How to switch off work during the holiday season

The holidays are approaching – finally we can look forward to relaxing. We’re used to being super busy during our workday, so sometimes slowing down is a challenge. Maybe you feel nervous about leaving your computer off or your phone on silent – you couldn’t do these things at the office! Well at home you can and should. And yet, many of us find it hard to unwind again once work starts to slow down. So to help get you ready for the holidays, here are some tips on how to start disconnecting from the office, and reconnecting with yourself. 

Get the important stuff out of the way first

We know that you care about your work. If something is unfinished, you won’t be able to get your mind off it. Make sure that you don’t have anything big looming in your background by finishing your most important tasks a while before work actually stops. To do this you might need to delegate smaller tasks, or leave them for later, but once the big stuff is out of the way you can start to relax much easier. Maybe it helps to make a list of all your tasks, and label each task with the classic urgent vs. important system: tasks are either urgent or not urgent, and important or not important. Some tasks are urgent and important, and you should do those first. This will help you get an idea of what needs to be done when, and what you can leave for later. Hopefully your last few days at the office will be relaxed, which will let you start unwinding early. 

Disconnect your devices

Turn off auto-sync

It’s hard to ignore that little Gmail icon at the top of your phone screen. Even though you’re out of the office, you might still be getting emails from companies, clients, or coworkers. Once you’re out of the office, though, you do not have an obligation to reply. During working hours you need to see emails and messages as soon as they arrive – you probably have your phone’s email app set to auto sync. This means that email alerts will show up on your screen without you needing to open the app. It is very important during your holiday period that you turn this feature off. Even if you tell yourself ‘I just won’t open it now’, that email icon will be on your mind all day. You don’t want it to keep you from your rest time, alone time, or family time – so give the autosync the boot. Now you can only see your emails by opening the app. 

Different ringtones for different contacts

You don’t want to talk to your coworkers or boss, but maybe you do want to see when ouma sends you a photo of her festive house decorations. For this reason, you might not want to put your phone on silent. A lot of phones let you put a custom ringtone or text alert tone for different contacts. If you don’t want to put your phone on silent, try this instead. If possible, put certain contacts on silent so that they don’t take up your attention. The ‘Do Not Disturb’ function on your phone will also block all calls and messages except from people that you whitelist. It’s a great way to filter which messages you get to make sure you choose who can reach you.

 It is so important that you get a proper rest during the break. Working too hard without stopping has negative effects on your health, and can cause burnout in the long run. The holidays should be a time where work doesn’t exist – where it doesn’t occupy your thoughts, time or energy. Try your best to unwind in the coming holiday season, and spend time doing what you want to do. 

Tips for throwing a great end of year function

The holidays are getting nearer and it’s almost time for the end of year office function! Your employees probably need a morale boost, and you all probably need to let off some steam. Your end of year office party is a chance to put work behind you and kick off your vacation. Here are our tips for how to make the best of it.

Delegate roles

There is nothing as demotivating as having to plan an entire office party all by yourself – and then get stuck will all the cleanup! Getting people involved will also make them care more about the event. To divide roles efficiently, first decide which activities you want and then ask for volunteers. You could also ask for suggestions for activities. There will probably be someone who loves to organise or plan certain party games. Who knows, you might find that one of your employees loves designing pub quizzes, and another makes piñatas as a hobby.
To add another level to the delegating, you could let employees bring their own cooking or baking to the function (just make sure you reimburse them for the supplies). A great way to end the evening is to hand out little token gifts to the ones that helped organise. This might also make other people more likely to help out in the future. 

Don’t overplan

You want to find the right balance between structure and down-time. Too many planned activities and people will feel like they’re at sports camp. Too few activities and the party might get dry. Instead, prepare one central activity (i.e. a treasure hunt or quiz), a few games that can be played at any time, plus a speech somewhere in between. Make sure everyone has enough time to mingle, but enough things to do. 

Get the conversation flowing

There are two things that should never be dry at a function – the cake and the conversation. You want to give your employees the chance to relax, to get to know each other outside of work. To make this easier, try putting ‘conversation starters’ all across the room. That way, if anyone runs out of something to say, they can just pick from the ‘party jar’ and get it started again! You can write your own conversation starters or find suggestions online

Games games games!

Nothing breaks the ice like a fun challenge, especially one that gets people up and out of their seats. Prepare a variety of games – include puzzles, humour, and competition vs teamwork. If you are part of a big office, you might want to set up a few ‘game stations’ so that people can drift in between and get a go at everything. Games are great for smart competitive employees who maybe struggle to socialise on their own. To get people mingling, make sure that teams have a mix of people from different departments. You can also give out prizes for the winners!

Make sure there is something (and enough) for everyone!

There is nothing worse than running out of sausage rolls. There is also nothing worse than being a vegetarian at a party with only sausage rolls. You want to be inclusive at your end of year function, so make sure that you have a variety of food and drink. You need to think about things like allergies, religious eating guidelines, special diets and whether or not people drink alcohol. For this reason it might be helpful to send out a survey asking people what they can and cannot eat, and plan your menu based on that. Our catering suggestion is to do the food buffet style. This keeps planning simple, and lets everyone choose what they take. It also keeps things dynamic – people have to get up and move around if they want to get their food. 

Here at the POD we know that the office isn’t always all about hard work – it can also be about fun! Bring the fun into your office this holiday season. Let’s say goodbye to 2020 and hope that 2021 will have some better things in store for us.

Staying healthy while at the office

The workplace is changing for the better (we hope), and workers have more flexibility in how they work. So why not take advantage of this, and make your workstyle more wellness-friendly? Working on the computer can cause exhaustion, back pain, and eye strain. It can also lead to other unhealthy habits. Here are some small changes that you can make, to help you stay healthier at the office.

Try the Pomodoro method

You need to take breaks. One of the biggest health problems that we see in the office is neck and eye strain. 

The Pomodoro technique can help with this. Italian for tomato, the Pomodoro is simple – you work for 25 minutes, and then you take a small break. You work for another 25 minutes, and then you take another break. Repeat, until finally you take a longer break. The short intervals were designed by a medical student, who understood that our attention span gets worse over a certain amount of time. The short breaks force you to stand up and move around, so you don’t sit still for too long. The Pomodoro technique is meant to improve productivity, but it also forces you to give your body a well needed break. You can’t stay hunched over the computer all day, so it’s better for your back and neck muscles. Here is a timer on Youtube if you don’t want to download an app.

Blue light filter

Again, eye strain is one of the main dangers of working on the computer all day. You can’t prevent all of it, but there are some things you can do to make it a little less. Your phone, laptop, and tablets all have ways to limit their blue light. Try going on settings and searching ‘blue light filter’ or ‘night light’. Usually there is an option to turn this on. With some devices, you can even set a timer for when it turns on and off. This will have a double benefit – your eyes will be less tired and you might sleep better at night. Keep it turned on while you are working – you might not notice the effect now but it will make a difference in the long run. If you have the extra money for it, you could even buy a pair of blue light filter glasses.

Low-effort healthy meals

Eating healthy is one of the biggest challenges when you’re a busy bee. If you only have half an hour for lunch, it’s tempting to go for instant noodles or takeout. One idea is to meal-prep during the weekend, so that all your food is already cooked. But you want to use your weekend to relax instead, so why not make a quick salad? Salad doesn’t have to be boring. Add whatever you want – the more variety the better. One idea is to grab some pre-chopped lettuce, baby tomatoes, canned mackerel, white cheese and a packet of seeds. Add vinegar and olive oil instead of a mayo-based dressing, and you have a fast and filling salad. Hot tip – crumble up a cracker for some ad-hoc croutons! The process shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes, and doesn’t need any cooking.

Ask how your office space/employer can help

There are some things that are too difficult or expensive for you to do alone. Some offices offer healthier chair or desk options such as standing desks or yoga balls. With yoga balls you always have to keep your balance, so your muscles stay active the whole time you are working. The same with the standing desk. These aren’t for everyone, though. Some people find it hard to concentrate if they can’t stay upright. 

Many younger companies have yoga or fitness programs in the morning. An optional yoga class is a great way to start the day, and helps keep everyone healthy. Your office could also provide blue light screens to put over their computers. If you feel like your office could make some wellness improvements, talk to your Human Resources department to see what they can do.

Finally, keep a work-life balance

All the ‘wellness’ techniques in the world won’t help you if you’re still working too hard at the office. Most office workers are used to working regularly under pressure. You get used to it, but it is important to know when it is becoming too much. If you are always tired and have no motivation, you might be in the middle of a burnout. When this happens, the only thing you can do is decrease your workload, or take some days off. A good manager will understand that this happens sometimes, so speak to them about what you can do. Sometimes a day or a week off can be enough to get back on your feet.

Remember that your health is important. Make sure that you know how to look after yourself, and that you keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle. 

Increase your productivity at the office

Increasing your output isn’t rocket science, but it does require better manage your tasks and time. By making small changes to your habits you can drastically improve your productivity at the office. There are only so many hours in the day, which is why making the most of your time is essential – treat every second of the day like it’s a piece of gold. Replace bad habits with ones that enhance your productivity and take charge of your workday. Follow these strategies to boost your productivity at work. 

  1. Track how much time you’re spending on tasks 

You may think you have your time management down pat but research suggests that approximately only 17% of individuals are accurately able to estimate the passage of time. There are various apps that can be used to help you manage how much time it takes to complete various tasks. These apps can also be useful when tracking how much time you spend on unnecessary things such as smoke breaks, social media, and other distractors. By understanding the amount of time you spend on different tasks you can try to build up your efficiency by increasing your output while taking up less of your time. 

  1. Set self-imposed deadlines 

We often paint stress as the villain in our work story, but oftentimes a manageable level of self-imposed stress can help increase your focus and improve your productivity to help you meet your goals. When you have open-ended tasks or projects, give yourself a deadline, and make sure you stick to it. You may be surprised how much you get done while trying to complete a task by a certain task. 

  1. Give up chasing perfection 

It’s common for people to get hung up on the idea of perfection when the reality is that nothing is ever perfect. Don’t waste your time trying to get something perfect, rather complete your task to the best of your ability and move onto the next item on the list. Remember you can always come back and adjust or improve it later. 

When trying to get more work done throughout the day, take a step back, and think about how you can work smarter before you load more hours onto your plate. 

How to improve work efficiency

With any plan to improve yourself the most important thing to remember is that it takes time and dedication, just like increasing your efficiency at work will. The key result is to form new habits that will contribute to your productivity instead of detracting from it. Here are a few strategies to get you started: 

Set reasonable goals 

We set goals to help us shape our path – which can be an effective way to improve work efficiency when done correctly. When you assign yourself goals that are unrealistic you end up demotivating yourself which in turn decreases efficiency. Set realistic goals that you can feel proud about once accomplished, increasing your drive to complete more tasks. 

Ditch your devices 

We spend a large majority of time interacting with our digital devices. While using a laptop may be part of your job, digital devices can be a huge distraction during your workday and social media platforms can suck up your time. By putting away all unnecessary devices during your workday you enable yourself to fully focus on your work tasks – allowing you to become more efficient in your daily life. 

Learn to say no

Sometimes we feel pressure from ourselves or from those around us to take on tasks that are not our responsibility. While going the extra mile is always a great way to make a good impression, extra tasks that are not your specialty can take up too much of your time for a result that is less than spectacular. Learn to priorities the responsibilities that you know you can do well and say no to extra tasks that may cause you to lose focus during the day.

Create a routine 

Individuals who consistently accomplish their goals and improve their work efficiency do so by creating sustainable habits. So to improve productivity develop a routine that puts you in the best state to accomplish your tasks for the day. A routine is different for everyone, so find one that works for you and then stick to it. 

Books to read to improve your business perspective

We’ve all heard of business books like How to Win Friends And Influence People, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and the howevermany habits of people that claim to be successful. When you search ‘Top 10 business books, you’ll struggle to find a list without these. These books have undoubtedly helped many over the years reach their business goals, and contain business advice that can no doubt also be applied to other aspects of life. Our list today, however, is all about books that do the opposite. Rather than giving you business lessons that will help you through life, here are some books containing life lessons that will help you in business. After all, the best business leaders draw their knowledge from a variety of sources. 

  1. Factfullness by Hans, Ola, and Anna Rosling. With the amount of bad news circulating around us all the time, it’s easy to lose perspective and think that the world is all doom and gloom. Many people fall into apathy and feel like there is no point to whatever it is that they are trying to do. To start and run a successful business, you need to have a balanced perspective and a reason to keep going. Factfullness can help with this, as the book is all about dispelling pessimistic myths about humanity, and finding the ways in which things are getting better. Give it a read, and it might rekindle that spark of hope in you.
  2. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Some of you may have seen Brene Brown’s impactful Ted Talk about the power of vulnerability. For those that haven’t, her book explains it in depth. The author demonstrates just how afraid we are to be vulnerable and truthful with ourselves and those around us, and explains why this fear can hold us back from fulfilling our needs. In business, as in life, relating honestly to others is just as necessary as being able to persuade or flatter. Without open communication, issues can’t be expressed and problems can’t be straightened out. Daring Greatly can help you open channels of communication that you aren’t used to using.
  3. The Little Owl’s Book of Thinking by Ian Gilbert. Don’t be fooled by the Beatrix Potter-esque cover, this book is a hidden gem of wisdom. It follows the story of a little owl, whose father is giving him lessons in how to think. Each chapter, the little owl is faced with a problem, and each chapter he learns a new way to approach and solve it. If you’re pressed for time, this book is short enough to be finished in one afternoon, although you may find yourself wanting to refer back to it again later. The best part of all is that the lessons are framed in an easy-to-follow narrative, so you can even read it together with your kids. Two books in one, a guide to thinking and a bedtime story!
  4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Introverts are an often-untapped resource. Many introverted people are highly skilled, but reluctant to engage in the social politics of self-presentation. Much of the time, this means that their potential goes unnoticed, and they lose opportunities to others who are more comfortable with ‘tooting their own horn’. This book demonstrates the importance of not overlooking the quieter among us, and it is clear how learning these lessons can make you a stronger leader in business. So if you’re an extrovert (which, as the head of a business, you very likely are) why not take a break from all the noise, find a quiet corner somewhere, and have a read. 

As a business person we know you’re very very busy, but try to take some time to sit back with a cup of rooibos and a book – we promise it will be worth it.

Best Business Advice From Top CEOS

We all know that there are many different ways of measuring success and that it’s not just all about money. There are many examples of CEOs who have made their businesses flourish in their own unique ways, and each one has their own suggestion on how aspiring CEOs can do the same. 

1. Know your values and set goals. For Ben and Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy, success means accountability. McCarthy has been outspoken on issues such as income equality and social justice. He states that:

Business should be held accountable” and “If you don’t put goals around these things, they simply don’t happen.”

What is the takeaway? Know which values are important for your company and set business goals to achieve them.

2. Take responsibility. CEO Dan Price made headlines for the considerable income reduction that he took on in order to be able to pay his employees at Gravity Payments more. He remains confident that this will make his business stronger in the long run. 

For me, I really do view everything I do as a responsibility.

Price’s priceless advice? Take responsibility for yourself and the rest of your team!

3. Cultivate a passionate team. Cindy Mi, CEO of ABC teaching describes what was most critical for her business:

The real barrier, I think, is the passion for education from the team, and our teachers.

Cindy Mi’s business success came from the strength of her team, so whatever your business idea, make sure that your team is just as passionate as you are!

4. Be conscious of your impact. Sim Tshabalala of Standard Bank has been clear on his stance towards sustainability and development. He declares that the Standard Bank is:

committed to Africa’s long-term wellbeing and to generating social, economic and environmental value – an outcome that we regard as just as important as our financial results

The success of the Standard Bank goes to show how rewarding it can be to be conscious of your company’s environmental and social impacts.

5. Be consistent in your vision. The CEO of AMD, Lisa Su, shares how she raised the company back up to success after its years of decline.

It’s not what you do today but it’s really what you do year after year, after year that people pay attention to.”

The key here is to know what you envision for the future of your company, and to stick to this vision throughout the years. 

6. Make use of your surroundings. For Barclays Africa CEO Maria Ramos, the key to business success lies in knowing what your environment has to offer. In her case, what Africa offers is the potential of its youth.

We are seeing that whatever we are investing in our future ends with our youth. They are starting to take shape and produce the most unbelievably energetic release of capability and talent.

Ramos’ lesson? Take full advantage of the potential of your environment. 

Each of these CEOs has managed to create or oversee a thriving business, and have done so whilst taking into account their employees, their surroundings, and their customers. Though no two business formulas are the same, there is a lot to learn from looking at how other CEOs around the world are re-writing the definition of success.

Lunch Breaks Are a Thing of the Past

Working through lunch breaks has become commonplace amongst many employees. New research in the Journal of Psychology and Health has found that many employees feel guilty about taking a break at work during the day, especially for lunch.

Mike Oliver, the paper’s lead author explains that the legal minimum for a lunch break is twenty minutes. However, there is a growing trend for people to not take any breaks at work. The surveys done for the study found that between 66 and 82% of people don’t always take their allotted lunch breaks.

The question arises as to how there has come a point where people feel guilty about taking their legally allowable break. During the COVID-19 pandemic, an interesting time in history has cropped up to assess how people’s behaviours may or may not change when they’re not in a traditional office setting.

Work from Home

With many employees now working from home, one would think that people would be taking more breaks, and the problem of lunch would be less of an issue. However, the opposite was true, according to the research. Oliver’s finding suggests that when trying to ensure people take breaks, it’s best to do so with colleagues, or to be encouraged to take them by your boss. With no colleagues or bosses in any physical proximity, some people may find it harder to act on social prompts.

5 key themes were identified through the research:

1. People’s behaviours are dependent on a variety of factors, and the question of whether people do or do not take breaks isn’t black and white

2. The influence of social and work relationships is important – if your colleagues take breaks then you are more likely to do so and vice versa

3. When someone is busy, when faced with the choice of taking a break or not, work always ‘wins’

4. Lots of people feel anxious or guilty for wanting to take breaks, although some people simply just do not take them

5. Being ‘fair game’ for work-related matters if you’re at your desk at all times.

Mike, who has a doctorate in Health Psychology from Staffordshire University, said that the paper highlights the complex relationship that people have with taking breaks, with colleagues, as well as with their physical environment.

Some participants could see the importance of taking breaks, while others appeared to convince themselves that less strenuous work activity like answering emails while eating lunch at their desks constituted a break.

People appear to be placing greater importance on their work than they do on giving themselves breaks, and this kind of pressure from work may explain a lot of the behaviour seen in the study.

Oliver recommends that further research surrounding organizational change be done to support workplace health and wellbeing. There is a negative health effect, both mental and physical, and so people must stop putting work ahead of their breaks for their own psychological and physical wellbeing.

How to manage the return to work after lockdown

Lockdown and working from home has affected us all in different ways, and it’s only normal to feel a little unsure about the future. Many individuals may feel worried, confused, or apprehensive about going back to the office – there may be changes to your role or workplace as your company tries to comply with government recommendations. These adjustments will depend on your job, office space, and individual circumstances. However, there are still a few ways in which you can prepare yourself for coming back into the office.  

Rebuild relationships 

Although you may have been staying in touch with collogues over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet – it’s not the same as connecting face to face. We have all been affected by the lockdown in different ways, ask your collogues how they have been doing, and give them a quick update on how you have been. Rebuilding the friendships and synergies in the office are important to ensure a happy and productive work environment. 

Be prepared 

At home, you conveniently have everything you may need during the day right at your fingertips. When going back into the office make sure you are prepared with all the stuff you may need at the office that you wouldn’t think to pack while working from home such as your lunch, chargers, or cellphone. Also, think about the new regulations and protect yourself and others by wearing a face mask and carrying hand sanitiser with you

Talk to your line manager 

Coming back into the offices allows you to identify your work priorities and raise any concerns or questions you may have about your job. You have been presented an opportunity to start fresh, put your head down, and perform better than before. 

Some may be loving the working from home life while others may be beyond excited to get back into the hustle and bustle of the office. However, just keep in mind that everyone will adjust back to the ‘business as usual’ routine at their own pace. 

Hot Desking at Pod Off Grayston – A few good reasons why you should really consider it.

Hot desking is a very popular way for businesses starting up and it is the perfect solution to save money and be flexible from the start. When starting a new venture, it is always good to have solutions to reduce the budget spent on furniture such as desks, chairs, printers…this can sometimes make a real difference to whether the business will last its first year.

Hot Desking - flexible & affordable
And why not choose hot desking when working from home? It can be very lonely sometimes and meeting new people or people in the same situation can be very positive. Growing a business when working from home requires persistence and discipline. Breaking from a home environment, and being able to network can just be the push required to get to the next level.
With technology there is no need to store physical files since with services like Dropbox and Google Documents they are only a click away. With video conferencing services such as Skype and Zoom there less need for everyone to be in the same location.
Hot Desking solutions

Hot desking environments are very tidy and de-cluttered which in today’s busy world of emails, online news and text messaging can help free up one’s mind and can help de-stress a working day. Having less clutter in a working environment is also known to improve productivity. Schools holidays when you have children can create havoc in your work routine…So why not consider hot desking when you need to get away from home to catch up with work and find some peace and quiet, even for a couple of hours? You will be able to get on with your to-do list and go back home, available and ready to spend some quality time with your family.

Pod off Grayston offers flexible and affordable hot desking solutions so contact us today to book your spot at our trendy offices. We even have artisan coffee and treats on-site to get you through your day.