Tag Archives: Flexible working

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it

Work-life balance and 5 ways you can achieve it
Every business owner, professional or working parent out there knows what a struggle it can be to balance a heavy workload with a fulfilling personal life. Mastering the elusive ‘work-life balance’ can seem nigh on impossible when you’re taking tons of work home with you, cancelling social plans and answering emails at 11pm.

According to a global study by Ernst & Young, one-third of full-time workers say that maintaining a work-life balance has become tougher in the last five years. Longer work hours, lack of job security and new communication technologies make it increasingly difficult for people to leave work behind at the office, and the boundaries between home and work are blurring. But the stress that builds up from overwork and an ‘always on’ mentality can be costly, giving rise to health issues, relationship conflicts and disengagement. The need to unwind from the pressures of work, spend time with family and take care of your own wellbeing has never been more crucial. Indeed, getting the balance right can help you bring your best to all areas of your life.

Work-life balance varies from one individual to the next. Here are 5 tips to support you in finding the balance that’s right for you.

1. Work out your personal priorities

Work out your personal priorities

If you’ve been tipping over on the work side of the scale, then your private life is likely to have taken a hit lately. Take a good hard look at your priorities and consider how you can re-allocate time to the most precious things in your personal life, as well as your business. We all need personal goals to balance out our professional ambitions. To help you create space in your life for family, friends, rest and play, create a project in DropTask just as you would for a work-related goal, and manage it in the same way. Make yourself accountable by scheduling tasks for the next few weeks or months to pursue a hobby, attend your kid’s soccer match, go on a trip, volunteer or host a dinner party for friends. Focus on the people and things that are important to you so that your life reflects your priorities, not anyone else’s. We suggest aiming to give yourself something to look forward to at least twice a week, so you have an extra incentive to manage your time well. Don’t worry about trying to remember everything as DropTask will send you a Daily Summary Email to inform you on what you should be doing and when.

2. Learn to say “no”

Learn to say no
You’ll have an easier time sticking to your personal priorities if you learn the power of saying “no” once in a while. Trying to please everyone all the time is the short route to burnout, so it’s imperative to protect your time. You don’t have to volunteer for everything you’re asked to do. Get comfortable with setting boundaries and decline any energy-sapping requests, errands or meetings that fall outside of them. Have a chat with your manager or team to communicate your limits and agree on how you’ll work going forward – can you delegate or outsource any of your time-consuming but low-value jobs? Any feelings of guilt will soon melt away when you realise how much it can benefit your productivity and work-life balance. DropTask can help you with crafting and maintaining boundaries, allowing you to Assign Tasks to others and customize Notifications so that you don’t get overloaded.

3. Telecommute

Telecommute
If you have the option, consider working from home a few times a week. Freedom from the hellish commute and time-guzzling distractions of the office (impromptu meetings, interruptions by colleagues, and so on) means that your natural workflow can flourish unabated. As a result, you’ll gain much-needed extra time to take care of your personal responsibilities. With DropTask at your service, you no longer need to be sitting in the same office to share info, stay up-to-date on progress or give your full input on team projects. You can be just as productive and collaborative as your office-based colleagues, if not more, while lounging around in your pyjamas!

4. Unplug after hours

Unplug after hours
Here at DropTask, we love new technology. But there are occasions when even we admit you have to pull the plug on it. Checking your emails every 15 minutes when you’re supposed to be watching a movie with the kids doesn’t amount to true quality time and actually injects an element of stress into your evening. Try to completely ban work-related technology when you get home so that you can focus on your family, friends or yourself. Turn off your phone or screen your calls, letting them go to voicemail if they’re not urgent. Now relax and enjoy the moment.

5. Take care of the physical

Take care of the physical
No matter how jam-packed our schedule is, the one aspect we can’t ignore is our self-care. Block out a bit of personal time in your calendar to take a walk, meditate, eat a mindful lunch or do anything that will top up your tank. That way your health won’t get crowded out in favour of other more ‘urgent’ demands. Get out into the fresh air for an hour if you can, or head to the gym for a heart-pumping session. Can’t leave your desk? Then try some deep breathing exercises or stretches while sitting down (roll your neck and shoulders, flex your feet, stretch your arms), or do a 10-minute body-scan meditation. A little rejuvenation goes a long way in helping to bring more balance to your life.

Got any ideas for tip No. 6? What strategies do you rely on for creating a healthy work-life balance? Tell us in the comments below.

Can shorter workdays mean higher productivity?

Shorter workdays

More work hours = more output. Right? New developments in Sweden suggest otherwise.

A growing number of Swedish employers are moving to a 6-hour working day in a bid to lift productivity, counter burnout and make people happier. These organizations (which include Toyota service centers, retirement homes and hospitals) have found that a shorter workday can decrease staff turnover, enhance creativity, inspire loyalty and boost profits as well as efficiency. Impressive benefits by anyone’s standards!

But will this 6-hour workday model catch on in nations like America, where clocking long hours is the norm and ‘presenteeism’ sees workers burning the candle at both ends to prove they’re up to the job? This ambitious, workaholic mentality is as much a part of US culture as hot dogs and baseball, and is worn proudly like a badge of honor. Yet research shows that cranking out more hours at your desk doesn’t necessarily pay off when it comes to output, and the Families and Work Institute discovered that working longer can even damage productivity as people are more likely to make mistakes and get sick.

Clearly there is a link between wellbeing and productivity, so how do we create a workplace that nurtures a balanced relationship between intense work and time to chill? Here are some ideas for making the shift.

1. Set the tone

Set the tone

If you’re a leader, it’s up to you to set a positive tone for your company culture and embark on active steps to create a healthy work environment for your team. People take their cue from you, so send a clear message that wellness matters. Praise teammates who work sensible hours, go on full lunch breaks, use their annual leave and take time to rest after a busy stretch, and rap the knuckles of those who don’t. Practice what you preach by stepping away from your desk once in a while, and openly discuss the ways you take care of yourself with your team. But don’t stop there. Make the most of internal communication channels to raise awareness about work-life balance by circulating blogs, factsheets and informative websites; and use posters, noticeboards and company newsletters to promote your message in visible ways. The more people are educated about good work habits, the more likely they are to take measures to improve their own situation and to look out for those they work with.

2. Take frequent ‘pulse checks’

Take frequent 'pulse checks'

Schedule regular one-to-ones with team members to check how they’re doing and catch any early signs of stress. What’s their energy like? Are they feeling overwhelmed? How’s their morale?  Did they come back refreshed after their recent vacation? Remember that being super busy all the time doesn’t mean that person is more productive or engaged. They may have fallen into bad habits such as multitasking or being constantly plugged in to technology which disrupts their focus. It’s also worth keeping an eye on people who always volunteer for extra tasks, as they could be taking on more than they can realistically chew because they’re hungry for more brownie points. To supplement your one-to-ones, use DropTask to drop subtle hints to colleagues who might be slipping when it comes to their wellbeing. All it takes is a quick comment urging them to re-align or take a break from a task.

3. Be flexible

Be flexible

According to The Harris Poll, 89% of Americans believe employers should offer flexible work hours so long as the job gets done, and over half of American workers (52%) feel they would perform better at their jobs with more flexibility. Let’s face it, one-size-fits-all policies are too rigid and don’t account for the fact that people are individuals and work optimally in different ways. Encourage your teammates to figure out what kind of schedule works best for them and be open to ideas for alternative approaches, such as remote working or 4-day workweeks.

Job satisfaction soars when people feel valued and are given the opportunity to make small shifts in when, where and how their work is done without being micro-managed every step of the way. Putting people in charge of their time motivates them to knuckle down and give their total attention, dodging distractions like nonessential emails, social media or meetings – meaning more work gets done. DropTask is an ideal tool for ensuring work stays manageable in a flexible environment. In-app notifications keep teams and managers up to speed with every project, so the ball never gets dropped. And completed tasks are all cataloged in one place, making it easy to review performance based on what people have achieved and not the number of hours they spent in the office.

How do you encourage personal and professional balance within your team? Do shorter workdays or other flexible arrangements work for you? We’d love to hear your experiences and advice in the comments below.

New to DropTask? Learn more about the benefits by signing up for a free account today.

Bust The Summer Slump

Summer working

5 Ways to be red-hot productive this summer

It’s August and summer is in full swing, bringing with it warm weather, vacations, BBQs and smiles. But while the temperature and people’s spirits may be rising, chances are your workplace productivity is cooling down.

Like many other businesses, you might be feeling the summer slowdown right now. With hazy days come lazy ways in the office. It’s hot, clients and customers are away, and colleagues are zoning out, dreaming of lying on a beach or sitting in a beer garden somewhere. Add to that the irresistible lure of distractions like Pokémon GO and it’s no wonder projects are coming to a standstill as summer heats up.

According to CNBC, organizations across all industries often report a loss of productivity and ROI during the summer, including household names like Yahoo, Google and Oracle. Other surveys have found that 25% of workers feel less productive during June, July and August than in the rest of the year. And a 2012 Harvard study reports that people make more errors and take longer to complete assigned tasks during sunny days than on rainy days.

That’s not to say that you and your team should write off the summer season because of the productivity slump. Take advantage of the lull to embrace a flexible summer schedule, rejig your priorities, power through the stuff you’ve been putting off, try something new, and set the stage for an active September. Here at DropTask, we’ve put together a few tips to help you bust the slump and stay on track during the summer months, while still enjoying time to kick back (or chase Pokémon!).

Flexible timing

1. Embrace a flexible summer schedule

So, you’re one of the unfortunate few left holding up the fort while your teammates are away. Don’t be glum about it, there are ways that you and your fellow workers can enjoy some of the fun summer has to offer and still get things done at the same time.

The key is to be flexible. Studies demonstrate that teams with modified work schedules (such as half-day Fridays) show increased productivity, growth and engagement in the summer. Ensure expectations are set and be clear on which deadlines won’t budge, but give yourself and your team more options on how work is carried out. Empower colleagues with the ability to adjust their work hours around their most demanding tasks or to work remotely if possible. DropTask is the ultimate teleworking tool, enabling you to share work and collaborate with anyone, no matter where they are. Real-time technology allows for instantaneous updates on tasks, so team members are always on the same page.  Mark Pohlmann, project manager at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise describes how he uses DropTask to manage teams working remotely across various sites around the world.

Manage your time better and keep track of your availability using DropTask’s new built-in Calendar. In a forthcoming update, you’ll soon be able to view each other’s calendars and leave status or progress updates on tasks. Don’t forget to schedule frequent ‘sunshine breaks’ to eat lunch outside, grab an ice cream or take an afternoon walk. The brief mental break and hit of Vitamin D will reduce the pressure and refresh your productivity when you get back to work. A good way to boost morale is to institute Summer Fridays—where people take the afternoon off or leave early on Fridays rather than work a full day. This gives them the chance to beat traffic and get a head start on their weekend, but encourages them to be that extra bit more focused and productive when in the workplace.

DropTask on laptop

2. Rejig your priorities

Summertime presents the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your priorities and stay busy in the right ways. With many workers off on vacation, make use of this quiet time to step back, reflect on work completed, revive your aspirations and set new goals so you can hit the ground running come September. If you’ve constantly got your nose to the grindstone, even at this time of the year, you can easily lose sight of your main ambitions and waste energy on tasks that don’t align with the bigger picture. Instead of getting bogged down in the minor details of your work, do some deep thinking on a grander scale and plan your strategies for moving forward. For instance, aim to take on weightier, more complex projects in the winter months and schedule new products, campaigns or other deliverables for late spring, before winding down for the summer.

DropTask offers flexible planning features so you can figure out both your long-term goals and more immediate, upcoming tasks. On a day-to-day basis, it can help you stay on top of your to-do list and avoid pointless summery distractions. Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of every day to outline and prioritise your tasks according to your biggest goals. We recommend that you tackle your most difficult or high-grade tasks early in the morning, and leave the easier low-grade ones for later in the day. This is doubly important in the summer as productivity can dip dramatically after lunch, so your mornings need to be super productive! Come the afternoon, you can go out and enjoy a bit of sunshine without feeling guilty about what you’ve left behind.

Team working

3. Power through the stuff you’ve been putting off

If you find that the summer season provides a little breathing space, take advantage of an empty office to finish any projects or bitty tasks that you haven’t been able to give your full attention to. Complete any reports, reviews, budgets or updates that have languished behind in favour of more pressing matters. Catch up with your admin, tie up loose ends, organise your desk and zero out your inbox. Focus on accomplishing all your unfinished tasks, rather than simply filling the hours from 9 to 5. You’ll feel great satisfaction every time you ‘pop’ a task bubble on your DropTask dashboard. . When the workplace gets busy and crowded again, you’ll be thankful you made the effort.

Working at a screen

4. Try new things

Summer is ideal for experimenting and switching things up. Now is the time to test new tools or trial new systems you’ve been thinking about implementing, especially if work is starting to feel a little stale lately. For instance, if you’ve been wanting to try out a new productivity app such as DropTask or creative problem solving approach, go ahead and give it a go while the office is relatively peaceful. Play with new features and options so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t for you and your team.

Summer brings an expansive feel to life, so it’s a good time to build new skills and fill out your shoes. If there’s a new subject you want to learn or habit you want to develop, go for it, even if it’s just starting a new fitness regime. The same goes for your team. Give your workers, particularly the young ones, a chance to take on new developmental challenges or wear new hats. Deloitte research shows that millennials don’t just want to spend their time earning a paycheck; they want to invest time acquiring skills and knowledge to grow personally and professionally. What better time of year than the summer to let them do it? Once the autumn leaves start to fall and deadlines loom close, you’ll have a more powerful and skilled team at your disposal.

September preparation

5. Set the stage for September

As well as taking stock of your situation, rearranging your priorities and putting to bed your unfinished tasks, look to ready yourself for the colder seasons with something brand spanking new. Redesign your website or logo, create a backlog of content, or put together a presentation or white paper to establish yourself as an industry leader. While you’re at it, clean up your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page and any other online bios floating around. As the summer draws to a productive close, a fresh new you will be ready to take center stage.

Staying productive in the summer doesn’t have to be a challenge. Use DropTask to help you beat the office doldrums and make summer your season to shine. How do you and your team like to be productive during the summer? Share your thoughts, tips and experiences in the comments below.

 

How our upcoming desktop apps will give you all the flexibility you need…

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As the CEO of DropTask, my role is both exciting and challenging all in one.

I live for every moment in life and love to take on new challenges – especially ones that allow me to be my best.  I’m also a mom, a grandmother and a wife, so balancing it all is quite the juggling act.  I always have many balls up in the air and it’s critical that I minimize the chance of dropping any.  Utilizing DropTask to make sure I know what I have on my plate today, tomorrow, next week and sometime in the near future is key to making sure I can prioritize things in my personal life in addition to what’s happening at work.

I manage a global organization which requires the ability to work extremely flexible hours.  Not only flexible according to the time of day, but also in the places you need to be.  Imagine life 20 years ago, when productivity on a train, plane or automobile was restricted to reading materials and note taking using pen and paper. Things are much different now. At DropTask, our team is spread across three time zones in multiple continents so having a product that allows me to work offline as well as online is so important to my ability to be productive no matter where I am or what I am doing.

As I travel from the U.S to reach my team in Wales, it’s always an exciting adventure.  From plane to train to automobile is literally my journey each time I meet face to face with my team.  As I’m travelling and thinking about my goals for the week, I leverage DropTask on my phone to evaluate what needs to be accomplished.  I’m also a mom of four, so thoughts of what I need to do before I leave often consume me as I depart for my trip.  Leaving my family to head to Wales for the week can be stressful, but the ability to leverage DropTask to plan my departure makes the process much smoother and pain free.  For a lot of working moms, leaving on a business trip and knowing things are covered at home is critical so you can focus on the job at hand.  Personally, DropTask is my saviour, and the key is having wide access to my schedule and tasks exactly when I need it.

Travelling on the plane creates a bit of a productivity challenge for me. I like to be productive on the plane – but this requires me to be able to utilize a product in offline mode.  One that will sync whatever you input seamlessly when the internet becomes available.  I don’t want to have to think about waiting to get online when my creative juices are flowing, and one of the things I enjoy about working offline the most is the ability to channel creativity without the distraction of the internet itself.  Being inundated with emails popping in while you’re ‘in the zone’ and building your execution plan for the team is nothing less than distracting.  This is where I utilize DropTask on my phone and computer by putting myself in airplane mode either when required to by airline officials or when I simply want to disengage from the madness online.

I have had the pleasure to experience the Windows desktop release of DropTask in its early stages of development.  Kudos to our Windows development team lead by Ben Northmore who has provided me with this great new ability to work offline on my Windows device.   I can’t wait to share the beta release of DropTask for Windows with you all – it’s coming in the very near future.

For all those Mac fans out there, we’ve recently released the beta version to all DropTask PRO users to test as part of the exclusive Tester Program that you’re enrolled in as part of your PRO membership.  Our Mac development team has been hard at work to bring you an amazing experience using DropTask on the Mac, and the feedback in our Yammer Community has been extremely positive. I want to give a big shout out to the Mac development team lead by Krzysztof Nowak.

At DropTask our mission is to continue adding value to our product by allowing you, our customers, to leverage DropTask from your favorite device at any time.  DropTask is simple to use and requires absolutely no training, and our goal is to maintain this simplicity while providing enhanced integrations with the collaborative products that you’re already using every day.  So if like me, you’re in the fast lane and juggling multiple commitments on the go, then I urge you to get involved with our latest beta release of DropTask on Mac. Your feedback will help shape the final product, and the team and I would love to know what you think.

For details on how to participate, drop us an email at contact@droptask.com and be sure to join our DropTask Yammer Community.