Category Archives: Business

If You Care About Your Productivity, Stop Worrying About Timesheets

Guest Post by Marie Miguel

Obviously, no-one is going to argue that productivity is important. However, any word used as often can have subtle shades of meaning: do you track productivity by people arriving on time and spending as many hours as possible at their desks? By tasks completed, and if so how do you compare picking apples with juicing oranges? By which employees complain most often? Whatever system you’re using, you’ll eventually run up against an inescapable fact: labor does not equal results.

Productivity no longer means simply convincing people to work harder

Most productivity metrics break down at some point; you may be obsessing about the number of tickets closed per day while ignoring the actual level of customer satisfaction, or be encouraging sales staff to make a certain number of client calls per week regardless of whether these result in revenue. This isn’t to say that we should abandon measuring performance, whether of teams or individuals, but we should keep in mind that there are many different aspects to this. The employees who are apparently the laziest are often the most effective, but pushing them to work harder can often have a negative effect on their productivity by upsetting whatever “system” they’ve found to work best for them.

If you take the time to think about this issue and do a little reading, the first truth you’ll discover is that movement, while tiring people out and possibly looking quite impressive, isn’t always in the right direction. Much of this is simply caused by miscommunication, which will cause employees to prioritize the wrong things, or work on tasks that will soon be irrelevant. The second thing you’ll realize is that improving productivity, based solely on an arbitrary metric, is usually a mug’s game.

The contribution direct labor input makes to a product’s final cost, in many industries, is now lower than ever. On the other hand, factors that never enter into productivity calculations, such as employee retention – particularly of the most valuable, and therefore most mobile staff – and health-related absenteeism can have a critical impact on the bottom line. Increasing productivity no longer means simply convincing people to work harder.

Impact of Stress on Employee Productivity

If your focus is on company-wide, long term productivity, one of the first things to look at is the level of stress your employees are subjected to. At a most basic level, this affects their health, potentially leading to things like heart disease, diabetes and a variety of mental illnesses. This doesn’t mean just the occasional sick day being taken, but long term absences or even losing a critical contributor due to a chronic condition. Alternatively, they might simply leave because they’ve become fed up with the environment you offer.

Workers who are less stressed are less likely to procrastinate, more likely to take initiative and offer suggestions, and far less prone to start interpersonal conflicts out of feelings of frustration. Overly stressed employees, on the other hand, can end up feeling resentful towards their employer, unable to deal with criticism, paranoid about their job security, and unable to concentrate on their work due to mental and emotional exhaustion.

Given all of these negative effects, you’ll be glad to know that there are quite a few ways to reduce stress. Companies are increasingly offering benefits such as free cafeteria food, flexible working hours, free stress counseling and various types of assistance to parents – not only to attract the best talent or because they’re nice, but also to assist their employees in achieving a better work/life balance. Work is, after all, the primary cause of stress in the lives of most people; if you can get them to actually like coming in on a Monday morning, your productivity worries are likely to be a thing of the past.

Recent research from Sweden correlated the characteristics of different managers, as described by those working for them, with health problems employees suffered over a long period. Unlike surveys that simply ask people to describe their level of stress, this offers a completely objective metric suitable for statistical analysis. Surprisingly enough, it was found that working for a boss lacking certain abilities increased the chance of having a heart attack by a full 40%!

Even if an on-site massage therapist isn’t going to fit into your budget for this year, though, there are certain things you can do, starting today, that can enormously improve the level of comfort, commitment and job satisfaction in your workplace. As it turns out, managers who don’t shirk responsibility for making decisions, listen to those under them, communicate clearly and don’t act arbitrarily is one of the key determinants in creating a pleasant place to work in.

Unfortunately, there are no clear indications that a particular executive will be able to organize a team and its challenges so that this kind of environment is achieved, nor is there a cut-and-dried set of rules to follow when managing your own team. A completely unsympathetic despot of a boss can unintentionally cause those under him to feel appreciated and unworried if he sets clear goals at every level and treats all workers equally. By contrast, a very personable manager who relies on a few key people to transmit his directives to all employees, and convey information back to him in turn, can lead to a situation where no-one knows what’s expected of them or what their part of the big picture is. There are an infinite number of variations on these themes – most of us can probably identify a few, good and bad, from personal experience. It is highly recommended that every manager reads the article, and the seven key points at the end, found at the link above.

Author Bio:  Marie Miguel is an avid internet researcher. She is fueled by her determination to answer the many questions she hasn’t been able to find the answer to anywhere else. When she finds these answers she likes to spread the knowledge to others seeking help. She is always looking for outlets to share her information, therefore she occasionally has her content published on different websites and blogs. Even though she doesn’t run one for herself she loves contributing to others.

How to Format a Business Letter

Business letters are still important, even in our digital age, as they are used to document purchases, legal and insurance information, retirement awards, cover letters and many other business transactions that require formal delivery.  A properly formatted business letter contains several major parts which, when used properly, convey a level of formal professionalism required in business.

Most business letters are usually typed on company letterhead that already contains the company name, the address, website, telephone and fax information already pre-printed on the paper so there is usually no need to begin with the sender’s name and address in the top left of the letter.

Business Letter Formats

The two most commonly used letter formats are the block style and the modified block style.  The most popular style used in business today is the block style, shown below, where the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.

The other common letter style is the Modified Block Style where the Body of the letter and sender’s and recipient’s address are still left justified and single spaced, but the date and complimentary closing are centered.

Major Parts of a Business Letter

No matter which style of business letter style you choose, the major parts of a business letter are still the same.  They include the Date, Inside Address, Salutation, Body, Closing and Enclosures.  Sometimes the Typist Initials and optional Attachment and Copy notations are also included.

Major Parts of a Business Letter

Major parts of a business letter

Date Line:  If you are printing on company letterhead, letters usually start with the date as the date lets the receiver know when the letter was sent and is useful when referring back to it at a later date.  The date is typed 2 inches from the top of the paper which can be accomplished by tapping ENTER 5 times from the top of the document when using single line spacing in Word.

Inside Address:  This is the name and address of the person receiving the letter.  It is usually typed four lines below the date.

Salutation (also called greeting):  For formal business letters, the salutation or greeting should end with a colon.  The greeting usually begins with the word Dear followed by the name of person receiving the letter.  For example, Dear Ms. Brown.

Body:  The body of the letter is started two lines after the greeting.  The body is the main part of the letter and is usually at least two paragraphs in length.

Fonts:  In this example, our letter is typed using word’s default font, Calibri, in the New Blank document template.  The most common serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10 or 12 point font size are often used in business correspondence.  Be sure not to use overly decorative or specialized fonts in business letters as they’re perceived as unprofessional and are more difficult to read.

Complimentary Closing:  Type the closing two lines after the ending of the body of the letter. The most common closing lines for general business purposes are Sincerely or Yours truly.

Signature Block:  Four lines after the closing, type the name of the signer.  This allows enough space for the signature.

Enclosure Notation: Sometimes typed as enclosure, Enc or Encl, and often accompanied by a number such as Enclosures (3). This indicates that additional information was enclosed with the letter and how many pieces were included.

Attachment Notation:  The attachment notation is optional and sometimes used instead of the enclosure notation.

Copy Notation and Typist Initials:  The copy notation is used if you need to send a copy to another person.  The typist’s initials are also optional and, if used, are keyed after the sender’s name.

Business Letter Example

Modified block style business letter

Modified block style business letter example

Examples of  Writing the Basic Business Letter and Business Letter Samples can be found at the OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Learn how to prepare and format common business documents in Word by taking the Word 2016 course officeskills.org.

Time Tracking as a Method for Boosting Productivity

Guest Post by Paweł Kijko

Managers keep searching for methods that can enhance the productivity and engagement of their employees. They try coaching and other motivational methods, they learn how to become a better manager and how to reach the members of their team in the best possible way. Also, they use software designed especially for the purpose of boosting the company’s performance.

There are several different types of such tools available but here we are going to focus on the time tracking software. This software, when installed on an office computer, allows users to track, monitor, and analyze the time they spend working on projects, and appropriately adjust to the workflow. Monitoring and analyzing their computer activity gives users the upper hand when it comes to finishing tasks and projects on time.

Why is Time Tracker needed?

Almost 90% of people admit in surveys that they waste time at work every day. 60% of them waste from 30 minutes to 1 hours. 16% waste approximately 2 hours, 6% roughly 3 hours, and the rest 4 hours and more. Such statistics clearly show that the problem is quite huge. Let’s say that a company has 25 employees and each one of them dedicates one hour a day to unproductive activities. This means that 125 hours a week are being wasted. How much money is that worth to an organization?

Time tracking software not only reduces the time wasted to an absolute minimum, it is usually equipped with features that enable users to set multiple projects, tasks, and subtasks; create invoices from timesheets, automate budgeting and billing, and much more. All these options make the job more pleasant and less stressful. Detailed reports of an employees tracked time will be a great aid to every manager.

How can Time Tracker help regular workers?

There are many ways. Time tracker offers clarity. By analyzing a week’s performance, users can establish both good and bad habits – find all the lapses and gaps and eliminate them. They will also be able to estimate the right amount of time needed to complete a task or a project.

With this information, users can modify their workflow to make it as efficient as possible. It should be much easier to set a productive schedule and follow it. Finally, time tracking software may significantly help those employees, who are dedicated to their work but for some reason did not manage to get a raise for quite some time. The data gathered by the tool can be the final argument in the negotiations with the boss.

Summing up

Employee time tracking software helps in forming positive habits. It reduces time wasted, boosts the productivity of everyone in the office, and makes the company grow. After all, time is money. The more we save it, the more we earn. When business develops, everyone benefits.

More on the topic can be found in this Extensive Guide to Time Tracking. If you are interested in time tracking software, you should definitely take a look at this!

11 Hacks to Beat Distractions and Stay Focused on Work

Guest Post by Brenda Savoie

Distractions are everywhere. We deal with them at home, we deal with them when we relax, and we deal with them especially when we work. When this happens, our productivity levels begin to drop, and our superiors won’t be happy about that.

Nevertheless, distractions tend to be very annoying. They’re the leading causes of stress and disappointment at the end of the day. Why?

Distractions are the biggest enemy of hard work. We have prepared some insightful tips and tricks on how to avoid your life distractions and stay focused on work.

1. Plan Your Day

The first and most important thing you should do in order to ensure productive days is to plan your day. Brian Tracy once said that 1 minute of planning saves 10 minutes in action. What he says is actually true. You can save so much time by already knowing what you have to do.

Start planning your schedule – note down the first things that you’re going to do in the morning and then follow up with the rest of the day. Of course, distractions might appear, so you have to prepare for those too. Predict a few distractions and note them down – it’ll be much easier to avoid them this way.

2. Get Rid of Time-Consuming Apps

Digital apps are cool and useful, I know. We’ve got very used to them, but unfortunately, they tend to represent a huge distraction. Social media, for example, is such a time waster if used wrong.

Anne Watson, HR manager at Essayontime: “Scrolling down for posts, stalking people on Facebook, and watching funny videos on YouTube during “small break” …it all takes your mind away from your responsibilities.”

There are plenty of tools that can help you block different websites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and so on. Find out what eats most of your time and make sure you never open it again during your working hours.

3. Focus on Effective Work Time

My definition of effective time looks like this:

“Effective work time” is when you are sitting at the desk, already engaged and focused on your work. Then, you can start tracking your effective work hours. You’ll be amazed to see that from 12 hours of work, you barely reach 6 of effective time.

In fact, most people work an average of 2 hours per day (I’m talking about employees). You know why? Because the rest of the fuss – meetings, colleagues, breaks, Facebook, Snapchat…this isn’t effective time.

4. Use Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is quite simple: you work 25 minutes (effective time) and you take a break of 5 minutes after. The moment the 5 minutes are gone, you start your next 25 minutes of effective work. Practice this technique over and over again until you accomplish the desired number of “Pomodoros”

This has proven to be very effective, as you don’t have to worry about how boring your work is. You can just focus on those 25 minutes and that’s it. You’re free after. Also, the  Pomodoro technique is a great distractions blocker, because if you allow distractions, you’re basically breaking the rules and have to start over.

5. Learn to Say No to Colleagues and Friends

You might believe that saying “Yes” to different requests and calls-for-help are going to do you good. Maybe you believe in karma, or you’re just a kind person.

Well, you need to stop. If you consider yourself to be a professional, you need to learn how to say “No” to these types of distractions. Let everyone know that you’re trying to maintain your focus and that you’ll be available later.

6. Always Break Big Tasks into Smaller Ones

Big tasks are terrifying. When you set a bigger-than-usual goal, it’ll often seem impossible to reach. All the steps that need to be gone through, and all the hustle that needs to be made…way too hard!

In addition, big challenges and projects almost always cause procrastination. Well, and you really know where procrastination leads! Start breaking all of your bigger tasks into very small ones. Focus on each and make slow but steady progress.

7. Take a Break once in a While

Too much work is not too advised also. In order to be productive and stay focused on the task, we need to take small but effective breaks. These will help us clear our minds and get back to work fresh.

For example, you can leverage your weekends and spend them with your family. Go to nice places, see some new things, and enjoy the nature. Stop thinking about work!

8. Create a Friendly Work Environment

If your work environment is cluttered, filled with unnecessary objects that just fill the room, you need to make a change. Keep everything clean and organized. It gives you the proper mood, and it’s also nicer for the eye.

Also, you should analyze the place you’re working. For some, working at home might be terrible because they get so many distractions. The solution? Rent an office or go to the library.

9. Be Aware that Stress Affects Your Productivity

If you know that being stressed is only going to lead to worse things, you can minimize its effects. For example, when you’re caught up in traffic, and you need to arrive at work in order to deliver a deadline.

You can’t do anything except wait. Instead of stressing yourself out, become aware that you cannot influence the situation. Understand that stress is very damaging, and block it from your life.

10. Implement Tiny & Productive Habits

Tiny habits that take no longer than 30 seconds can really build up into something bigger. If you want productivity, you need to implement productivity habits. These habits, if built up properly, can and will lead to a consistent productivity and lesser distractions.

11. Just Try to Focus More

The last advice? Do better than you do now. It is said that we can do so many more things other than what we believe that we can. If you put up more effort and commitment, you will be able to maintain your focus for longer and just keep distractions out of your life.

Conclusion

If you’ve read this article and you’re not applying any of these insightful tips, you’ve done…quite nothing. Start taking action and minimize your distractions as much as you can. Once you learn how to do it, work will be five times more productive!

Brenda Savoie is a content marketer at Essayontime, productivity coach, and desperate dreamer. Writing her first romantic novel. Seeking contentment through mindfulness. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Types of Office Chairs that Increases your Business Productivity

Guest post by Lorenzo Harper

Choosing a chair for your office is simple, but selecting an office chair with all necessary features can be very tedious as there are many types of chairs available in the marketplace.

Before we go into all the different types of office chairs available, let’s take a look at some the features that you should be aware of before making your purchase.  These features will guarantee yourself or your employees greater comfort and may also help increase the productivity of your business.

Why the Right Chair Increases Productivity

Choosing the right type of office chair helps increase employee productivity by helping employees focus and concentrate on their work more effectively, thus ultimately resulting in an increase in your overall business productivity.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an employee, virtual assistant, business professional, visitor or a senior manager, it’s important that they feel comfortable and relaxed while sitting on the chair you provide them at your office.

How to Choose the right Office Chair

Before you purchase your office chair, be sure not to overlook the following features:

Lumbar Support: The first and foremost thing you need to note in an office chair is the lumbar support, as this provides the strongest support to your complete lower back muscles.

Arm Support: Pick an office chair with adjustable armrests, as they help to flip up and push upwards to relieve the pain in your neck and shoulders.

Tilt: Choosing an office chair with tilt adjustment can help you to change or adjust the seat angle as needed.

Swivel:   Having the ability to swivel in your office chair will help you rotate or move without moving the chair’s base.

Height Adjustment: With this feature, a person of any height can make use of the chair in an efficient way.

Paddle Control:  This feature gives you control over your knee and back tilt positions as well as for adjusting your seat height.

Backrest: This is one of the most important features in an office chair. The backrest will not only help to increase your blood circulation but may also help relieve the pressure on your lower back.

Casters: With this feature, it’s simple to move around to any of the places in your office easily.

Types of Office Chairs

Once you are aware of all the features, it’s much simpler to decide on the right type of chair for your office. There are many different types of office chairs available so before you decide, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is going to use the chair?
  • How long will the person use the chair each day?
  • Which chair can fit your office space perfectly?
  • What is your chair budget?
  • Does the chair suits your office interior and office type?
  • Will the chair work for your other rooms as well?

After you have the answered all the above questions, you’re ready to start selecting the right chair. Here are some types of office chairs that contain all of the above features.

Executive Chairs

This is the perfect chair for use in the corporate office environment or any professional waiting room used for senior and upper management.

Executive Office Chairs provide a professional look to your office space. They also tend to blend well with older office furniture. As they are made up of high-grade materials like leather and wood, they provide maximum guarantee for comfort and durability.

Executive chairs will also adapt to all the above-mentioned features like lumbar support, ergonomic design, padded controls, etc., and are therefore often described as the best chair to be used in the workplace. While they tend to be expensive, they have been noted as worth the investment in the long run.

Ergonomic Chairs

Ergonomic office chairThis chair will provide a relaxed seating environment for your employees and has been known to reduce many types of body pains.   This type of chair is also particularly valuable during long work sessions as it allows employees to focus on their work more effectively, which in return may result in increased productivity.

Apart from posture, these type of chairs have been known to provide a wealth of health benefits to employees including proper regulation of blood flow and reduced  frequency of common issues such as back strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Guest/ Reception Chairs

This chair would be a great choice for a waiting room or reception area as it’s important that you provide a comfortable chair for your guests and visitors.  This would have an overall positive impact on you and your company.  A guest chair is part of your companys’ all important “first impression”.

There are many different types of guest chairs available but if you need one for senior management or other business professionals, then you’ll need to choose a guest chair with an ergonomic design for ultimate image and comfort.

Conference Chairs

Conference chairs are meant for meeting places so you’ll need to ensure the person in your meeting can sit comfortably and in a relaxed position so they are able to focus and listen to the meeting effectively.

Conference chairs tend to very stylish and comfortable with all the necessary features like castor wheels, height adjustment, padded support, flip up arms, lumbar support, swivel, etc. While these chairs can be costly, the investment may be worth it in the long run if it increases productivity and provides satisfaction to your clients.

Boss Chairs

As the name implies, these chairs are especially preferred for the top management staff in your office. You can identify a boss chair just by the design itself as they tend to be completely unique from other type of office chairs.

These chairs are expensive, yet are considered to be worth the investment. These chairs communicate power, status and thus play a major role in increasing business productivity due to all the advanced features and comfort they provide. In addition, the high-grade quality material used, frame look and the ergonomic design make them attractive and professional looking.

Bottom Line…

It pays to invest some of your valuable time in choosing the best type of chair for your office, as they play such an important role, not only in your customers and employee’s health and morale, but also in increasing your business productivity.

Authors Bio:  Lorenzo Harper is a blogger at bunjobungeechair.com and owns a furniture shop in Georgia. In his blog, he writes about various types of chairs and other furniture.