Monthly Archives: September 2020

9 Ways Being Mindful Can Improve Your Productivity While Working From Home

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Many of us had worked from home in one form or another before March 2020.

However, the start of the pandemic ensured it was no longer an optional extra or a perk that companies offered, and remote working quickly became the status quo.

Organisations which had previously baulked at letting their staff work from home occasionally, were suddenly forced to adapt business models and infrastructure to facilitate their entire workforce working from the safety of their homes.

Businesses like Google and Uber announced that their teams would work remotely for at least another year – or in the case of Facebook and Twitter, indefinitely.

This may have been an answer to prayer for some: no more early morning starts, long commutes, exorbitant transportation costs and busy trains are just a few benefits.

But while remote work enables flexibility, is convenient and saves a bundle on travel costs, it has its downsides.

For example, working from home was supposed to facilitate work-life balance. And in a world where we were mainly based outside our homes, having the option to do so a few times each week helped us achieve that.

But now that we are based at home? There have been references to the fact that we are now living at work.

The boundaries between work and home have been blurred and, in some cases, disappeared completely. Work now encroaches on our lives in a way no one anticipated at the start of the year, and until the public health issues with coronavirus are resolved – a vaccine is probably another twelve months away – it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

There are ways to mitigate the downsides; it’s all about being aware of them and taking the necessary steps. So here are 9 ways being mindful can improve your productivity while working from home.

1.      It Helps To Have a Routine

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Your commute has been reduced – significantly.

Instead of travelling for an hour (at least!), you only need to travel from your bedroom to your home office or desk.

Don’t get into the habit of rolling out of bed and logging onto Zoom with your pyjama bottoms on. While you no longer need to wake up two hours before work starts, setting your alarm to go off at a set time helps. That, and taking the time to prepare yourself mentally for the day ahead.

2.      Dress For Work

No one is expected to wear a suit at home, but deliberately dressing for work is a useful practice.

Comfortable clothes in the smart-casual category send the message both to yourself and others you’ll encounter in the course of your virtual working day that you’re in work mode.

3.      Designate a Work Space

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As much as you’re able and depending on how much space you have available, assign an area in your home to be used specifically for work.

That will help establish the “I’m going to work” prompt in your brain, and is great for setting boundaries between your home and work lives.

And if possible, avoid working from the sofa or your bed. Doing so doesn’t help with those blurred boundaries and if nothing else, curling over your laptop while slumped in those locations isn’t good for your back!

4.      Watch The Clock

It’s no surprise that we’re all working longer hours. Since we’re saving hours on commuting, we’ve shifted to starting work earlier and finishing later.

Reports confirm the length of work days has gone up by an average of two hours, which is a significant rise.

Clock-watching is usually frowned upon – we all know that person who always made a beeline for the day at 5.00pm and wouldn’t stay a minute later. But, useful practices such as taking lunch and coffee breaks, and consciously shutting your laptop after a certain time are healthy ways to enforce boundaries and stop work encroaching on the rest of your home-based life.

5.      Watch What You Eat!

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You’re at home, and the fridge is right there.

You have back-to-back calls to get through, and grazing while you sit mindlessly through them might help you get through the day…

…the convenience of having food and snacks within reach makes snacking and constant grazing tempting!

But it’s useful to be aware of how much you’re eating and when. Remember that you’re probably less active than you were six months ago; sticking to fixed mealtimes and being conscious of snacks and portions will help ensure you don’t end up with a significant increase in your calorie consumption.

6.      Make Exercise Part Of Your Routine

And linked to point 5 above, keep moving!

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to make exercise a part of your daily routine. There is more tendency to lead a sedentary lifestyle, which the World Health Organisation warns could be among the ten leading causes of death and disability as it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure, among others.

So make a conscious effort to go for a run or walk before you start work in the morning. Or if you can make it to a gym after you’ve shut your laptop for the day, even better. Gyms are open and obliged by law to follow official guidelines to make their spaces COVID-secure, so call and ask what safety measures they have in place first.

7.      Take Breaks Between Calls

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If you can, take breaks between Zoom calls.

It’s easy to go from one call straight onto a series of others, and before you know it, you’re left wondering why you feel drained and exhausted. After all, it’s not as if you’re doing anything other than sitting there, right? Regardless of how widespread the technology is, staring at small squares of ourselves and our colleagues is not normal and Zoom fatigue is real.

One way to guard against it is by taking breaks between those calls. Block out between 10 and 15 minutes in your diary, so anyone view your availability when trying to book a meeting will see that you are unable to meet at those times. This will force your colleagues – and you – out of the habit of booking and sitting through back-to-back calls.

8.      Switch On Your Camera

The majority of business meetings are being carried out via video conference, but it appears many of us aren’t comfortable being seen by our peers and so, decide not to switch on our cameras.

And it may surprise you to learn that only 55% of women enable cameras on video conference calls, compared to 65% of men.

While there is unspoken pressure to act a certain way when visible – not to mention that your colleagues can easily spot when you’re multi-tasking! – speaking to a series of dark squares is de-motivating and doesn’t do much for building rapport. Which is already hard enough to do virtually.

So if you accept an invitation to a Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams call? Switch on your camera and prepare to be seen.

9.      Use The Phone

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It’s easy to forget that all meetings don’t have to be video conferences.

You can use the good “old” phone instead, or schedule a conference call if more than two people need to be in that meeting.

As mentioned above, there is an unconscious pressure to perform when you know we’re going to be on display, and that extra pressure can be taken away by having voice calls only where appropriate.

These tips should help you increase productivity while looking after your mental and physical health in this season.

And if you need more support as you make that transition to working from home long-term?

I offer a Remote Mentoring service which will help you tackle that inertia you’re feeling, and give you practical tools to get back to delivering on your targets.

Contact me to discuss your specific challenges and how I can help you.

3 Small Business Grants You Can Apply For Right Now

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You may not know it, but if you are based in the United Kingdom there are several funding options available for businesses, many of which were made available as a direct result of the pandemic.

While many are loan facilities such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), there are three grants you should know about.

What Are Grants?

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Grants are sums of money given by the government or a public body for a particular purpose and unlike loans, are not liabilities to be repaid.

There are eligibility criteria to meet, and bodies which provide funding through grants will usually specify what the money should be spent on.

Are There Problems Accessing Grants?

Especially for small and medium-sized enterprises there is a surprising amount of this kind of funding support available, but the challenge with gaining access is two-fold:

  • There is limited knowledge about their existence. They either tend not to be widely publicised, or there is a lack of adequate explanation about the nature of the funding and how it works. This is unfortunate, as businesses which desperately need the lifeline don’t get the opportunity to apply for it, as has been the case since the end of August . Schemes such as the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) were announced to provide relief to businesses as a result of the pandemic, but were ended a few months later without an estimated 2 in 5 eligible businesses applying.
  • When researching available grants, it is rare to find relevant information that is up-to-date and collated in one location in a way that is easy to read and assess.

What Small Business Grants Can You Apply For?

That being the case, here are 3 Small Business grants you can apply for right now:

1. THE EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND (ERDF) PROGRAMME

This was announced by the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government in July, and consists of £20 million of new government funding to help smaller businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are for small and medium-sized businesses.

What Is The Grant Amount?

It is a one-off cash amount of between £1,000 and £5,000.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by Growth Hubs, which bring together the best of public and private sector partners to promote, co-ordinate and deliver business support based on local needs. They are embedded in local areas across England.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if it is based in England.

How Can You Make a Claim?

Locate and contact your local area Growth Hub.

2. THE KICKSTART SCHEME

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This was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in July, and consists of £2 billion in funding to create more jobs for young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are available to businesses of any size to create new job placements and support young people on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.

What Is The Grant Amount?

Funding is available for the National Minimum Wage for each role, and there is also £1,500 available for each job placement to set up support and training.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by central government.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if:

  • It is based in England.
  • The job placements are for new roles.
  • The roles are for a minimum of 25 hours a week and will last a minimum duration of 6 months.
  • At the very least, successful candidates will be paid the Minimum Wage for their age group.

How Can You Make a Claim?

  • If your application is for 30 or more job placements, complete your application online.
  • If your application is for less than 30 job placements, you’ll have to partner with other organisations to have a minimum of 30 placements. You can either find a representative to help you do this by getting in touch with your local Kickstart Scheme employer contact, or become a representative of a group of employers yourself.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

You’ll need the following details to complete your application:

  • The Companies House reference number.
  • The business address and contact details.
  • Details of the Kickstart scheme job placements and their location.
  • Supporting information to confirm the placements meet the criteria of the scheme.
  • Details of how the business can develop the employability skills of young people.

Once your submitted application is checked to make sure it meets the criteria, it will be reviewed by a panel. Current government estimates are that applications should be responded to within one month.

3. LOCAL LOCKDOWN GRANTS

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To avoid a second wave and the need for another national lockdown, the government strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus now involves implementing restrictions on a local and regional basis.

Since many businesses caught up in these local lockdowns will see their revenue-generating activities halted, the Treasury has announced new funding to support and protect them.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are for businesses forced to close as a result of local lockdowns or targeted restrictions.

What Is The Grant Amount?

Larger businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks for the duration of any such closure. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by local authorities.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if:

  • It is based in England.
  • Occupies a property or part pf a with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage less than £51,000 (this qualifies for the £1,000 payment).
  • Occupies a property or part pf a property with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage of £51,000 or more (this qualifies for the £1,500 payment).
  • Local authorities will also receive an additional 5% top up amount to enable them to help other businesses affected by closures which may not be on the business rates list. Payments made to businesses from this discretionary fund can be any amount up to £,1500, and may be less than £1,000 in some cases.

How Can You Make a Claim?

Contact your local authority.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

If you make a profit, you will be liable to pay tax on it.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you think your business qualifies for one of these grants, speak to your accountant in the first instance to clarify details such as tax implications before completing and submitting an application.