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Time Management Tips For Remote Workers

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

Remember the good old days when working from home meant quiet, solitude, no interruptions, and serious focus time? When we could plow through what seemed like a week’s worth of work in a day? And get the house vacuumed, dinner made, and take a walk before the kids got home from school? Bliss.

It’s crazy that it was only a month ago. Now, working from home has taken on an entirely new dynamic. Lack of focus, plenty of distractions, the Groundhog Day effect, and general worry and anxiety. Many of us also now have little colleagues at home. Bored, antsy colleagues who need our attention and invade our workspace. All of a sudden, we’ve added in chef, teacher, art director, therapist, and negotiator to our regular jobs.

There are plenty of tips about good planning, structure, creativity, and flexibility that help us better manage our time and create environments that improve productivity and maintain family harmony. We share some helpful ideas below, and they all work well. Under normal circumstances.

But in our current new norm, following any one of these tips consistently is a challenge. Managing time is difficult right now because time itself is different right now. It’s like we’re slogging our way through quicksand, each day the same as yesterday. And sharing space with other family members is frustrating, perhaps even chaotic, when we’re mostly stuck in the house.

So, the best advice? Don’t aim for perfection. Or normalcy. It may not feel like it when you look at your Instagram feed, but we’re all struggling. We’re going to have good days, and we’re going to have not so good days. Every situation is unique, so pick one or two time management tips that will fit your current lifestyle. Take advantage of those moments of high productivity and when you just can’t focus, walk away. Like literally take a walk. Clean something. Play a game with your kids. Do push-ups. Just breathe and clear your head. It’s okay, we’ll get through this together.

Below are some ideas that may help you better manage your time and share your space while working from home.

Have a Conversation

If you haven’t already had a candid conversation with your manager, have one. Talk about your personal challenges and current work expectations, and then discuss creative and realistic solutions that will allow you to remain productive. This may mean some compromise on both your parts, including working non-traditional evening and weekend hours so you can spend time with your children during the day.

Be an early bird

Avoid the urge to sleep in. Set the alarm an hour or two earlier and get a jump on the day while the house is still quiet and before ‘school hours’ begin. If possible, let your kids sleep later than normal. Getting your most pressing projects completed in the early hours will make it easier for you to take a mid-morning break to help with schoolwork.

Commute to work

Start your day by walking around the block. It forces you out the front door, signaling to your brain that you are heading off to work. At the end of your workday, walk around the block again, but in the opposite direction. When you re-enter your home, you’ll feel like it’s the end of the day and time to ease into your normal evening routine. The fresh air and exercise is a bonus.

Create a schedule and a routine

Seems obvious, right? But setting and sticking to a schedule while working from home full time might be harder than you expected. Keep at it.  Just like your “commute,” a routine creates a start and stop time for your day, allows for breaks, and helps you reduce distractions and stress. It also helps with balancing work time and school time, as you may need to set aside complete blocks of time throughout the day to help with school work. And although they’ll deny it, your kids need routine too.

Make a list

Fight the urge to multi-task, which actually decreases productivity. Instead, at the end of each day, write down your five most important tasks for the next day and prioritize them. Then, when you start work in the morning, focus on the first task, and start crossing off your items. Try to stick to this and move any unfinished items to your next day’s list. This practice helps you to stop thinking about them, which will help you relax at the end of the day.

Set a timer

It’s easy to jump from task to task or stare mindlessly at the screen without accomplishing anything. It’s just as easy to walk away from your desk and get caught up in a personal project. Set a timer for 45 minutes for heads-down work and then reward yourself with a 15-minute break (or whatever schedule works best for you). Your focus will increase, you’ll feel less overwhelmed, and you’ll get a chance to rejuvenate. Our blog on Apps for Remote Work Productivity has some great suggestions for tools that will help you stay organized and on-task.

Turn off Wi-Fi. Hide your phone.

Seriously. It’s too easy to get distracted by emails, tweets, Facebook, and Instagram Posts, the latest COVID article, or your friend’s text messages. Obviously, you’ll need to get back online periodically to check in and connect, but if you manage your online time, your productivity will go through the roof.

Socialize

When you’re at the office, chatting with people happens naturally. When you’re working remotely, interactions with colleagues may be all work. Downtime is important, and social bonds improve productivity and well-being. So, it’s important to find the time – even if you have to schedule it – to keep personal relationships alive. Go for a walk and call a work friend, schedule a virtual lunch while your kids meet up over Minecraft. The quality and quantity of your work will improve if you make time to stay connected and have a little fun in the day.

Divide and conquer

If there are two adults in your home, divide the day into blocks so that each person has time to concentrate on work and time to help with schoolwork or play with the kids. If it’s just you at home and you need to oversee your children throughout the day, conquer your most critical projects when there is quiet time. Save tasks like answering emails for times when your children are playing or you’re watching TV and distractions are okay.

Define your workspace

Set up a dedicated workspace in your home to reduce distractions and maintain a work-life balance. Try to make this space off-limits to your kids unless there is an emergency or it’s a scheduled break time. Likewise, set up dedicated ‘school’ spaces and play spaces for your children. If they have a space of their own, they may be less likely to come into yours.

If you have to share a space, keep your area tidy and organized to maximize your effectiveness. Plan ahead and find ways to keep kids happily occupied when you are virtual meetings, allowing you to maintain a professional appearance – and your sanity.

Get with your manager asap if you still need tech to improve your remote work experience. Noise-canceling headphones are a great option to help you zone in, stay focused, and tune out playtime. Read our Ideas to Stay Positive and Productive blog for more inspiration on how to create an effective workspace.

And finally…

Resist the urge

Just because your computer is in the next room doesn’t mean you have to be on it. It’s 8:00 pm. Relax. Watch TV. Hang out with your family. Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments for the day.

 

From Stage to Computer Screen: Learning to Teach Virtually

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

Sean Carter, the services product manager at AVI-SPL, is also a respected instructor in stage combat and teaches a course at the University of Memphis. In this post, Carter explains how he adapted a class intended for in-person learning into one that could be successfully delivered online.

Most days, my experience as an employee at a company providing collaboration technology is pretty separate from my swashbuckling night persona.  Recent events being what they are, these parts of my life have recently collided in a unique manner.

Working at the world’s largest audiovisual and collaboration technology provider, AVI-SPL, I’ve seen firsthand how we are one of the best resources for our clients with the knowledge and education around technology. I’ve used just about every video conferencing platform invented, helped design solutions for clients to bridge gaps between their offices, and even taught my coworkers how to utilize these technologies. 

With this starting point, one might think that I would have a head start when it comes to teaching a class at the University of Memphis that has recently been moved entirely online.  When it comes to the knowledge of how to use the technology, I do.  When it comes to how to move a performance-based class with 90% of the grade being in-person creating and acting together, I was as lost as any other faculty member. 

Ever wondered how actors in movies and in plays sword fight, jump off buildings, or punch each other in the face without actually getting hurt?  Yeah, that’s what I have the privilege to teach.  Stage combat probably isn’t the first class you would think of as possible in an online format.  But with reality hitting hard, I had half a semester left in a class that is BASED in partner work, in-person communication, and a cooperative creative process.  Plus, we were supposed to start learning sword fighting for stage – old-school Errol Flynn/Basil Rathbone swashbuckling –  which everyone, including myself, was disappointed we wouldn’t be doing together.

The week after the University of Memphis campus officially closed was the week my students were supposed to perform their mid-term exam.  It was a fight scene that they choreographed with their partner put to a script from a play, movie, or TV show.  They could use any style of unarmed fighting or knife fighting we had learned up to that point in class, and I had students doing everything from scenes in Les Miserables, to Batman, to Kill Bill, to plays they wrote themselves and hoped to produce.  We found that they couldn’t be performed and, seemingly, the work and they put hours into both in and out of class would go to waste.

I knew that my class at this point was going to be as much a collaborative effort between myself and my students as much as it would be between themselves.  So, we did what we could and set up a call to talk it out.  I wanted to make sure my students still learned something of value through the semester and my curriculum didn’t degenerate into busy work.  After making sure everyone had the technical capabilities to do class over video, and making sure that they could take the time out of caring for family we moved forward with…virtual sword fighting!

My students found everything from broom sticks, to Swiffers, to pool noodles and we had a swashbuckling class over Zoom (check out the picture – my students were very excited).  I cleared my living room and through the sheer willingness to adapt, learn something new, and have a little fun, we have been able to effectively have a very excellent class thus far.  I can teach, talk to, and see all my students at once as I explain moves, combinations, technique, and safety practices.  We can have meaningful and engaging discussions and continue an education that will flow right into the next time we get to meet in person again.

Overall, we found that with a little extra effort, some imagination, and a willingness to learn and change on all sides, we were able to continue what we started in a meaningful way.  So to everyone out there whether you are a teacher or not, realize that you can’t take the years of experience and excellence and expect that to translate into a different medium in 45 days.  But what we can do, collectively, is decide to stop reacting and start acting.  Stop saying the situation stinks and do something about it in the little bubble you can control.  Make the best of what you do and who you do it with and rock it – do it with 10 times more than you would in person because it’s needed now more than ever.

Work-From-Home Reality: Ideas to Stay Positive and Productive

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, collaborating, and leading from home. Our Together We Can series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

If you’re one of the millions of people working from home for several weeks, you may find that the reality of full-time remote work is less than ideal. I reached out to coworkers and friends to chat about the work-from-home reality that’s setting in. This week in our Together We Can series, I’m sharing remote work challenges along with ideas to upgrade your workspace and stay positive and productive.

Homemade standing desks

One office item you may be missing is your standing desk. If you don’t want to invest in a standing desk for your at-home workspace, simply improvise. A sturdy box or crate top put your laptop on is one DIY solution that takes no time at all. Your kitchen counter may do the job too. Try that option during non-mealtimes when this family space (hopefully) isn’t crowded.

Have a second workspace

After weeks of working from home, you may need a change of scenery during the day, a different space due to natural lighting changes in the afternoon, or a quieter area for important calls. Finding an alternate workspace can be challenging if you’re sharing space with spouses and children who are also doing work and classes at home. While you don’t want to spend the day in your bedroom, that space may be a short-term option for essential calls. A large closet works in a pinch too for those times when privacy is a must. Just remember to turn your camera off.

Change the lighting

The lighting in your home is softer than the fluorescent bulbs used in the office. The warmer light from your lamps and overhead lighting could be a welcome change. If, however, you find your workplace light makes you too relaxed and unable to concentrate, switch to bright white LED bulbs to help stay focused and alert. For reading-intensive tasks, add a desk lamp with different hues and brightness levels.

Upgrade your work-from-home equipment

Most of us have mobile phone earbuds that work for video meetings. If they are comfortable to wear all day and provide quality sound, you’re all set. If you’re like me, earbuds are less than ideal since they tend to fall out of your ears, and you never get the mic in the perfect spot. In addition to earbud woes, your laptop’s built-in webcam may not work well, or perhaps the desktop in your home office doesn’t even have a webcam.

Crestron Remote Executive Zoom Bundle
Crestron Remote Executive Zoom Bundle

Those are signs that you’re ready for a work-from-home equipment upgrade to fully participate in virtual meetings. Try a quality headset with an attached microphone. Also, if your shared workspace is less than quiet, noise-canceling headphones can help you stay focused. Now you can shop for remote-work bundles that make finding the right equipment fast and simple. Managers and executives may need a more complete remote collaboration package to lead their virtual teams.  AVI-SPL Quick-Shop bundles include various headsets, cameras, and webcams for each team member’s needs.

Try to limit distractions and interruptions

Based on my conversations, distractions and interruptions are the most common work-from-home challenges. Working at different times of the day can help. Lately, I’ve been receiving emails and Microsoft Teams notifications rather early and late in the day. I’m guessing those are from parents who are making the best out of working from home with children who need attention and help with digital classes during traditional work hours.

Flexing your work schedule could be beneficial for you too. Since few of us are commuting, that gives us a little more time to work with each day. Tackle emails and project tasks before little ones are awake, while they nap, or after their bedtime. That leaves you time in the middle of the day to supervise your children’s online classes.

Of course, you can’t avoid all midday meetings, and some uninvited guests could wander into the home office looking for a snack or help with homework. It’s not feasible to constantly keep your finger at the ready to turn off your video feed during an online meeting. A virtual background is a better solution. When your virtual background is displayed, coworkers won’t see little ones peaking into the meeting until your visitors get close to you. That gives you a much-needed few seconds to turn off your webcam.

Avoid the potato syndrome

Take time to learn the nuances of how your video conferencing software works. If you do use a virtual background or other fun meeting tools, make sure you know how to turn those enhancements off. Otherwise, you could get stuck as a potato for the remainder of your work-from-home tenure. MS Teams rolled out virtual backgrounds, and you can upload your own photos and videos to Zoom. Make sure the image you choose is work appropriate or ask if your team can provide a virtual background with the company logo.

Banish procrastination

Even though business casual is the norm, you are still at work and have goals to reach and projects to get done. To stay on track, set a schedule, and monitor your daily tasks. Use collaboration software such as MS Teams to keep track of projects and steps.

If your team doesn’t utilize a shared project application, add tasks to your calendar, or try the free versions of Asana or Monday. List your daily goals, and stick to them. It can be satisfying and motivating to mark your items “complete.” If your mobile phone is a temptation, try an app that blocks access to social media channels and games during specific hours of the day.

Take physical and emotional breaks

Taking a walk and getting fresh air can revitalize your body and mind during a long workday. Don’t wait until you can take these long breaks to get out of your chair, though. Try taking microbreaks throughout the day to stretch and rest your brain for a few seconds. Microbreaks are a healthy habit you can take back to the office with you too. If the stress of social distancing and isolation is affecting your positive mindset, try a meditation app.

Be patient with yourself and others

Finally, cut yourself and your teammates some slack. We’re all in the same work-from-home boat making the best of it. Expect to hear the occasional dog barking or see children coming into the room during virtual meetings. We may miss those lighter moments once we’re back at the office. It’s a stressful time, but we’re all working on getting through this together.

What does your work-from-home reality look like? Do you have any tips to share? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you need assistance outfitting your remote workspace, you can chat with us while you shop our work-from-home catalog, or call us at 888-881-0812. Remember to visit our Together We Can page for weekly updates and work-from-home resources. Follow us on social too. #TogetherWeCan

Webinar Recording: Choosing the Best Displays for Your Business Environment

Today’s display choices range from simple projection systems to the perceived complicated solutions such as Direct View LED (dvLED) and all things in between.  Download the recording for this AVI-SPL and LG webinar to learn how to choose the right digital displays your project/environment. 
 
Mitch Rosenberg, LG senior account manager, gives an overview of dvLED and also covers:
  • Comparing ultra narrow bezel LCD to Direct View LED
  • dvLED components
  • Benefits of using dvLED solutions
  • Creative uses of LG Direct View LED digital signage

In this short clip from the webinar, Rosenberg compares the ultra narrow bezel LCD to Direct View LED:

Get the recording for “Choosing the Best Displays for Your Business Environment” >

Online Learning Update With Jay Bosch: COVID-19 and Beyond

AVI-SPL wants to help your teams stay connected and productive during this difficult time as most of us are working, teaching, and learning from home. Our Together We Can online learning series offers helpful ideas and resources. Below is this week’s edition. Read all Together We Can posts.

This week in our Together We Can online learning series, AVI-SPL’s Jay Bosch shares feedback from educators on coping with a full-time virtual class schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bosch explores how organizations deliver online learning now, common challenges, and future classroom design trends. 

During my interview with Bosch, he covered how teachers are working from home and how they have adjusted to using virtual classroom tools. Our conversation also touched on digital classes extending into summer sessions and the fall semester for some organizations.

Additionally, digital learning and online collaboration may become a permanent part of delivering an interactive student experience. It’s possible that the online learning expertise gained during the pandemic may influence the design of the classroom of the future. 

Online Learning Trends With Jay Bosch

Class of 2020 Virtual Commencement

Insights include Bosch’s thoughts on what commencement could look like for the class of 2020. Some colleges are postponing ceremonies, while others are looking to deliver a memorable experience through virtual commencement ceremonies. For schools that don’t have in-house staff to set up and provide a live streaming commencement broadcast, AVI-SPL’s video production arm VideoLink is ready to help.

Virtual 2020 summer sessions

Jay explores possible summer session trends where teachers will return to campus, but still deliver digital classes to remote students. He talked about AVI-SPL’s lecture capture carts, a bundled solution designed to be shipped and installed quickly. 

AVI-SPL lecture capture carts provide schools and universities with an easy-to-use lecture capture system. This technology enables you to record, share, and manage all your video content for classes through your existing lecture capture software, which integrates seamlessly with popular Learning Management Systems.

Online learning beyond COVID-19

Bosch noted that at some schools, administrators are discussing extending their digital class curriculum into the fall semester, or even building permanent classrooms designed to host virtual classes. Solutions like Barco’s weConnect Virtual Classrooms include interactive whiteboards and large video walls that display each student. Using the video wall, teachers can see when students raise their hands and maintain personal connections while delivering classes online. 

Until next week, check our Together We Can online learning page for more resources and weekly updates.

Follow AVI-SPL on LinkedIn and Twitter. #TogetherWeCan