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Work Environment

5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety at Work

If stress has been difficult to handle lately, especially on top of work responsibilities, just know that this is common during a pandemic. Read below on the 5 ways to help reduce anxiety at work.

 

Statistics regarding anxiety and stress in the workplace are alarming. It should come to no one’s surprise that stress is a natural part of any workspace, but nearly three-fourths of Americans feel that they are experiencing stress at work that interferes with their lives at least moderately, with 40 percent experiencing what they define as “persistent and excessive anxiety.” Even more alarming, nearly a third (30 percent) have started taking prescription medication to combat stress, anxiety, nervousness, and lack of sleep.

 

Despite these numbers, only 9 percent of the responding surveyed adults have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

 

This hints at a problem with severe stress in the American work culture, as well as low awareness for the issue of anxiety and its undiagnosed, widespread nature in our workforce. Chances are you know someone who feels anxious at work, or you find yourself often nervous and distracted.

 

Nothing can replace professional treatment and the opinion and care of an experienced psychiatrist. However, on top of seeking help, there are ways you can begin to tackle some of your anxieties at work and be at peace with yourself a little more often.

 

1. Remind Yourself to Be Present

 

Mindfulness can be described as a form of self-reflection, and a form of meditation. Rather than drowning in the worries of what could be, or what has been, mindfulness aims to teach people to take in what is, right now and right here.

 

Patients who are guided through mindfulness are generally taught to begin by taking note of their breathing, controlling its pace and intensity, and trying to pay attention to whatever helps them remain purely in the moment. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about the past or the present, try to stop and recognize the pattern

 

As a form of reflection rather than reaction, mindfulness teaches you to dissociate from your worries by recognizing that they either haven’t happened yet or aren’t immediately relevant. By focusing on the now, you learn to compartmentalize your stressors and figure things out a step at a time.

 

If you’re new to mindfulness, consider speaking to your therapist about it or try a few different handy guides on beginning mindfulness.

 

2. Take a Quick Break (and Look Up) 

 

It might seem like a relatively strange fix, but if you catch yourself stuck in a mental rut and worried about one thing or another, you might need a quick break from the screen. While we are expected to bring our best to the table and work a set number of hours per working day, the brain can only concentrate on a single task for so long. After a while, you’ll start to force yourself to regain focus on the task at hand and fail.

 

Whenever you feel that cycle of distraction coming on, a quick and modest change of scenery can often do a lot to help you reset and get ready to concentrate again. Just get up, stretch your legs, stretch your back, and pick a far point to gaze at – preferably something outside, something natural far out near the horizon, like a mountain or a tree.

 

Think of a long gaze at something far away as a little bit of a mental palate cleanser. Psychologically, this is called a “restorative action.” It’s something we can all do, as long as we have a window or a balcony at the office, and it costs virtually nothing.

 

3. Avoid Your Tics

 

If you’re diagnosed with a neurological condition like Tourette’s, then a physical or verbal tic is an unavoidable behavior commonly associated with stress, although it also often comes out of nowhere. But for most people, nervous tics might indicate discomfort and a yearning for escape.

 

Whether it’s nail biting, Instagram scrolling, or compulsively checking your emails, learn to catch your tics and identify how you’re trying to escape your own feelings of anxiety or stress with repetitive, compulsive actions that serve no purpose.

 

 

Learn to put your phone down, stop checking your mails, and leave your manicure alone – and instead recognize that when the urge for these actions rears its ugly head, it’s time for a break and a quick restorative action for proper stress management.

 

Go for a short walk (even if it’s just to the watercooler and back), take a moment to think on what’s bothering you, or take a deep breath and figure out what’s next on your list. Instead of just suppressing your tics for the sake of it, consider using them as a cue that you need a quick reset or shift in gear.

 

4. Write Up a To-Do List

 

Sometimes, when anxiety hits, that means worrying about ten things at once. And when our thoughts are disorganized and jumbled, it’s nearly impossible to find a single thing to focus on.

 

It’s especially bad when we feel overwhelmed by our tasks and goals and can’t find a good starting spot. If you have a project to finish and deliver, but all you see before you is an insurmountable pile of work, you may feel a little paralyzed.

 

By breaking that pile up into individual simple tasks, you can take what might seem impossible and tackle it one step at a time, starting with the smallest and simplest steps, and slowly working your way down the entire list until you’re done. By creating a to-do list, you’re bringing order to your thoughts, and make your tasks much less intimidating.

 

5. Accept Yourself

 

An estimated 6.8 million Americans are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and many others struggle with symptoms of anxiety without a formal diagnosis. If you struggle with anxiety and depression like many other fellow Americans, understand that it’s something many others fight, and something you can get help for. You are not less valuable or less useful to society because of this. And it doesn’t make you a bad worker.

 

There are ways to treat and cope with symptoms of anxiety while still getting work done. But you must learn to accept your symptoms, if you do have an anxiety issue, so you can begin to find ways to seek help for them and see improvements at work, at home, and in your personal space.

 

Conclusion

 

Your mental wellness is important to care for. Following these 5 tips will surely relieve some stress and help you gain more focus with work. But just know that you’re not alone in this. This pandemic has affected everyone, and we’re all in this together.

 

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Business Trends

6 Effective Brainstorming Techniques for Teams

How well are you implementing brainstorming techniques for the team? Not only will this practice most likely produce great ideas, but it will also help bring the team closer together. Read more below.

 

There are two important rules for successful brainstorming:

 

        1. Quantity over quality.
        2. It’s critical to emphasize that everyone gets a word in.

 

With these two basic tenets, most brainstorming techniques naturally follow.

 

The art of brainstorming successfully is demonstrated best via positive creativity – the goal being that you avoid shutting others down as much as possible, and instead bring new ideas to the table or elaborate upon parts of a concept you enjoy or like. It’s easy to let conversations wander and turn towards nitpicking. Or to get hung up on details that ultimately waste everyone’s time. Yes, everyone knows there are limits on what a company can and cannot achieve. There are budgets and time constraints.

 

But the goal in a brainstorming session isn’t to spend an hour on three ideas. It’s to get as many ideas out there in half an hour or less, never spending valuable time to criticize an idea, but suggest a new one instead. That is how you get to the ideas that push a business forward. And it’s only then that you begin to ask how and get down to brass tacks.

 

To cut down on the useless criticism and get to those golden ideas, let’s talk about six effective brainstorming techniques that can help you make the most of your team’s time.

 

1. Set Your Limitations Aside 

 

Let’s talk about rapid-fire brainstorming. For this technique, the focus is on speed and diversity. Set aside any notions of complexity or critique. It doesn’t matter if 80 percent of the ideas that are brought to the table in any given brainstorming session end up getting scrapped. The more ideas each individual plows through in a session, the more one’s creative juices get flowing. And the more the focus becomes “what else can I come up with?” rather than “why do I think this idea is bad?”.

 

Set a quota per person and meet it. Give everyone five to ten minutes to come up with at least half a dozen ideas. Then get everyone to present them succinctly and quickly. This leaves no time for anyone to get caught up on any one idea. If an idea is a bad idea, the person presenting it can quickly move to their next one.

 

If it’s a good idea, everyone takes notes and things keep moving. It’s easy to circle back to the best of the bunch after everyone’s gotten their ideas off their chest. This also keeps things from revolving entirely around the thoughts and opinions of just a handful of creatives in the room.

 

2. Follow the “Yes, And” Rule

 

Some people call this “mind mapping”, but it’s essentially a technique based on elaborating upon an idea with improvements or sub-ideas that aim to take the original concept and elevate it.

 

Based on improv comedy’s golden rule of saying “yes, and” to any development in the skit, the idea here is to avoid hitting a creative dead-end by accepting all changes and simply organically moving from one suggestion to the next. Rather stopping at an idea that isn’t perfect. If there’s something wrong with a suggestion, take your opportunity to amend or workshop it. Evolve the idea. Improve it.

 

3. Don’t Get Stuck & Be Fast

 

Another important technique in brainstorming is forced succinctness. When emphasizing that everyone gets a shot at improving an idea or coming up with their suggestion, it’s important not to find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time on a single person’s vision.

 

There’s no doubt that some ideas are better fleshed out than others, but encourage everyone to provide an attractive “elevator pitch” of their idea rather than present an entire plan off the bat.

 

Require team members to come up with ways to explain the most useful or engaging parts of their idea. And when it’s circled back to at another stage in the planning process, they can find ways to extrapolate on it. And take in suggestions to improve it further.

 

 

4. Get Visual

 

Visualization is an important technique in brainstorming to get certain ideas across to others in a quick and fast fashion. A picture can be a thousand words (or more). And it doesn’t need to be objectively well-done or have any sort of artistic merit to serve its purpose.

 

When relying on visualization, encourage team members to either prepare visual aids for their brainstorming ideas or simply sketch certain parts and processes of their ideas on a paper or whiteboard. This technique further elaborates on the idea that speed is important in brainstorming. By cutting down on unnecessary explanation where a visual medium can help provide a much clearer picture.

 

5. Include Everyone

 

There are two great techniques for involving everyone in the brainstorming session. The first is a basic round-robin, giving everyone a set amount of time to present their idea, as discussed previously. The other is the stepladder technique, which manages how team members get involved in decision making and are ideal for smaller groups.

 

The stepladder technique relies on a core of creative powerhouses (usually just two people) discussing ideas in a room together while the rest of the team brainstorms on their own. A third member is brought into the room to present their idea first, and then they hear about what has already been addressed, and how their idea might contribute. Then a fourth member enters, presenting their idea, listening to what’s been talked about, and so on.

 

For teams of twenty or more, this type of brainstorming is relatively unrealistic, and can easily take all day. But smaller creative teams can benefit greatly from this technique. It forces the ever-growing group to listen to a person’s ideas without them having been influenced by what’s already been discussed and deliberated (i.e. groupthink).

 

6. Brainstorming Online 

 

Learning to brainstorm over the internet is especially important for businesses working remotely from home. In addition to out of coworking spaces, and other workspaces.

 

Any of the techniques above can be adapted into virtual brainstorming via an array of digital tools. This includes teleconferencing software and collaborative editing software, but it still takes a little practice to get used to brainstorming outside of physical space. You can let team members join the call one-by-one to simulate a stepladder decision-making process. Or give everyone a few minutes to present their ideas round-robin style and use a variety of software to aid in explaining and presenting your ideas and suggestions.

 

Conclusion

 

Brainstorming doesn’t need to be difficult or frustrating. It can be extremely fruitful with a little bit of cooperation and a focus on the core tenets of swift, expedient presentation and improvisation. Avoid getting hung up on the details, and move from idea to idea, taking notes as you go along.

 

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Work Environment

How to Shape Your Current Office Space for Agile Working

The aim for agile working is important now than ever before as people are currently working remotely. But what does this mean exactly? Read below for more details.

 

Despite being ubiquitous in development and office management, “agile” is a term with several different conflicting definitions. “Agile working” refers to neither agile development or agile project planning, both of which employ different methodologies to enable efficient and timely projects. No, agile working refers to a flexible and “agile” work schedule.

 

What is Agile Working?

 

What does a flexible work schedule have to do with office space and “agility”? A lot. Fully employing a flexible work schedule means embracing a more fluid office space that sees some employees working from home and some employees working from the office.

 

Rather than a chaotic hot desk philosophy or the strict and stringent rules of a traditional office, agile working policies require an office design that matches the flexibility of their worker’s schedules. This means having both open office spaces with plenty of collaborative furniture and a forward-thinking design (filled with sunlight, color, and plenty of nature), as well as closed-off and quiet private spaces for smaller teams and individual professionals to seek refuge from the social interactions of the rest of the office and get a solid hour or two of concentrated and focused work done.

 

Agile working, as a philosophy, aims to capitalize on the productivity research done of the last years. We know that workers can generally only concentrate on a single task for a short amount of time and that their productivity, creativity, and focus is improved by giving them the ability to interact with nature, daydream, and spend time with other workers, as exemplified by productivity and creativity gains seen in coworking spaces.

 

The Benefits of Flexible Working and Telecommuting

 

We know that flexible work schedules and work-from-home opportunities lead to happier workers, greater job fulfillment, lower turnover, more hours worked, and fewer breaks are taken.

 

By giving workers the option to work from home or the office, companies can also give their workers the freedom to choose their path toward productivity.

 

Better yet, opening to remote workers everywhere greatly increases the available talent pool. A company that has access to this reduces their costs and overhead by allowing them to cut down on office space and energy costs.

 

Flexible work schedules and a work-from-anywhere attitude is also greatly valued by workers everywhere, especially in a post-COVID-19 world where the value of telecommuting is more obvious than ever, and a study shows that nearly a half surveyed workers are willing to take a 10% paycheck cut to be able to work from home.

 

Remote work will only grow in prevalence and importance from here on out, but for many companies, the key doesn’t necessarily lie in going completely remote. Going 100% remote works out for many smaller businesses who don’t have the space to open up a physical office, but for other businesses with access to coworking spaces or office space of their own, adopting work-from-anywhere policies might be best instead.

 

Prioritize Quiet Spaces

 

When creating an open office, it’s important to balance the fine line between improvement and chaos. If there is no workspace available, workers can’t be productive. If they spend a considerable part of their morning finding a good place to start working, they’ll be wasting time.

 

Agile working offices need to be intuitive and must learn to blend open spaces with widely available private spaces. This is possible through remote work policies. More office space is freed up to those who prefer to work from the office rather than working from home.

 

Make sure to prioritize quiet spaces, such as smaller conference and meeting rooms or private offices, to give workers a space to retreat to when they cannot or do not want to be interrupted, and don’t have the time to entertain new ideas or conversations. These spaces should be available to workers who need to put into action what they’ve devised and talked about in open spaces.

 

 

Design for Open Collaboration

 

Collaborative furniture can help naturally bring workers together to discuss ideas and interact. Intersect collaborative furniture with natural elements to incorporate the restorative benefits of real nature and nature-inspired design, from indoor plants to a view over a park.

 

Workers should be naturally incentivized to cycle between the different areas of an office to work on ideation, brainstorming, planning, and execution – with each stage of development beginning and ending within the open and private spaces of the office.

 

The collaborative spaces are where this all begins, so they must be designed for comfort and productivity, with easy access to charging ports, plenty of tables and seats to provide space for every worker’s essential devices, and nearby planning spaces such as whiteboards, task boards, markers, and post-its.

 

Plan Ahead for the Incidental

 

Bigger companies can leverage an open design by creating spaces for departments to blend and interact. While marketing and production/development might be working on different floors, creating interactive spaces where workers are encouraged to take a break away from their offices (such as cafes, napping stations, and inter-department break rooms) allows for “incidental” collaboration, as workers from different stages of the business meet and talk about their gripes and ideas.

 

This is like the effect generated in coworking spaces, where professionals with different skillsets tend to come up with new or unique ideas via collaboration due to different backgrounds.

 

Compensating for the Cons

 

It’s no secret that there are many benefits to reap from giving workers greater freedoms and the ability to pitch more ideas and receive recognition for truly innovative concepts.

 

But there are certain drawbacks to remote working, the greatest of which is the lack of control over one’s work-life balance. Ironically, working from home often leads to a person having difficulties separating work from home. They begin to work longer hours and take fewer breaks because it becomes harder to “break out” of that mentality.

 

Workers may spike in productivity while working from home, but to keep that productivity going, companies need to help their workers better manage their time, by preparing them for a transition into working-from-home through at-home work schedules, encouraging downtimes (i.e. no calls after hours), and encouraging workers to take breaks in and out of the office, to go get some water, stretch often, or just grab some fresh air for a few minutes.

 

Offices might also encourage local remote workers to check in every few days, on days of their choosing, to keep workers from getting stuck in a rut, and to help combat a growing issue of loneliness. A stronger sense of community in and out of the office – enforced by a positive company culture for remote and non-remote workers – can help too.

 

Others manage their time more effectively, seeing the benefits of remote work without its cons – but for those who find themselves trapped in a working mentality, helping them create tangible boundaries between work and home while at home can help preserve a worker’s mental health and value in the long-term.

 

Conclusion

 

Agile working aims to capitalize on these facts by giving workers the ability to work from home, from coworking spaces, or the office – and adapting office spaces to mimic the open and collaborative nature of a coworking space.

 

Categories
Business Trends

The Current and Future Trends of a Remote Workforce

Enforcing a remote workforce has continually been a growing trend despite our current global pandemic. So what does this mean for the future? Let’s dive deeper into this below.

 

Whether companies are ready for it or not, the world’s remote workforce is growing rapidly. Easy access to a variety of telecommuting tools and collaborative digital suites as well as the continued growth of coworking and the gig economy means that workers and employers around the world are pivoting towards an increasingly dynamic way of working.

 

Companies are waking up to the benefits of allowing certain parts of their workforce to work remotely, and employees continue to look for remote working opportunities as a serious perk to allow greater flexibility. Among current and future trends, some that stand out include:

 

  • Growing confidence in the remote work model
  • Development of better telecommuting tools
  • Rising coworking industry
  • More interest in flexible work schedules
  • Greater opportunities for fulfillment via remote work

 

Remote Work is Simply More Popular

 

Some companies are composed nearly completely out of a telecommuting workforce, eliminating the overhead needed to lease and set up a traditional office and giving companies the opportunity to draw from a larger talent pool.

 

Perhaps the biggest trend is the paradigm shift toward accepting remote work as not only an inevitability of an increasingly digital world, but a serious boon in more than a few different ways. The major obstacle preventing bosses from investing in a remote workforce was always fear – fear in a loss of productivity, fear in a loss of control, and fear in wasting time and energy on a workforce with no oversight.

 

Over the years, however, research and experience has shattered these fears by pointing towards countless examples of industries and professions where the ability to work from anywhere has led to increased productivity at a lower cost.

 

And even in cases where productivity has remained largely the same or relatively unchanged, remote work provides a host of other benefits including the need for far less office space, time spent commuting saved, and improvements on a company’s carbon footprint. But this does not mean remote work should occur haphazardly, or without proper prior conversation.

 

In the Face of a Pandemic

 

Despite its morbid nature, the most significant current trend affecting the growth of remote work has been the coronavirus. COVID-19 has caused over 200,000 deaths and has left millions unemployed, and to curb its progress, governments have imposed strict lockdowns and social distancing rules.

 

While nearly the whole world is under lockdown, SMEs and large corporations alike need to continue to find ways to keep the lights on and provide services, essential or otherwise, while minimizing the risk their employees face.

 

As such, many businesses have turned towards telecommuting through applications like Slack and Zoom to continue to work on projects and fulfill orders while at home, coordinating over the Internet. Not all workers are able to do their work remotely, and many essential services, from medical care to delivery and essential retail, continue to employ workers in-house to help people get access to medicine, food, and emergency care.

 

 

Affecting the Remote Workforce

 

Where remote work has been possible, it has quickly revealed a host of challenges. Poor or overloaded internet connections can make certain meetings and calls unbearable. There are limits to what a camera and microphone can capture. And sometimes, an email or an instant message aren’t expressive enough to bring across a specific point.

 

Furthermore, many who are unfamiliar with a suite of telecommuting tools may feel overwhelmed by the many options and features currently available through collaborative tools like Google Docs.

 

Some jobs lend themselves quite easily to remote work, and are perfectly suited to it, from programming and writing to data entry and analysis. Others, however, find remote work to be less than ideal, especially when their jobs rely on interpersonal communication and cooperation. It’s difficult to offer qualitative face-to-face therapeutic care or evaluate an employee’s performance over a broadband connection.

 

While the pandemic has punched several holes through our everyday status quo, one of those is our general unpreparedness for a complete switch to remote work. That does not make remote work any less valuable – but it reveals that companies need to prepare to implement it effectively, and that it’s more effective for some workers than it is for others.

 

Remote Work and Coworking Spaces

 

Another trend contributing to the present and the future of remote work is the continuing growth of coworking. While halted by COVID-19, the coworking industry will continue to play an important role in providing a host of features for small and large businesses alike, including:

 

  • Lowered overhead and continuous costs for smaller businesses
  • Networking opportunities for freelancers and small companies alike
  • Increased productivity and collaborative opportunities
  • Greater cost-benefit for larger companies looking for satellite offices

 

Coworking and remote work exist in symbiosis. While the benefits of working from home include reduced costs and time saved, the lack of separation between a home and the office, as well as a fluid schedule, can contribute to growing rates of burnout and problems with work-life balance. People begin to spend more time at work, mentally and physically, when they should be spending it on themselves or with their families.

 

Coworking spaces provide a transition point between a full-fledged office and a home office for those who do not work well from home, but are still seeking an alternative for increased productivity or want a different, more stimulating environment than what their office offers.

 

A Growing Focus on Proper Work-Life Balance

 

As the remote workforce will continue to grow, more time and resources will be spent trying to retain the productivity benefits and cost-effectiveness of remote work while minimizing the dangers of a fluid schedule, including a lack of balance between one’s professional life and one’s personal life.

 

Workers will need to be reminded to set clear boundaries to separate their work from their normal life, from setting specific rituals and cut-off times, to having a designated home office and office attire, versus working from the living room in a set of pajamas.

 

Conclusion

 

Businesses need to work on preparing themselves for an increasingly remote workforce by investing in the tools and infrastructure needed to support their remote workers and facilitate seamless communication and collaboration between the remote team and the in-house team, to avoid grinding gears and glaring inefficiencies.

 

There will be an ongoing trend to promote remote work as the future, but it will be accompanied with convincing businesses to take the steps needed to allow the transition to happen without frustrating setbacks, or else be left behind by the competition.