriotism that a person has towards one’s country or the fraternity that one feels towards one’s countrymen. Unless employees feel that way towards the organization they work for and their colleagues, they may not put in their whole and soul into their work.

You are probably wondering how you can gauge employee engagement, which is indeed a complex study but also the starting point to boost employee engagement. That’s because you need to know where you stand in order to set higher standards.

According to experts, some of the most effective ways of measuring are through pulse surveys, one-on-one sessions, and employee retention or exit interviews. The purpose of studying this is to ensure that employees feel excited about going to work, take pride in it, and give their hundred percent while at work. This is only possible when employees feel one with the company, and that requires creating an employee-friendly workplace. Also, it is based on the belief that an organization can thrive only when employees are happy about what they are doing.

How to Boost Employee Engagement?

Now that you know what employee engagement is and how it can impact an organization, you are probably worried about where to start and how much it would cost. The good news is that you don’t need to have a very high budget to make some organizational changes, which we will soon discuss. Nevertheless, if an organization can afford it, then it must dedicate some of its funds towards employee welfare, but we’ll discuss that in a while.

When it comes to boosting employee engagement, the only way to start on the right foot is by knowing where you stand. You can do that by measuring employee engagement and employee productivity at your workplace. Once you know that, then you need to plan and implement strategies accordingly. 

Also, it is essential that you measure both employee engagement and productivity before and after employing each of the below-listed techniques. As we have already discussed, employee engagement can be measured through pulse surveys, employee retention, and exit interviews, etc…

Coming to employee productivity, you can easily measure it using tools like EmpMonitor, a simple and easy-to-use employee productivity tracking software. This repeated relational study between employee engagement and productivity will tell you exactly what’s working for you and what isn’t. 

With that said, let us now explore some cost-effective methods to boost employee engagement. Before we begin, it is worth mentioning that the ground-rules remain the same for both full-time and remote employees. So, if the COVID-19 has led to a decline in employee engagement because your team is working remotely, then you can still use these methods to improve employee engagement. Likewise, if your organization hires contract-based or remote employees, even then you should be able to benefit from the below-listed strategies.

Communication with the Management

Do your employees know your company’s mission and vision? Or are those mere statements listed on your company’s website? If you have the right communication strategy in place, then the answer is likely to be in affirmative. Else, the chances of employees being aware of and identifying with the company’s vision and mission are quite slim. 

If employees are unaware of an organization’s corporate philosophy, then expecting them to contribute towards its growth is absurd. So, ask yourself if there is adequate communication between the top management and the employees. If not, then make it a point to conduct monthly town hall sessions instead of quarterly or yearly sessions.

Also, create a corporate culture that encourages an open-door policy so that every subordinate has access to his or her immediate manager. Larger organizations have higher bureaucracy but can still ensure that by laying down HR escalation procedures, just in case a manager refuses to address the subordinate’s needs and concerns. 

Another way of doing this is by making it mandatory for mid-level managers to conduct weekly team meetings and record minutes of the meetings. Something that is accessible to all the team members, the HRs, and the concerned VPs. This can be done by recording the minutes on a shared folder and by providing the necessary access to the concerned persons. Since everyone involved has access to it — there is absolute clarity and transparency.

Provide an Enabling Infrastructure

Your employees have different job roles that require them to work differently, which explains why they might need access to different tools and resources. For instance, your public relations team may require access to a social media scheduler while your finance team may require approval to attend a corporate taxation summit.

Likewise, your marketing team may require approvals to participate in events or exhibitions, which could help them generate more revenues for your business. Getting these approvals is seldom quick and easy unless an employee has direct access to the top management.

As a result, getting access to process-specific tools and resources can be a nightmare, especially in larger organizations due to internal bureaucracy. That can have a direct impact on employee engagement and productivity because if an organization does not enable an employee to perform better, then the employee is left with very little motivation to perform. 

So, organizations must find ways to overcome this impediment, and one way of doing that is by simplifying the approval process for tools and resources that are essential for an employee to fulfill an organization’s expectations.

Create the right environment

Once you provide your employees with the right tools and resources, your next big challenge is to create the right work environment in which your employees can thrive, and the organization can flourish. This requires you to design a management style that ensures absolute transparency and trust between an employee and the employee’s immediate manager.

Every employee in the organization must know what is expected from them and with absolute clarity. There must be no room for ambiguity or confusion in this regard. Also, the employee must be made aware of his shortcomings in a subtle and cultured manner. That is only possible when there is data-based constructive criticism — something that can only happen when you use a robust employee tracking and monitoring system.

Make your employees feel valued

Now that you have the data and are aware of who is the most productive and who is whiling away time on social media and YouTube, then it’s time to make some decisions. No! it’s not about firing people but rather realizing the need to reward the top performers. You do not have to spend a fortune rewarding them with huge bonuses if that’s what you were thinking. 

Even small gestures like a gift coupon and a mention in the top-performers list (in the company’s newsletter or portal) can go a long way in boosting employee engagement. The goal here is to make your top-performers feel more valued and also to create a competitive atmosphere for the rest. Doing the same on special occasions like an employee’s birthday or wedding can make your employees feel special and help boost employee engagement.

Invest in your employees

Are you investing in your biggest asset — your employees? Companies that do not invest in expanding the skill set of their employees fail to earn their trust and loyalty. Depending on the nature of your industry and an employee’s job description, there is a sheer need to learn and master new tools and skills. 

In the case of software, it could be a new programming language or a software tool that’s recently released. Likewise, for those involved in legal or finance professions, ongoing learning is essential. So, you need to invest in your employees on a regular basis.

Companies that neglect spending on improving the skill set of their employees tend to risk incurring higher overheads by forcing employees to spend several hours on redundant tasks. Also, they gradually lose the trust of their employees, and that lowers employee engagement. 

On the other hand, companies that encourage employees to expand and enhance their skills tend to perform better. That’s because their employees are in a position to use their newly acquired skills to do things differently, and often in a more cost-effective manner. Moreover, such companies eliminate the need to hire new talent with a specific skill set, which helps to lower overheads.

Remain Flexible

You don’t have to be hell-bent on having employees working in-house and on specific hours unless the nature of their job requires it. There are going to be times when your employees may want to work from home and allowing them that sort of flexibility not only boosts employee engagement but also helps lower the attrition rate. 

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to make the transition into the remote work culture, and organizations that have remained flexible in this regard have found it easier to adapt.

After-Office Socialization

Team outings are a must as they help employees unwind and bond in an informal environment. That is essential to increase the team’s comfort level and also to boost employee engagement.

So, make it a point to organize frequent after-work dinners or get-togethers. Companies can sponsor a weekly or monthly outing from the team’s budget, depending on their internal policies. Sponsoring such outings is very important because it instills a sense of gratitude and helps boost employee engagement.

Final Takeaway

Any management can boost employee engagement with some minor organizational changes and stay ahead of its competition. However, these changes must be made after meticulous planning and through staged implementation.

The above-mentioned strategies are some of the most effective ways to improve employee engagement in a cost-effective manner.

However, the only way to know which ones work for your organization is by implementing them one at a time and monitoring its impact on employee productivity.

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