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Employee Scheduling Trends that Deserve to Continue Even After the Pandemic

trends to continue after pandemic

It’s been a long time since you could assume that the majority of your team is at it from 9 to 5. The “global village� means that work doesn’t end when the sun sets or markets close in your time zone, and the rise of flexible working patterns made it even more complex to coordinate employee schedules.

The best employee scheduling strategies consider employee preferences as well as employer needs and consumer demands, but the enormous number of moving parts – operational needs, budget, regulations and compliance – can make it all very difficult to manage.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation in many industries. Employees who are high risk may be unable to work, or can only take shifts with little contact with the public or when only a skeleton staff is present. Workers grappling with unpredictable childcare needs and unreliable transport can cause even more last-minute changes than usual.

Scheduling conflicts can cause bad feeling in a company, but it doesn’t have to be that way. New advances in tech and better communication between employees and managers help enterprises get employee scheduling right, which improves employee experience and in turn pushes up employee retention and satisfaction.

The exigencies of COVID-19 pushed new trends in employee scheduling, which may be worth continuing even when the pandemic fades into memory. Here are a few scheduling trends from 2020 that are worthy of sticking around.

Scheduling is becoming more flexible

Scheduling that is more flexible is also more complex, but flexibility is crucial for a happy, motivated workforce under pandemic conditions. Employees with more flexible scheduling arrangements report higher wellbeing, more engagement, and more effectiveness at work than those stuck in inflexible scheduling.

For example, mothers working remotely with flexible, efficient schedules that match their availability are three times more likely to have positive wellbeing than those with inflexible, inefficient scheduling.

Although employees may be coping, everyone has their own challenges. “In driving new mindsets and behaviors (such as adapting to a new virtual-working model) at scale, it’s important to engage employees in a continual two-way dialogue that takes into consideration their specific needs, allows them to configure their own journeys,� says Jonathan Emmett, associate partner at McKinsey. Even people who love their jobs need accommodation for whatever else is going on in their lives.

Self-scheduling software invites employees to choose their own shifts, make last-minute changes, book vacation days, and check their schedules independently and remotely. This helps employees to feel more in control, which is especially important during such unstable and uncertain times, increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

AI is bringing intelligence to scheduling

AI is stepping into many more HR use cases. Now managers can use AI tools to predict changes in consumer demand, and plan ahead to meet altering workforce needs.

For example, surging customer numbers in the winter holiday shopping season can require more retail assistants; a sunny day could tempt more diners to a cafe in the park, needing the addition of more waiters; rolling out a new product version might prompt you to increase customer service agents to answer user questions, etc.

With AI and machine learning, HR teams can analyze employee strengths and weaknesses to understand which employees work best together. With these insights, you can construct the strongest possible on-schedule teams for every situation and place the right person on duty at the right time.

Employees expect remote and mobile scheduling

Managing employee scheduling manually, even with an Excel spreadsheet, has long been a joke, but today, employees and HR managers simply can’t live without remote and mobile access to cloud-based scheduling tools that sync automatically to allow use anywhere.

The COVID-19-driven shift to WFH only underlined the importance of cloud-based systems for scheduling. We live our lives on our phones, from ordering dinner to taking out a mortgage, so it’s understandable to assume that scheduling software would include a mobile app.

“You want to make it easy for your staff to access their schedules from anywhere. This isn’t possible with desktop software,� writes tech expert Neil Patel in his scheduling tool drill-down. Beyond mobile-friendliness, he continues, “The best tools will also have shift swapping, employee self-service tools, HR features, labor cost management, leave management, attendance tracking, team messaging, overtime control, time clocks, etc.�

In today’s dynamic work environments, HR needs the ability to respond to scheduling changes on the fly, ensuring that they don’t cause your entire month-long schedule to fall apart, and requesting that someone else to step in without breaking your own rules or creating a sense of injustice among your workforce.

Employers are upping the ante in communication

Employee scheduling flows more smoothly with excellent communication that increases trust relationships, creating a virtuous circle where efficient scheduling itself raises trust.

Employee trust is high at the moment, with “my employer� as the most trusted institution and 73% of workers agreeing they trust businesses to protect them by adapting scheduling and sick-leave policies as necessary. But you can’t take this for granted.

Employers need to keep up and even improve employee communications. “Given the present state of low trust, business will have to fill a further void, that of credible information,� says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Holdings. “For CCOs, it is time for you to initiate regular briefings for employees by your chief scientist or medical officer, to provide trustworthy content that can be shared with employee families or community.�

Enterprises should continue communicating around scheduling, asking how employee needs may have changed (e.g. working parents may prefer a night shift now) and accommodating them as much as possible.

Encourage employees to share their concerns; create more channels for communication between employees and managers and among employees themselves; and open up the conversation around mental health and anxiety, to reinforce trust and improve your understanding of factors that may influence scheduling.

Not all scheduling changes prompted by COVID-19 should fade away

Employee scheduling has never been easy, and with more moving parts, increasing globalization, and the new stresses of COVID-19, it’s only gotten more complex. But necessity is the mother of invention, and so we’ve seen new tech and trends emerge of using AI for intelligent scheduling, supporting scheduling on the hoof, enabling flexible scheduling, and building communication into schedule planning.

Holding onto these new best practices after the crisis of coronavirus has passed can make companies stronger and more resilient in the long term.

Image Credit: depositphotos _19

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The Rise of Remote Work and How to Assess Growth and Development

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COVID-19 has accelerated the rate of remote work adoption globally, but what have we found out? We have discovered that remote work is not bad, after all.

In the past, many companies have been wary about transitioning to telecommuting, even when most of their office operations do not require the physical presence of employees. The main fears expressed by leaders include a possible decline in employee productivity and a lack of clarity about the measurement of employee performance.

The performance of individual employees determines the trajectory of the company. Without reliable methods to assess its employees’ work, it is difficult for any organization to achieve growth and development.

This article addresses the concerns of managers who are hesitant about remote work and those who have already implemented remote work but have trouble with tracking performance for workplace productivity and office growth.

Set Clear Objectives and KPIs to Assess Growth

How do you know if your employees are getting stuff done? The inevitable first step is to define what it means to get stuff down. In business lingua, that means to establish work objectives and set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Effective KPIs are aligned with the company’s overall goals and must contribute to the company’s growth and development.

Communicating to employees the metrics by which their performance will be assessed helps them to understand their priorities. Clear expectations, keep employees focused.

Acknowledge Unquantifiable Performance Indicators

In setting KPIs, though, you need to acknowledge that numbers don’t tell the full story. Not to suggest that you should discount the importance of numbers, but you should also be cognizant of the Key Intangible Performance Indicators. Admittedly, working remotely can compound the vagueness of such indicators — leading employees to feel their efforts are not recognized enough.

Some aspects are just not quantifiable, such as leadership, creativity, innovation, organization, and engagement. There are quantifiable indicators that may make us understand employee engagement and organization, but the subjects themselves are indefinite.

Until new ways and means of measuring these intangibles are discovered — company leadership should acknowledge that Key Intangible Performance Indicators exist, and look for ways to recognize employees who go above and beyond.

Support Employee Development

Assessments should be more supportive than they are judgmental. Employees appreciate frequent check-ins when the aim is to keep them on their toes and support them through difficulties. However, the manager that goes around constantly pointing out his team members’ flaws (without thoughtfully helping them overcome their challenges) is only seen as grumpy.

The rules also apply in remote work, where managers (out of fear of losing control) begin acting intrusively by implementing extreme corporate surveillance. Tracking and assessment are not the ends themselves; the goal of tracking employee performance should be to improve team productivity. In essence, remote work management and performance should usher us into a new era of trust, more autonomy, accountability, and team collaboration.

“Nowadays, it is not enough to equip teams with new digital tools for remote collaboration, which many rapidly did when the pandemic began. It’s only the first step,� says Maxime Bouroumeau-Fuseau, co-founder and CTO of Paris-based Digicoop, a worker cooperative behind the work management platform Kantree. “The changing workplace calls for an environment where employees are empowered to take control of their work.

In our experience as a co-op, when employees are given more autonomy and when micromanagement is replaced by collaboration, teams deliver better results while individual employees feel more invested in their work.�

Allow Autonomy

Many people choose to work remotely because they want to feel a greater sense of ownership of their time and schedules. Therefore, even though time tracking is important for many remote teams, it goes without saying that hourly input is not always a good measure of performance.

The true measure of performance is the work outcome. Remote work allows employees to choose their own work hours; what does it matter if an employee works less per hour but still meets targets consistently? Researchers have shown that autonomy increases productivity.

Use the Right Tools and Analytics for KPIs

With physical offices out of the picture, it is the tools that a remote team uses that define the structure of work and operations. There are tools that keep employees accountable and provide actionable insights into how work gets done in the organization.

The rise of remote work has promoted the importance of analytics of everyday work data to ensure that employees are more productive.

The insights gained help team leaders and the management to understand if the organization is meeting set targets of performance and productivity and determine the rate of growth and development. Tools such as Trello, Kantree, Jira, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc., are useful for assessing work progression.

Establish a Culture of Accountability

Note, though, that tools are only as effective as the culture in which they are situated. Your team might be using the best tools, but poor communication can derail employees from the main goals of the company.

When there are issues with employee performance, you must be able to recognize if there is a problem with the tools being used or with the management. Accountability should not only be down-up; it should be top-down too. Managers should be accountable to their subordinates and transparent about office dealings.

Conclusion

Going by statistics, remote work actually improves employee productivity and performance. This, in turn, leads to the overall growth of the company. However, this growth must be intentional. Organizations should implement proper (and flexible) assessment models to know when their work is really progressing and when there are problems that must be solved.

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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

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HR Automation – The Way to Ensure Stable Business Growth

automate HR

We are living in the age of technology and innovation. Traditional processes and workflows have become outdated. Operations and process models are being reinvented to increase cost-effectiveness. However, not all businesses are adapting to the revolutionized business process, which results in increased costs, a lack of efficiency, and halted growth. Outdated processes end up damaging your business and cause loss of customers.

First and foremost, you need to consider which processes add value to the foundation of your business. To your employees. Businesses often focus on acquiring and retaining clients and customers, all the while neglecting HR processes. This works well initially, but as organizations grow, problems due to lack of process start piling up.

HR management is one of the key pillars of any business.HR processes ensure the recruitment of new employees, training professionals, and ensuring compliance with local labor laws.

Today automation is becoming part of a continuous transformation of HR processes. The main task is to release department employees from routine work, digitize the paper processes, and leave more time for planning and strategy. Thus, business reduces costs and time spent on previously inefficient HR processes.

By automating human resources management, organizations can quickly design, optimize, integrate, and implement the required services at a significantly lower cost. With the right implementation, HR automation can bring indispensable perks.

Just check out some benefits of HR automation:

  • Increased productivity through rapid data processing and sharing
  • Reduction of staff turnover due to increased employee involvement
  • Reduced storage and printing costs associated with paper processing
  • Stay away from the risk of non-compliance or policy violations.
  • Increase organizational growth through effective recruitment at optimal operating costs

It is necessary to identify the most vulnerable spots in the HR workflow accurately to reach these benefits. Typically, the most critical aspects are:

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1. Onboarding

Integrating an employee into all work processes is still one of the most “manualâ€� HR processes. It includes verification, providing access to new employees’ tools, raising requests for devices, and much more. Due to the software, even such processes may be automated.

The onboarding software for employees offers a simple checklist to which all users involved in the process can refer. In a few hours, the new employee will have access to corporate standards, all the essential documents will be delivered just in time to the mail, and maintenance specialists will equip his workspace remotely.

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2. Time Tracking and Vacation requests

In short, manual time tracking is ineffective. Time tracking software automatically marks when an employee is in and out of work, allowing the manager to track how many hours an employee has spent on a particular task and evaluate its effectiveness. HR processes become more organized, rapid, and efficient.

Vacation approval documents are the headache of any HR manager. Preparing financial documents, coordinating with supervisors, and calculating salaries manually slows down the process. With the automated leave management process, all this can be done automatically, without getting stuck in someone’s mailbox.

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3. Assessment

Assessment is a permanent HR process that monitors, measures, and analyzes an employee’s performance concerning business goals. The software allows ensuring repeatable quality and increasing professionalism of each employee in the long perspective.

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4. Exit interviews

Exit interviews play an important role in increasing staff involvement. However, exit interviews conducted on paper and manually are tedious, time-consuming, and inefficient. By automating the Exit interview process, enterprises can recognize potential problems and derive data that can be used to improve retention rates.

The most crucial issue is what spot of HR activity should be transformed into your company and how? What software requirements should be adjusted specially to your business needs and company growth opportunities?

It is even more complicated to take actions to digitize each area of HR activity without unnecessary spinning for both department personnel and employees of the whole company.

However, if you expect us to tell you how to automate your HR department in a few clicks, we have to disappoint you. We do not possess a universal solution for automating your HR processes. Each business is unique.

To create the right software, a digital transformation consultant needs to be part of your business. We are ready to be involved in the process. Due to the fact that only the right software gives the right result.

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Lessons I Learned from Becoming a Full-Time Blogger

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I can still remember how excited I was to start a blog. The rush of adrenaline was unmatched. I was looking forward to sharing all my knowledge with the public. Although I have been in the marketing scene for a while, I didn’t start blogging until a few years ago. Blogging was born out of my passion for SEO, which is my niche, and to share all that I know and learn along the way with consumers through writing.

I started a blog called SEO sandwitch (dotcom) SEOsandwitch in 2012 and it’s still up and running in 2020, eight years going strong, now that’s a very long time on the internet. My blog has been named one of the top SEO blogs by several blogging authorities, and I have also been personally named one of the top digital marketing authors.

Since blogs are created daily, there are more than 600 million blogs, and many people want to blog full time. The number of bloggers in the USA is expected to grow to 31.7 million in 2020. I decided to share my personal insights from my experience as a full-time blogger.

Here are 8 lessons I learned from becoming a full-time blogger.

  1. Be passionate About Your Niche.

I didn’t start this blog because it will fetch me boatloads of money to travel around the world. Of course, that will be nice, but if I wouldn’t have come this far, that was my sole reason.

I started the SEOsandwitch blog because I am passionate about sharing my knowledge on SEO and helping people who are clueless about SEO. I love my niche, and I can continuously create quality content beneficial for people and establish my authority.

If my blogging motivation were for all the wrong reasons, it would reflect my blog content and strategy. I would have quit; that’s why you see so many bloggers quit after three years, one year, and even ridiculously at six months. It’s hard.

When you actually care for your audience, you build trust, and you become an established blogger.

  1. Create Relevant Content

It’s not enough to create content I care about; the real question is: is this piece of content relevant/valuable to my audience? If the answer is no, then I might as well not bother creating any content at all.

Just because you care about it doesn’t mean everyone should. Research what your audience is searching for? What are their current needs? Which current information do they need to be updated on?

You can use tools like Buzzsumo and Google trends to generate content ideas.

  1. Build Relationships in your Niche

You can’t go at it alone; you just can’t. To succeed in the blogging space, building relationships with fellow bloggers in your niche is significant.

Networking with fellow bloggers has helped me come a long way in this industry. It has made me evolve, improve my blog, and expanded my reach. It’s no secret that backlinks are potent for organic reach; these relationships will make it easy for sites to link to your website.

  1. Guest Posting is Powerful

I am an active contributor to many authoritative sites in my niche. This has undoubtedly put me in front of my target audience. According to OptinMonster, 60% of blogs write 1-5 guest posts per month. When you guest post, it establishes your authority and drives traffic to your blog.

When guest posting is done right, you are well on your way to making blogging your thing.

  1. Consistency is key

Urghh! Not again with the consistency thingy. But it’s the hard truth; if you are not consistent, nobody will take you seriously. You need to show up every day, put out quality content regularly, else your target audience will forget about you.

The thing is, you are not the only one blogging in your niche; you have to convince your target audience that this is your territory. Except if your blogging is a hobby for you, you need to make consistent efforts to build momentum over time.

  1. Prioritize SEO

Will this article be complete if I don’t remind you about the importance of search engine optimization? Here’s a bitter truth: A lot of content is generated daily; you have to convince the search engines that your content deserves to be seen.

Because what use is content if no one ever finds it? Nothing. And, you didn’t just create content to sit pretty, right? You created it for people; SEO will help you get it in front of people. So invest in SEO education and tools; it’s not optional; it’s mandatory for blogging success.

  1. You Have to be Organized

Blogging is more than just writing; there’s a whole lot that goes behind the scenes. From coming up with content ideas to analytics, marketing, writing emails, responding to comments, SEO, and the list goes on. The importance of organization. Invest in tools that will help you keep everything inflow and schedule content ahead of time.

Bloggers are consistent and in control when they are organized. Finally, no one has become a full-time blogger without an organization.

  1. Patience! Patience! Patience!

You see, many people expect their blogs to become the next Neil Patel after a couple of months. That’s absolutely unrealistic! Every seasonal blogger has put in a lot of years to get to where they are.

I have been running this blog for over eight years; it took me a while to experience some form of success. There’s no such thing as an overnight success; you have to consistently put in work and be patient for your blog to grow.

A lot of bloggers quit due to a lack of patience. To do this in the long run, you need to be patient.

  1. Email Marketing is Gold

You have probably heard the saying; the money is on the list. Even with social media marketing blowing up, email marketing hasn’t lost its relevance. It remains a powerful marketing strategy for entrepreneurs.

Because Instagram can decide to shut down tomorrow, but your email list is forever yours. An email list is the most reliable way to stay connected to your audience.

So start creating your email list from the get-go if you desire to become a full-time blogger.

Conclusion

Blogging can be very lucrative and rewarding; however, not without some challenges that will make you want to call it quits. It takes grit, patience, and a strong internal motivation to keep you going because when you have a great way, you will persevere.

Don’t jump into blogging because everyone is; the reality is blogging is not for everyone. It might take a while before your blogging career looks up or generate revenue, and that’s totally fine.

Just be consistent, creative, willing to learn, and patient. And before you know it, you are well on your way to becoming a full-time blogger.

Image Credit: ketut subiyanto; pexels

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What COVID-19 Taught Us About Digital Transformation

digital transformation

COVID-19 is one of the most devastating crises in at least two past decades that has had ruinous business operations. It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has hit the economy harder than the 2008 financial crisis. COVID has also turned 2020 into a tragic year for the majority of businesses, except those that embraced digital initiatives.  Here is what COVID-19 taught us about digital transformation.

Digital operations on an online platform.

When a business is literally transformed digitally and can accomplish all operations on online platforms, regardless of the size and scope, a health crisis like coronavirus has nothing to do with it. In the same way, its destructive effects are minimized, but it may also even cause significant growth. 

Being digitally transformed during a crisis means having a framework to run business stuff without lowering the bar if employees can’t be physically present at the office. This includes flawless communication between employees, accomplishing tasks, managing customers and their engagement, meeting the market requirements and managing projects.

Since every crisis that hits business environments has some lessons to take, the coronavirus brought some good lessons about the importance of digital transformation for businesses when an unprecedented crisis is coming close.  

Let’s see what COVID-19 can teach us about digital transformation.

1. Digital Transformation Is About People, Not the Technology

When it comes to digital transformation, most people think it’s going to be about technologies and tools. It is true, in a sense, but COVID-19 proved that people must take precedence over technology. Transforming people to use digital tools in a chaotic situation is often underrated, and most organizations prioritize adopting digital tools rather than training people. Bear in mind: the people drive digital transformation forward. 

The first step toward implementing a digital transformation strategy is to change people’s mindsets and change their outlook on technology. They need to understand how their routine work will vary by tech-driven tools and how they can make the most of it for being productive and do more in less time. The managers need to draw up the bigger picture for employees and tell them how to rely on digital initiatives during a crisis. 

The second step is to hone the skills and invest in talents. Developing skills and employees’ abilities will help organizations aim for more data-centric initiatives, maximize digital transformation effectiveness, and minimize the possibility of error. 

2. Non-digital Businesses Are Extremely Vulnerable Against a Threat

At the outset of coronavirus, traditional businesses were confused about operating without a physical location or managing their market and customers. At the same time, they are locked in the home. The old-fashioned business model is not applicable when most people rely on their smartphones more than ever, and it just widens the digital gap. 

Newspapers, food and beverage, and in-store shopping are among the industries that have suffered most from COVID-19 impacts, and their business model makes them extremely vulnerable against future threats.  On the other hand, tech-driven businesses can turn every crisis into an opportunity for growth, and while reducing costs, they also increase the revenue. 

Coronavirus is not the first health crisis against human beings and will certainly not be the last. Even in the post-pandemic era, it’s hard for most people to get back to their pre-pandemic behaviors. The lifespan and revenue in post-pandemic times depend on whether it has adopted digital technologies or it wants to continue with old methods. 

3. Businesses Need to Accelerate Digital Transformation Initiatives

The COVID-19 highlighted the fact that the future of business is digital, and at times of uncertainty, only digital initiatives can drive the business forward. While some organizations are still lacking at implementing or accelerating their digital transformation due to the crisis, others are using the current chaotic situation to change the business model and empower departments with digital initiatives.

Recovering from coronavirus impacts requires businesses to accelerate adopting digitalization and look at digital touchpoints to meet customers’ demands. 

There has never been a better time than now to start proactively with tech-driven innovations. According to McKinsey & Company, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 92 percent of surveyed organizations thought they needed to digitize their business model. 

CEOs need to move the digital transformation from the piloting stage to trial use and then actively use it in business operations. Such a transformation must happen at the core of the business and organizational culture. 

There is no denying that deploying a digital strategy at a large-scale will be a complicated process, requires too much effort to put into it, and won’t happen overnight. But for those looking for sustainable growth and seeking to keep business alive in future storms, there is no plan B. Long-term investment in digital transformation will definitely play out if done correctly.  

4. Significant Potentials for Adopting Digital Transformation Remained Untapped

Amazon’s revenue skyrocketed in the coronavirus pandemic, and demands for digital content helped Netflix to add more than 10 million paid subscribers thanks to the lockdown. Likewise, online services experienced huge growth in demands and customers. 

Despite all the damage, one good aspect of COVID-19 was that it made businesses rethink their potentials to adopt digital transformation. Before the pandemic, some executives believed their organization has no capacity to grow through digital. They can’t rely on digital channels to either meet the market requirements or manage in-office tasks remotely. 

Digital transformation can open up new horizons toward the businesses and make them aware of untapped potential to rise above their current position. Every organization, in any industry with any size, has some untapped potential for using digital initiatives. They just need to overcome the fears of change and see the bigger picture. 

Designing a roadmap, training employees, changing business models and culture, hiring new talents, and using third-party partners are steps needed to be taken by executives to implement a successful digital strategy within the organization. 

Image Credit: cottonbro; pexels

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4 Partners that Have the Biggest Impact on Your Business

partners impact

No business is an island unto itself — companies need strong partnerships to survive. Every contract you sign, and every hand you shake represents the beginning of a relationship, one that can have an immense impact on how you do business. 

It can be difficult to know ahead of time how a certain partnership will affect your company. While you may never be able to know for certain whether or not a partnership will be symbiotic in the long-term, you can start by identifying the partners most crucial to your operations. While every company is different, they all need a key group of allies to survive, such as:

1. Accountants

You may make money, but accountants are the ones who help make that money work for you. Considering the key role that accounts play in making businesses work, far too many leaders don’t feel their trusted partners are doing enough. According to a report published by payroll services company OnPay, only 61% of small business owners are delighted with the range of services their accountant provides. If you want that partnership to work, you need to find an accountant ready to meet your needs.

Businesspeople tend to think of accountants as a homogeneous group, but this is far from the truth: up to one-third of accountants now consider themselves specialists, with even more on their way to becoming ones. Don’t feel the need to settle for the first accountant you come across; do a thorough search for an individual with specialties that match the way you do business.

2. Vendors

Your company needs stuff, and your vendors get you the stuff you need — simple, right? As most business leaders know, the reality is far more complicated than that. Working with vendors means managing logistics, costs, and establishing a healthy rapport, sometimes with dozens of different companies at once. It’s no wonder that, according to a survey done by TechRepublic, 57% of IT departments are now spending more time on vendors than they did just two years ago.

Working successfully with vendors means finding the right fit early on. While you may be tempted to jump on a good deal when you see one, you’ll have to work closely with a vendor for what may end up being years into the future — not even the best prices can save a doomed relationship. Ensure that other factors like location, company size, and client number all check out; the result will be better procurement for you in the long run.

3. Lawyers

While corporate spending on outside lawyers may be plummeting, most small and many mid-sized businesses simply can’t afford to have an in-house legal team. If you’re forced to have your legal work done outside the office, you know that the right lawyer can do wonders for your company — and the wrong one can hurt big.

Lawyers are even more likely to be specialized than accountants, so there’s no excuse not to find someone fully capable of taking on any challenge you may throw at them. Because most charge by the hour, you can also have several different lawyers, each prepared to take on whatever challenges they’re best suited for — whatever makes the most sense for your business.

4. Property Management

Never before has the importance of having a good relationship with your property manager been so clear: 25% of small businesses have not paid full rent on time since March, according to referral network Alignable. In times like these, having the right property manager is the difference between operation and eviction — a difference that can mean the whole world for some companies.

As with vendors, never choose a location based on price alone: you may be able to afford it now, but what will things look like if you have to delay payment for a couple of months? Connect with a property manager interested in more than just on-time payments; if you can find someone invested in your company’s mission, you’re bound to have a better relationship in the long run. 

If you can learn a lot about a person by meeting their friends, you can learn more about a business by researching their partners. The agreements you enter into will define your company for years to come, so be sure to choose them carefully.

Image credit: fauxels; Pexels

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How To Keep Work-From-Home Teams Engaged

work from home teams

Working from home is more than a temporary trend. Given that economists at the University of Chicago estimate 37% of jobs in the United States can be performed entirely at home, most experts believe it’s here to stay. Here is how to keep work-from-home teams engaged.

NatureBox assembled an All-Star panel of speakers for a webinar.

The estimates keep rolling in that tell us the work-from-hom (WFH) trend will continue — at least through the next year. NatureBox assembled an All-Star panel of speakers from some of the most progressive companies to answer questions, share best practices, and offer insights about how to keep work-from-home teams engaged and address the most pressing topics and challenges facing managers and employees working from home today.

The topics we covered in this webinar include:

  • Concerns about managing teams remotely
  • Decreased employee morale
  • False reads on productivity
  • Home/life distractions
  • Keeping an eye on sustainability, thought leadership, and the new impacts on the environment

Startling statistics

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 80% of employees want to work from home. The trouble with this? 85% of managers are concerned about their ability to manage their teams remotely.

Check out the graphic below for specific managerial concerns.

  • 81% of managers are concerned about decreased employee morale
  • 76% of managers are concerned about a false read on productivity
  • 75% of managers are concerned about home/life distractions
  • 74% of managers are concerned about the lack of visibility on employees

That’s a lot of concern. So, what’s the solution? We asked our panel of experts and here’s what they said.

Employee and management engagement during COVID

Distractions at home are rampant. Productivity is getting harder to manage. We’re finding it harder to take breaks and sign off at a decent hour while working from home. A great question from our audience was what guidance do you have for leadership to encourage boundaries?

Roni Sternberg from Lyra Health said when it comes to her company, 12 PM is blocked for employees. It’s their time – no meetings, no outgoing emails, no scheduled anything. “It’s coming from our leadership. He’s encouraging everyone to take that break, to take that pause,â€� she said.

John Ruhlin from Giftology spoke about using thoughtful, personalized gifts as a way managers could engage with employees. “I think there are opportunities to surprise and delight your teams at scale… but the details have to be dialed in.� He also spoke about how leaders set the tone, echoing Sternberg.

Practical tips

While all companies are learning to manage engagement online the best they can, large companies have their work cut out for them. An interesting question from our audience was for companies with over 1,000 employees, what are some ideas for rolling out coffee nights, movie nights, etc.?

What is the main question on everyone’s mind about WFH employees?

The main question on everyone’s mind is: How do you engage with employees virtually on a grand scale? Lynne Oldham from Zoom chimed in first: “We use Zoom, obviously.â€�

Oldham suggested leveraging “Breakout Rooms� of 2-3 people, which makes for a more rich experience. She said that at Zoom, they send people a movie coupon, let people watch it on their own, and will get together to have a discussion after.

This virtual experience is similar to what NatureBox put together a few months ago – a book club about social justice. “We wanted to educate ourselves about it. It was a meaningful conversation on Zoom and showed we cared as a team about what we were doing,â€� John Occhipinti, CEO of NatureBox, said.

How to manage Zoom fatigue

Understanding that we’re on Zoom much more now than ever before, it’s also important to know how to manage “Zoom fatigue.� We heard from Oldham first. “By taking some degree of control and figuring out how you can set aside time. Are there things we can do, like block 12 PM off?

Breaks

The importance of taking breaks, even if you had to schedule them in, was repeated time and time again throughout this webinar. And not only that, but how it’s up to managers to set the tone and lead by example.

Predictions for the future

Out of all the great questions from the audience, the most pressing question of them all was this: Will we ever go back to normal? Are there systemic changes in the workforce we should look out for?

“Based on the statistics you shared, people are saying they’re enjoying working from home. We’re making it work and finding some success in it. That’s why it’s important we identify the challenges before they become large challenges. I think we’ll have a good mix of in-office and remote working when the world changes,� Sternberg said.

Ruhlin had a similar thought about there being a mix of remote and in-person working because “companies are realizing, ‘Do I really need all of that space or could I cut it in half, by quarter and have times we’re getting together as a team?’� Where he disagreed was that as human beings, we still want to interact with people. We’re all craving that. So going fully remote? Ruhlin wasn’t convinced

Lynne Oldham thinks the winners of the future are going to be the companies that adapt, we agree.

The ones that think long and hard about what work has to happen in person and then think long and hard about how to make that happen. Instead of returning to work as normal, they’re going to rethink work as a whole. “This is one grand experiment,� she said.

Occhipinti closed out the discussion on the future with these final thoughts: “As leaders, it’s about authentic leadership and how we remain engaged with our employees.�

Right now, NatureBox is in the business of helping companies keep their employees engaged while they work from home. That’s what it’s all about. Our mission to change the way people think about snacking – from an unconscious effort to a mindful snacking experience – is why we created the largest collection of great-tasting adaptogenic snacks. And made them accessible in-office and at home.

NatureBox Snacks

Our snacks work great as employee morale boosters, one-time gifts, tasty treats for events, and ongoing micro-kitchen snacks. If your in-person or remote teams are looking to stock up on healthy, flavorful snacks that taste as good as they’ll make them feel, head to www.naturebox.com/office

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How This Personal Safety Startup is Protecting Teams from COVID-19

Humans don’t do well without specifics. A call to “practice social distancing” leaves too much to the imagination, while instructions to stay at least six feet away from strangers provides a more straightforward, more actionable message. Here is how a personal safety startup is protecting teams from COVID-19.

As teams return to work, companies must wrestle with the realities of shared office spaces and the continued threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees will continue to feel anxious and unsafe until a trusted vaccine hits the market. Until that time, businesses can either allow employees to work from home or take measures to keep their office environments as safe as possible.

Companies that can facilitate remote work should continue to do so where possible. Others, though, do not have that luxury. Those businesses need a solution to keep their employees safe, and a company called POM just came out with the answer.

How does POM’s pandemic solution work?

POM began as a company on a mission to make it easier for people to get faster access to first responders. After a college student lost his life in a situation where he could not get emergency services, POM’s founders wanted to create a simple product that could save others from similar situations.

The company’s flagship product works as a simple, portable button that connects to a backend security platform. Three taps of the button transfer the user’s location data and profile to a dispatcher who can summon emergency help. One long press can activate a number of custom features, from sending an automated text to initiating a fake phone call to the user’s phone.

How to help a virus? How to help a pandemic?

You can’t call the fire department on a virus, though. As the pandemic grew more serious, POM recognized the opportunity to help in a different way. By leveraging its existing hardware and adding new features, POM found a way to help businesses and other organizations substantially reduce the threat of the virus within their workforces.

The POM Tracer, POM’s newly developed social distancing, and contact tracing technology, uses the foundational components of POM’s primary line of products with a few important additions. The devices, which are about the size of a large coin, clip easily to ID badges or fit into pockets or bags.

POM has modified its product with an IoT angle, allowing devices to recognize when carriers get within six feet of one another and alert users to increase distance for their safety. Even more, the technology is based on proximity so users don’t need to worry about being tracked by a GPS.

What if I test positive?

When a person within a business tests positive, POM Tracers help businesses minimize exposure risk, with contact tracing. The devices can easily track both Level 1 contact, where a person is within six feet of a person who tested positive, and Level 2 contact, the next layer of people who were in close contact with the first group who may have been exposed.

Do I have to have the app on my computer or phone?

These devices do not require users to download apps to function. HR owns the entirety of the system, allowing an organization to collect accurate and informative data without infringing on the privacy and labor rights of users.

As long as the pandemic lasts, POM’s solution will remain an effective and efficient way for people managing in-office teams to maintain the highest possible standards of safety.

Projecting the future of contact tracing and personal safety

Solutions like the POM Tracer, which does not need a companion app to operate, may eventually become standard-issue at all organizations with coworking teams. Apps alone are unreliable, and even when more than 80% of users actually download them (which is rare), many labor laws and unions prevent employers from requiring employees to download software to their personal devices.

What’s the philosophy on data collection?

POM’s device-based philosophy of data collection and analysis is the future. Without the need to rely on smartphones, companies can get the data they need without overstepping their boundaries. When users pass through a gateway, a bluetooth device begins transmitting proximity information.

Going through the gateway protects each of the companies from the consequences of collecting and keeping personal data — a practice that can carry hefty penalties when done poorly. IoT sensors placed in doorways and other common spaces help ensure accuracy.

Where is the data stored?

Keeping this data in house allows businesses to run immediate risk reports to identify and contain threats before they spread.

CDC guidelines quantify “close contact” as being within six feet of a person for more than 15 minutes, but more cautious businesses can customize their parameters to be even safer.

The POM tracer system also ensures confidential and anonymous communication.

Having the POM tracer system at work, the employees never need to know which of their coworkers could have been infected.

HR gathers the appropriate data, traces opportunities for exposure, and privately communicates the next steps to affected parties. No one feels singled out, and the business protects itself from potential liability. Even the other employees and coworkers in your employ don’t ever have any information on each other.

When is the vaccine coming?

Perhaps a vaccine for COVID-19 will arrive ahead of schedule and allow businesses to return to the office quickly — with more confidence. Even if that does happen, however, the distribution of such a vaccine will take months in even the best circumstances.

Organizations continue to face a long and uncertain timeline for social distancing and enhanced cleaning practices. And who knows what the wave of the future will be?

What are the costs?

The POM Tracer provides a simple and cost-effective solution to a highly sensitive and nebulous problem that will not disappear on its own.

Businesses with coworking teams should follow the cautions provided (or insisted upon by local and national governments).

However, it’s essential to business to move forward. We have a better and safer road where organization can implement the POM tracer and begin with smarter tracking. Implementation now will avoid more serious problems in the months to come.

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Calendar.com Aims To Build The Modern Day Scheduling Tool For Teams

digital calendar

There are millions of apps available for iOS and thousands of new ones hitting the App Store daily. But rarely do I stumble across one that changes the way I live like Calendar — a smart time management app, has.

Over the years, I’ve tested out all the top calendar apps and scheduling tools. Unfortunately, none of them actually streamlined my schedule or helped me manage my time better. Most of them function like paper calendars with a few extra bells and whistles.

In that way, Calendar reminds me of Zoom or HubSpot. Sure, other conference calling apps existed before Zoom — but there’s a reason everyone made the switch immediately. Apps that actually make life easier get adopted.

Soon, everyone will expect Calendar’s features and perks from every scheduling app. I foresee it changing time management in five key ways:

1. Smart and easy scheduling will be a requirement.

According to one survey, managers and administrative professionals waste 4.8 hours per week scheduling meetings. The reason is, most people are still using old-school scheduling methods, like email and phone calls, to coordinate a time that works for everyone.

Calendar’s smart scheduling system comes at a crucial time. With many companies moving some or all employees to permanent remote work post-pandemic, the need for easy and efficient scheduling is only going to grow.

Being able to send someone a link with no back-and-forth is the easiest way to schedule meetings quickly and save everyone time. Calendar makes coordinating even small conversations a cinch.

2. Work and personal calendars will be totally integrated.

With so many of us working from home, the line between our personal and professional lives is getting blurrier. You might go offline at 3:30 p.m. to pick up your kids from school and then open up your laptop after dinner to answer work emails.

Blended calendars make it easier to collaborate, but you shouldn’t be forced to give up your privacy. Just because you don’t work a normal 9-to-5 schedule doesn’t mean you want your co-workers to see that you have a vet appointment on Tuesday and date night on Friday.

Calendar offers the best of both worlds. Its “Connected Calendar� feature ensures co-workers can’t see my personal appointments, but those time slots are still blocked off to avoid the dreaded double-booking. If only I’d had it last year when I accidentally booked a work event at the same time as my niece’s recital.

3. Team scheduling will be automated.

Tools like Doodle have been around for a while. Until Calendar came along, however, I couldn’t find anything that made it simple to schedule meetings with multiple people.

Most emails setting up a time to meet usually go like this:

Hey team,

I’d like to schedule a time to discuss X next week. What day works for everyone?

What follows is a messy group email chain. A dozen replies may be required to reach a solution, creating headaches for everyone.

Instead, Calendar can crawl my team’s calendars for available time slots. It automatically adjusts for time-zone differences, and it will even send follow-up RSVP reminders so that plans can be solidified quickly.

4. Time analytics will be the “next big thing� in productivity.

If old scheduling methods weren’t bad enough, meetings themselves are also a huge drain on our time. Upper management spends as much as 50 percent of their workday in meetings, and businesses waste an estimated $37 billion on unproductive meetings per year.

Especially when you’re living on Zoom, it’s easy to waste the workweek on activities that don’t move the needle. To be a truly effective leader, you need to be aware of how you’re actually spending your time.

Here, Calendar’s time analytics come into play. Just as Screen Time for iPhone allows you to see how much time you spend surfing the web or scrolling through Facebook, time analytics gives you a breakdown of how you spend your days.

Get as granular as you want: Calendar shows you how much time you’re spending in meetings or on certain types of tasks. Soon, it’ll even show you the people who you’re spending most of your time with. If you’re sick of wasting your week in meetings, Calendar might provide the push you need to revamp your schedule.

5. Calendars will begin catering to “power users.�

One of my biggest issues with calendar apps like iCal or Google Calendar is that they’re pretty basic. And to be fair, a free app that comes preinstalled on every iPhone or Android device probably should be geared toward the novice user (like my mother) who only needs a classic calendar.

Any time app developers create a new tool, they have to balance the needs of the majority against the needs of so-called “power users� — a small percentage of people who account for an outsized share of an app’s usage. Calendar is clearly targeting users in this category.

What’s impressed me about Calendar is how it’s evolved over the last six months. Calendar is even working on a feature that will show you where your meetings are on a map and automatically suggest meeting locations. That’ll come in handy when you’re trying to squeeze in a weekday lunch downtown with an old friend.

We’re living in an era of self-driving cars, augmented reality, and AI software that can write like a person. And yet, most of us are still using an online calendar app that’s just a slight step up from the paper version that hangs on the fridge. The way we work is changing faster than ever, and we need a calendar that can keep pace with the times.

You can sign up for a free 30 day paid trial here.

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