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6 Things That Will Improve Your Home Office

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Working from home can be challenging. You don’t have the same equipment or support as someone who’s sitting in a corporate office. So, how can you make sure that you’re as prepared and productive as them? Here are six things that you need to do: 

1. Make an Emergency Fund

One of the biggest obstacles of working from home is that if something goes wrong, it’s on you to fix it. You don’t have an IT department to come up to your office to help you when your computer is on the fritz or when your phone breaks. You have to handle tech issues on your own, and you might have to cover the costs too. 

So, you should prepare for this. Set aside some savings every month and pile them into an emergency fund. This could help you cover any unexpected tech breakdowns and problems that will stop you from working. 

What if there’s not enough in your emergency fund? If you don’t have a substantial emergency fund, you could always apply for a flex loan to make up for your lack of savings. Click here to see what is an online flex loan and what qualifications you need to apply. This could help you manage an emergency expense quickly.

Make sure to tell your employer whenever you have to handle an emergency expense for your home office. They might help you cover the costs. Just have a copy of the receipt on hand. 

2. Boost Your Internet

You need your internet to be in top shape when you’re working from home. You don’t want to have sluggish service when you have to race through a project to meet a tight deadline. You don’t want your connection to drop in the middle of your conference calls. 

If you’ve noticed that your internet is too slow, you can do a few things before buying upgrades. Reset your modem. Move your router to a better space. Having it out of the open (instead of in a closet or cabinet) and close to your office could help with your connection. 

If these things don’t work, it’s either time to upgrade your plan or replace your devices. These will give you a much stronger connection — and give you an easier time at work. 

3. Organize Your Cables

Look under your home office desk right now. There’s a big knot of cables there. It’s embarrassing to have all of that mess sitting in your professional workspace, and it’s not very efficient either. It’s going to be a real pain trying to untangle your laptop charger from the knot when you need to move your work to another location. How can you fix this frustrating problem?

You have a few very easy options. You can use twist ties — yes, the ties that keep the plastic bags over loaves of bread firmly closed — to collect and organize your cables. Zip ties and Velcro wraps can also give great results at a very small price point.  

Now your office will feel less cluttered and chaotic.

4. Get an Ergonomic Chair

You can’t have any old chair in your office. You should have a high-quality ergonomic chair. It’s an essential feature for any professional workplace.  

Why is that? A regular chair can’t give you the support that you need to last through an entire workday. If you use a regular dining room chair or stool, you’re going to notice lots of aches and pains after spending hours at your desk. Eventually, you could get some chronic problems with your posture. That’s not good. 

Get yourself a proper chair. It’s the right decision for your health. 

Once you have the chair, you should look up how to make an ergonomic office setup with the rest of your equipment. Everything from your chair height to your keyboard position is important for maintaining good posture and taking care of your body. 

5. Protect Your Eyes

You’re staring at screens all day long. You wake up and look at your smartphone to turn off your morning alarm and check your messages. You then log onto your computer for work. And if you don’t stay late and work overtime, you sit on the couch and relax in front of the television before crawling into bed and restarting the cycle. 

Is this bad? While staring at screens won’t cause irreversible damage to your eyes, it will cause irritation. You can get eye strain from focusing on a bright screen for too long. You might find yourself getting headaches, blurry vision or dry, itchy eyes. This can be solved by taking the following steps:

  • Take frequent breaks where you look away from the screen for at least 10 seconds
  • Sit an arm’s length away from your computer monitor
  • Lower the brightness on the screen
  • Adjust the size of fonts, documents and folders so that you don’t squint
  • Take eye drops if you’re experiencing chronic dryness or itchiness

Another problem is that the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt your sleep patterns. Blue light stimulates your brain, blocks the production of melatonin and tricks you into feeling awake. While this comes in handy in the middle of the workday, it’s not good when it’s done. You might find that you’re having trouble getting to sleep, especially when you work later hours. You’re wide awake when you hit the pillow. 

If you’re having trouble sleeping after a long day, consider making some adjustments. Adjust the color temperature of your screens so that they emit less blue light. Some smartphones will have a setting that says “night mode” that accomplishes the same thing. Try to give yourself at least 2 hours away from a screen before you go to bed. This means you should try not to burn the midnight oil for work if you can help it.  

6. Decorate with Plants

Finally, the last thing that you need to improve your home office is a potted plant — or even better, a few potted plants. Why is that? Research shows that indoor plants can boost your productivity and decrease your stress levels. It’s the perfect solution when your workdays have either felt like unbearable slogs or stressful sprints. 

What plants should you get for your desk? Here are some popular options:

  • Snake Plant
  • English Ivy
  • Aloe
  • Bamboo
  • Jade Plant
  • Peace Lily

With these six things, you can thrive in your home office. You’ll never want to go back to a regular cubicle again.

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Managing people

It's never been more clear: companies should give up on back to office and let us all work remotely, permanently

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  • With the rise of the Delta Variant, companies should switch to all remote.
  • All-remote is better for workplace collaboration, the environment, and companies' bottom lines.
  • Companies that switch to all-remote should be intentional about collaboration and technology.
  • Jeff Chow is SVP Product at InVision.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It's time to go back to the office for good – the home office.

With the CDC's recommendation that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with "substantial" and "high" transmission of COVID-19, employees across industries are wondering what the new future of work looks like. As the possibility of another shelter-in-place order looms, companies are deciding whether moving to a hybrid situation – simultaneously in-person and remote – is worth it.

It's not. Simply put, the concept of "forever remote" makes sense for numerous companies and industries. For many, America's "back to work" isn't a simple light switch, but many organizations are better off to shut the lights off at the traditional office. The switch to all remote will broaden a company's talent pool and increase employee happiness and retention, while limiting a lease and lowering its carbon footprint.

There are benefits to becoming a fully-remote organization. A top example is that the talent pool now goes national, or even international. Organizations are no longer limited to recruiting employees from a given radius to their offices. Asynchronous work helps to open the door for employees to work across time zones to get projects and deliverables completed in time.

InVision, where I work, has been all-remote since its inception. We have the luxury of hiring people living across the US and in 25 countries.

Additionally, without the need for a large physical office presence, companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, on leasing office space or building an expansive campus.

There is also evidence that eliminating an office for all employees to work remotely is better for the environment. Eliminating a daily commute, whether it's driving a vehicle or taking mass transit, helps cut down on emissions. This was initially noticed back in the spring and summer of 2020, when a decline in transportation due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 6.4% decrease in global carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of 2.3 billion tons. The United States had the largest drop in carbon emissions at 12%, followed by the entirety of the European Union at 11%.

In a June 2021 McKinsey survey of over 1,600 employed people, researchers found about one in three workers back in an office said returning to in-person work negatively impacted their mental health. Those surveyed also reported "COVID-19 safety and flexible work arrangements could help alleviate stress" of returning to the office. Not everyone who works for the same company is going to get along. In an all-remote environment, it is far easier for people who are at odds to simply avoid each other. HR won't have to spend nearly as much time mediating between (or terminating) office Hatfields and McCoys.

So, how exactly do you quickly pivot to remote again and stick with it? The key is intentionality. Teach managers to make a point of celebrating wins and good work on group calls. Build encouraging collaboration into managers' Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s. Take advantage of face-to-face opportunities by holding in-person, all-company all-hands meetings as a time to build culture, not a time to just do more work.

Treat working groups to dinner (use some of the money you saved on your lease!) and let them get to know each other as people. To be intentional, invest in new ways of working that are oftentimes better ways of working: reducing necessary meetings and adjusting more feedback sessions to asynchronous collaboration. Meetings that remain on calendars should be reserved for the purpose of being highly engaging and energizing moments for teams to brainstorm and do generative sessions.

Second is technology. By now, we're all familiar with the likes of Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, but there are other products that can actively improve collaboration (full disclosure: I work for InVision, which makes one such digital collaboration tool, namely Freehand).

Take a thorough look with your IT team (and talk to your employees) to see what they need on a day-to-day basis. What tools does your accounting team need? Do they differ from what the marketing team needs (spoiler alert: they do). And don't force everyone to use the same tools. If your accounting team loves Microsoft Excel, that's fine for them. I can guarantee, however, that your product design team is not going to use it.

Finally, invest in your employees' ability to make the transition (again).

GreenGen, which provides green energy solutions for businesses and infrastructure projects, had one of the most pioneering ideas. "We had our employees do a two-day work-from-home resiliency test. This was to ensure that everyone's home Wi-Fi was adequate so that all of our documents and materials were easily accessible online, and that we could troubleshoot any potential problems preemptively," said Bradford H. Dockser, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of GreenGen. "Ensuring that our team members got monitors, mice, and keyboards at home made the transition seamless." With that sort of intentional stress test, GreenGen didn't skip a beat.

Above all, the main key to returning to the home office for good lies within communication. Technology and innovative products have helped to bring colleagues closer together virtually, as people work from anywhere at any time. Initial shelter-in-place orders taught many businesses across industries that remote work can be just as effective, if not more so, than the traditional office model. Businesses should make the call to go all-remote permanently. Their employees, their investors, and the environment will all thank you.

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Business Ideas

Some Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor stores will become WeWork coworking spaces for $300 a month – see inside SaksWorks

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The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

  • Hudson's Bay Company has partnered with WeWork to create co-working spaces.
  • The SaksWorks will be built within existing or past Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor stores.
  • The coworking spaces will have amenities like gyms, cafes, and restaurants.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) – the mastermind behind Saks Fifth Avenue and formerly Lord and Taylor – has partnered with WeWork to create “SaksWorks.”

SaksWorks' armchairs and coffee tables
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: BusinessWire

That’s right. Your local Saks Fifth Avenue could become the next hotspot for freelancers, startups, and remote workers.

SaksWorks' large coworking desk with a presentation screen and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

To tap into the ongoing coworking craze, HBC will be turning part of its real estate collection into WeWork-run SaksWorks.

SaksWorks' tall shelves with plants and books hiding desks
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

This includes both existing or past Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor stores, Konrad Putzier reported for the Wall Street Journal.

SaksWorks' couch in front of a coffee table surrounded by bookshelves and plants
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Several SaksWorks will also be located outside of the city for suburbanites who need a break from working from home.

SaksWorks' couch in front of a coffee table surrounded by bookshelves and plants
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

All of the images shown below are from the partnership’s Brookfield Place location in New York City, but there will also be three additional New York locations – in Manhasset, Scarsdale, and Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship in the city – and one in Greenwich, Connecticut.

SaksWorks with a bookshelf in front of a couch, coffee table, and more shelving
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

The Brookfield Place location is replacing a former Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s store, while the SaksWorks in Saks Fifth Avenue is taking the place of a 10th floor children’s section.

SaksWorks' coworking space with armchairs, bookshelves, plants
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: Wall Street Journal

The three other SaksWorks will take the place of Lord and Taylor stores, Steff Yotka reported for Vogue.

a couch with colorful pillows and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source:  Vogue

The first few SaksWorks will open its doors in September, but looking ahead, the team has plans to open more locations across North America.

SaksWorks' coworking space with armchairs, bookshelves, plants, coffee table
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

In the future, this could include Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Boston, Amy Nelson, SaksWorks president, told the Wall Street Journal.

SaksWorks' coworking space with a long line of tables and chairs
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: Wall Street Journal

HBC’s reputation for luxury goods seeps into the SaksWorks spaces …

SaksWorks' armchair and couches and shelves
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

… which will include plush amenities like on-site gyms, retail and restaurant spaces, cafes, and in-house events.

SaksWorks' squat rack in front of a mirror
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Like any other WeWork, SaksWorks will also have the prerequisite meeting spaces and open concept coworking spots.

SaksWorks' large coworking desk with a presentation screen and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

As part of the collaboration, the SaksWorks locations will use WeWork’s “workplace management technology,” such as its booking app, according to a press release.

a couch with colorful pillows and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: BusinessWire

“With HBC, we take the first step toward expanding our technology platform product offering and providing a differentiated approach to how landlords can incorporate flexible space across their portfolio,” Sandeep Mathrani, WeWork’s CEO, said in the press release.

SaksWorks' coworking space with armchairs, bookshelves, plants, coffee table
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: BusinessWire

Prices will start at $299 a month, and the waitlist is already a few hundred people deep.

SaksWorks' tall shelves with plants and books hiding desks
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source:  Vogue

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Finance & Accounting

Section 321 Probably isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon

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With the change of administration in the U.S. in 2021, many American domestic businesses—and some from throughout the world—watched to see if the U.S. imposed trade tariffs would be lifted on China. 

However, the tariffs remain in place which means that Section 321, a regulation that pertains to imports, is here to stay. On the bright side, this statute presents a money-saving opportunity for eCommerce business owners and a continued need for fulfillment companies in Canada and Mexico. 

What is Section 321?

The statute, Section 321, categorizes certain goods that can be cleared through customs without extra taxes or duties. This allows business owners to avoid additional shipping expenses that would usually force them to increase prices and/or gain very little profit.

Likewise, by invoking Section 321 on imports while employing the services of a Mexican or Canadian fulfillment company, businesses can also save time by improving the efficiency of their logistics strategy. 

What Has Prompted Frequent Use of Section 321?

China and the U.S. make up two of the largest economic powers in the world. In fact, as of 2019, trade between both countries equaled almost $559 billion in American dollars. This, in part, resulted from China’s induction into the World Trade Organization in 2001. Flash forward a little over a decade and half later, tariffs were imposed on Chinese goods to hold the economic power accountable for a rash of intellectual theft, unfair trade practices, and to leverage the playing field between the two nations.

While during the election of 2020, President Biden had disagreed with President Trump’s political or economic tactics in relation to dealing with China, he has not made any moves to lift the tariffs that were imposed by the previous administration. Rather, he has chosen to keep these measures in place that cover roughly $350 billion worth in goods imported from China. This decision stems from the first in-person meeting between President Biden and President Xi Jinping which did little to thaw the relationship between the two countries.

Thus, going with the bipartisan support of holding China accountable for its political missteps and for its unfair trade practices on the economic world stage, the tariffs remain in place for the time being. 

Why is Section 321 Here to Stay?

So, what does this mean for companies that have traded with China? 66% of goods that are exported from China to the U.S. carry a tariff at an average rate of 19%. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, that’s about 19% higher than before the trade war started. 

Since American importers bear the cost of those duties, prices on items like televisions, baseball hats, luggage, bikes, and sneakers have gone up. This means that consumers might have noticed a difference on the price tag compared to years ago or a higher shipping cost once they reach “cart” on an eCommerce site. 

Consequently, business owners have invoked Section 321 with the help of Canadian or Mexican fulfillment companies to cut the cost that’s triggered by these tariffs. 

How to Qualify for Section 321

While Section 321 enables businesses to avoid tariffs on some imported goods, you would have to make sure shipments do not exceed $800 in value. Additionally, you would have to remember that not all products fall under the eligibility of Section 321 coverage. These include:

  • Cosmetics
  • Dinnerware
  • Bio samples for lab analysis
  • Raw oysters

Plus, you would have your shipments to Canada or Mexico, where fulfillment companies will divide your goods into parcels that value $800 or less. They are then shipped to the U.S. but not all at the same time so as not to exceed the $800 limit. 

How to Apply Section 321 to Your Business Strategy?

Depending on where you’re located, you would partner with a fulfillment company in Canada or Mexico to come up with a plan of how to divide the shipment and schedule delivery. Furthermore, the fulfillment company would check the proper paperwork to ensure all necessary and correct information is given. With the shipments arriving in either of these two countries, you wouldn’t have to be concerned about the tariffs because the destination from China would be Canada or Mexico. Neither of these countries have to pay a tariff (or as high of a tariff). Plus, technically, your supplies are “arriving from” Canada or Mexico who have a trade agreement in place with the U.S. that doesn’t involve tariffs. So, this practice presents a mutually beneficial situation for your organization and the fulfillment company. 

Because Section 321 doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, you can ensure a timely delivery of your goods by securing the services of a Canadian or Mexican fulfillment company, depending on your location. These companies take care of the logistics and paperwork for you which saves time and money. They double check on the scheduling of the arrival of your imports to guarantee that they will meet the Section 321 criteria. All in all, this means that you won’t have to worry about paying the high tariffs, and your customers can count on reasonable prices and receiving their products on time.

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