10 Health Benefits of Eating Vegetables, According to a Dietitian

by Lisa Valente, M.S., RD

When it comes to eating vegetables—Mom was right. They’re good for you! That probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Most of us know that eating vegetables (and fruits) is a healthy habit. But still, most Americans are not eating the recommended 2 to 4 cups (the exact amount varies depending on age and sex). All veggies count towards your daily quota. That includes starchy ones (like potatoes), leafy greens, canned tomatoes and frozen spinach. To help nudge you towards upping your intake, here are 10 reasons why vegetables are so good for your health.

1. Fight inflammation

Sometimes inflammation is good, but too much chronic inflammation isn’t great for our bodies. Veggies are one of the best foods to eat to help you fend off inflammation. They are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals to help your body.

2. Improve blood pressure

Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, according to the CDC. When it comes to your diet and blood pressure, eating too much salt isn’t great. But, eating more potassium-rich foods can help reduce the damage of a high-sodium diet. Vegetables, like beets and spinach, deliver potassium (amongst other nutrients) and the fiber from vegetables also helps your heart.

3. Up your fiber

Most of us don’t hit our recommended fiber intake (that’s 38g/day for men and 25g/day for women). Eating high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts and yes, vegetables can help you get enough of this key nutrient. Fiber is great for your heart and gut, but also can keep you full and reduce your risk of developing diabetes. All vegetables have fiber, so choose a variety to get your fill. Artichokes, sweet potatoes and peas all make our list of foods with more fiber than an apple.

4. Help your eyes

Eye health may be top of mind if you stare at a computer and phone all day, which can strain your eyes, according to the American Optometric Association. If you want to protect your eyes, eat more vegetables (you’ll also want to take some screen breaks and see your eye doctor). Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). You’ll find them and other eye-protecting carotenoids in basil, corn, red peppers, spinach and broccoli.

5. Improve your skin

You can help take care of your skin by staying hydrated and getting quality sleep, but what you eat can help too. Tomatoes deliver lycopene, which can actually help protect your skin from sunburn (sunscreen is important too). Kale and avocados can help keep your skin more elastic. Many vegetables, like cucumbers and celery, also have a high water content to help you meet your hydration goals for glowing skin.

6. Reduce risk of heart disease

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in America and diet plays a big role in helping keep your heart healthy. Vegetables give you potassium and fiber, two nutrients that are good for your heart. Adding lots of veggies to your diet can also help you keep your weight in a healthy range, which takes some pressure off your heart. Leafy greens, avocados and tomatoes make our list of top heart-healthy foods, but all veggies have benefits for your heart.

7. Benefit for blood sugar

Whether you have diabetes or not, vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients, so they can help fill you up and can minimize blood sugar spikes during meals. Adding some arugula to your pasta helps bulk up your plate and keep you satisfied. Try adding peppers to tacos or cauliflower to stir-fries. Some vegetables are higher in starches and carbs—think potatoes, corn, squash, peas—but they can still be included in your diet. (Here are 10 of the best vegetables to eat when you have diabetes.)

8. Reduce risk of cancer

No diet choice is guaranteed to keep you cancer free, but vegetables are full of cancer-fighting nutrients and antioxidants that may reduce your risk of certain types of cancers. Cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, have been studied for their cancer-fighting power. They deliver potassium, folate, vitamin C and phytochemicals, as well as sulforaphane (highest in broccoli) which may protect your cells from carcinogens. Variety is key here, as all veggies have different nutrients and protective effects.

9. Keep your brain young

If you want to keep your brain sharp, including vegetables in your diet is the way to go. Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are part of the MIND Diet, which was designed by researchers to help reduce your risk of Alzhemier’s disease and dementia. The antioxidants and folate they deliver are key nutrients for your brain.

10. Improve your immune health

It’s no secret that what you eat impacts your immune system. Vitamin C is a key nutrient that’s found in lots of vegetables (people are always surprised to learn that broccoli and bell peppers have more vitamin C than an orange) that helps keep your immune system strong. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods is also important for your immune system, so include lots of different veggies as well as fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and protein sources.

11 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2022

by Dr. Erik Reis

Learning how to motivate employees is easier in theory than in reality, mainly because knowledge is useless without application. The pressures of remote work, hiring freezes, and uncertainty around a job only add to the chaos that is managing people in the workplace, and the pandemic has taken its toll on much more than company bank accounts, as team morale and employee motivation have come to a crux in the road.

HR managers are seeing a significant increase in workplace-related issues being reported since the pandemic started, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. This trend will most likely hold as companies begin to place restrictions on workplace options by demanding employees return to the office to resume standard pre-pandemic workflow.[1]

A notable 48% of employees have reported issues to their HR departments since the pandemic started.[2] And these statistics appear to be getting worse with new developments in COVID-19 variants, civil unrest in cities across the country, and people deciding to change careers amid turmoil within businesses.

Yet, while this may sound like we are on the brink of an economic collapse, the glass is still half full.

Because of the pandemic, the environment has seen significant advances in decreasing water and air pollution due to less travel.[3] The US economy is still barreling through a bull market, and most of us have had greater opportunities to spend time with family due to lockdowns and social distancing measures.

As Winston Churchill said,

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Companies that choose to change the way they treat their employees during these dire times will see their efforts pay dividends down the road for many years to come, and motivating employees is one small piece of the puzzle towards making the workplace a place of productivity, engagement, and continuous improvement.

Profits are usually preceded by people taking action, which is why investing in your employees is one of the most vital factors in maximizing company growth.

What Kills Employees’ Motivation?

Before we jump into discussing ways of motivating your employees, let’s take a moment and discuss what kills motivation. I find that understanding the roadblocks helps us become aware of them so that we might remove them.

1. Micromanaging

Micromanagement is a form of mistrust. For the micromanager, the process of micromanaging others is all about control. The more you control, the safer you feel. However, the greater control you exert the more your employees feels mistrusted, mistreated, and undervalued. When your employees feel like this, their motivation drops and the business suffers.

How would you feel if someone was watching your every move? What would you think if the leader didn’t delegate work, became overly involved with your work, and discouraged you from making decisions? Would you feel motivated if the leader decided to look at every detail, demanded regular updates, and wanted to be cc’d on every email? If that doesn’t motivate you, then realize it will kill all employee motivation within your organization.

2. Lack of Systems and Structure

Lamar University defines structure as:[4]

“the formal system of task and reporting relationships that controls, coordinates, and motivates employees so that they cooperate to achieve an organization’s goals.”

Structure and systems tells employees who does what, who answers to who, and how things are meant to be accomplished. These are super important to building motivation.

Effective, efficient, and motivated employees are birthed from solid structures and systems. The purpose of such systems is to create a work environment that builds motivation and promotes productivity. The lack of systems and structure is one of the fastest ways to demotivate employees. When the employee lives in multiple levels of complexity because there isn’t a straightforward system, it will increase the stress level. As the stress level rises, the employee’s motivation falls.

3. Unclear Expectations

It is important to note that we all carry expectations on how things should work. Where we struggle is in how effectively we communicate those expectations to those we interact with. In truth, there is a high percentage of leaders who call people to a high level of expectation without ever sharing what that level is.

Millions of employees have to live to a standard that they are unclear how to achieve. You cannot achieve what you do not know. If the expectations are not clearly defined and communicated, the employee will never meet those expectations.

The most motivated employees are those who know where the target is. When an organization carries high expectations that are never communicated, the employee is positioned for failure. If I were an employee who knew that there was no way to win, I would be demotivated entirely and ultimately look for a new position elsewhere.

Motivating Factors for Employees

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I wanted to highlight some of the top factors that increase employee motivation.

1. Job Security

In the current cultural climate, job security ranks high. In 2020, a high percentage of businesses shut their doors, laid-off employees, and downsized general operations. The few employees who were able to go virtual were blessed. However, a large number of people moved from a job they loved to being gainfully unemployed. With that in mind, when an employee finds an excellent place to work that promotes job security, they are motivated to do what they can to keep their job.

2. Being Recognized for Their Work

Being recognized at work is a critical factor that will increase employee motivation. Deep inside every employee is the desire to be seen as someone who does an excellent job. When they are privately and publicly recognized for their work, it keeps them showing and motivates them to go to the next level.

3. A Healthy Work Environment

Toxic work environments demotivate employees. On the flip side, a healthy environment boosts morale and keeps people showing up. Take a look at google. They have an environment that promotes enthusiasm, community, and fun. Google’s environments promote high performance by focusing on removing stress. In return, the employee shows up refreshed, highly motivated, and ready to work. There is a lot of power in an environment that promotes health.

4. Career Advancement

Employees want to know that there are options for them to advance. Working a “dead-end” job demotivates employees because it tells them that there is no chance for them to be more than they are at that moment. Want to motivate people? Invite them to express their purpose, give them a clear path of growth, and you will have one highly motivated employee.

5 . Good Wages

Employees want to take care of their self-interests. Whether they are single or support a family, the employee will be highly motivated when they know that they are earning enough to live a comfortable life. The greater the pay level they can achieve, the more they will be motivated, and the harder they will work.

How to Motivate Employees

Curious as to how to motivate your employees to success? Here are 11 effective ways to motivate your employees in 2022.

1. Ask Them for Their Feedback

Something magical happens when you ask someone their opinion about a topic—they immediately feel better about themselves and you!

When people provide their perspective, it feeds their ego and changes their view of the conversation, creating a greater likability for you or the individual who asked the question.[5] This simple strategy can leave a long-lasting positive impression, which in turn will facilitate greater trust and higher employee satisfaction over time.

Employees who feel heard have a higher probability of coming to work early or staying late to finish a project because they feel they are genuinely part of the team. Their work is no longer seen as just being a part of the job because they are now emotionally invested in individual and company-wide initiatives.

Asking questions will also facilitate higher-level cognitive processing, promote new ideas, challenge company norms, and provide a greater sense of confidence in creating solutions to problems.

2. Give Them the Freedom of Choice

Do you remember what it felt like to drive a car on your own for the first time? It felt like absolute freedom. Life was now different. Time appeared to slow down, and everything felt like it was there for you to explore.

What if you were able to make employees feel this same sort of fulfillment at work? Good news—you can!

When employees experience true freedom of choice, they can put more energy and effort into their work. They no longer feel anxious or worried about being watched. And from a neurological perspective, freedom can maximize brain power and mental processing.

Research has consistently shown how chronic stress and anxiety can negatively impact the brain, altering our ability to process information and impair working memory. It also causes us to be more error-prone, creating more work on the back end as we try to go back and fix errors.[6]

When employees feel like they have a choice in the matter, their motivation and willingness to get work done will inherently increase.

3. Minimize Meetings for Greater Productivity

There’s a reason Jeff Bezos uses the two-pizza rule for his meetings—too many cooks in the kitchen can create unnecessary tension and slow down progress.[7]

Even more importantly, excessive meetings can also delay the growth and creativity of problem-solving—and this isn’t just popular opinion. A study conducted by Igloo Software found out that 47% of employees think meetings are unproductive.[8]

A Harvard Business Review survey also found that 65% of senior managers felt meetings take away from their ability to complete their work, with 71% of them feeling like meetings were an unproductive and inefficient use of time.[9]

This time spent meeting could easily be spent working on projects or investing in building relationships between colleagues, yielding a significantly greater return on investment through team building and effective communication strategies.

Meetings sound great in theory but rarely yield the dividends needed to justify their use. And for the most part, excessive meetings can be demoralizing, especially if they’re unnecessary and wasting time. More work from meetings usually equates to less motivation to work as it piles up, regardless of an individual’s efforts.

4. Provide Resources for Continued Professional Growth and Learning

Investing in your employees is one of the best investments a company could make—especially during dire times—because it shows that you have employee’s best interests in mind. Yet, many companies worry that the time, energy, and money they invest in their employees will turn on them if they leave.

Regardless of the investment, some employees will choose to leave at some point in time. But when employees leave on good terms and feel like they could grow with a company, they instantly become walking billboards for the company they left, which can create future job referrals and opportunities for expansion.

When employees feel like the company they work for is willing to invest in them for their personal growth, those employees will be more inclined to invest their time, energy, and resources to work even harder for the company. This process creates a positive feedback cycle of productivity that can carry any company through the inevitable ups and downs.

We’ve got news for you for those who are still skeptical about making investments in employee development. Investing in employee training and development can reduce employee turnover and absenteeism over the long run, once again saving precious time and resources.[10]

5. Engage Employees in Setting Individual and Company Goals

Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” And there’s a reason for why he said it.

Goal setting can be one of the most impactful ways to increase motivation and boost productivity, and according to Latham and Locke—two of the most prominent researchers in goal-setting theory—setting goals can boost productivity by 11 to 25% when done correctly.[11]

Once again, when employees feel as though they are a part of the conversation, they are willing to put in the extra effort when needed to complete a task, finish a job, or go above and beyond their regular line of responsibilities to be a team player.

This concept also combines individual initiatives and turns them into company-wide goals, providing a fully encompassing and heavily integrative approach to team building. When the employee and the company reach their individual goals, a sense of personal and professional fulfillment occurs, creating a shift in momentum that the business can use to propel the company into even more growth and development.

Goalsetting is no longer something you should do behind closed doors. It’s an essential part of your business plan and can help you retain top talent while creating an optimal workplace environment.

6. Let Them Know You Care

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And if they know you care, they will have no reason to look elsewhere for another job opportunity.

Caring is so much more than saying “thank you,” although this is always a great place to start. Caring about employees means genuinely listening to their feedback, providing them options and alternatives with choosing how they want to work, and allowing them to make decisions on their behalf freely.

When companies care about their employees, they don’t question why an employee needs to take time off or whether a project will get done because they trust their people. They let their employee’s outcomes and actions speak for themselves.

When companies genuinely care about their employees, employee engagement skyrockets, and employee retention is kept at bay. These factors are significant because maintaining high employee retention is a bigger problem than hiring new employees, especially with small businesses.[12] 99.7% of the employers in the US are small businesses, so when they struggle with keeping employees happy, everyone suffers as a result of it.

Caring may not directly show up on the monthly budget or quarterly earnings reports, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have significant payoffs over the long run.

7. Give Praise In Public, Critique in Private

Have you ever felt the spine-tingling second-hand embarrassment of being in the same room as someone who was being scolded by a superior? It’s horrific and entirely preventable.

What do you think this does to individual morale? What about team morale? Do these sorts of antics facilitate taking calculated risks, challenging the status quo, or provide motivation for progress? Think again.

Influential leaders must give feedback, but the way they choose to provide input can have a ripple effect throughout the company, even if it doesn’t directly affect everyone.

One bad incident can yield significant negative consequences throughout an organization and have detrimental effects for years to come. As Maya Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Praising employees in public provides a collective boost in team morale by creating an overall sense of security that appeals to our foundational needs.[13] This factor is even more impactful when negative feedback and difficult conversations need to occur.

By providing an intimate setting without external or outside judgment, difficult conversations can take on a life of their own that can create growth, learning, and development. And this is the time to give feedback about performance, metrics, and must-needed changes. Not only does this facilitate trust and relationship building, but it also promotes safety and time to discuss personal and professional factors that may also be weighing in on an employee’s performance.

Trust can take years to create and minutes to shatter.

8. Set Smaller Goals

Your organization should have a 5 or 10-year business plan that depicts trends, goals, and markers for success. The most outstanding leaders can take long-range goals and break them up into small achievable milestones. Each milestone is a stepping stone towards the bigger goal, but instead of pushing to the long term, we focus on the short term.

Quick wins are potent reminders of the quality of work that is accomplished. What people need to get and stay motivated is a series of quick wins. Not only does it motivate your employees, but it builds their confidence.

Now, more than ever, we must focus on short term stability instead of long term growth. It is in the short term where the organization is established. You will need quick wins that create highly motivated employees that will push the vision further along.

9. Be Transparent

Transparency produces trust. The more an employee can trust you, the greater motivation it will build. The openness at which you are sharing information is crucial for creating clarity, certainty, and trust. When employees feel out of the loop, they become uncertain. The more uncertain an employee is, the less motivated they are. It is important to note that when you lack transparency, you will loose employee motivation and trust. Ultimately, when an organization loses faith, it isn’t long before they close its doors.

The best way to be transparent is through regular communication. I do not believe that most organizations communicate well enough. If you cannot communicate well enough, you will have a platform to be transparent. Learn the science and art of communication. Invest in learning how to talk with people and not at people. Then take that knowledge and build relationships where you have the right to speak into their lives while being transparent in front of them.

10. Motivate Individuals Rather Than Just the Team

It is common to focus on “team” building and motivation. This focus can be the product of a leadership culture that focuses on “we” instead of “me.” It can also be a product of a time-sensitive leader who uses team motivation to get the job done, motivate his staff, and save time in the process. Interestingly, people love being part of a team, but they also love when they get personalized attention. There is something special when your leader takes time to build you up personally instead of a group activity.

Lean into a time where you can spend one-to-one coaching with your employee. Encourage the employee, give them pointers about growth, and acknowledge their contribution. Help them see the value they bring. When you do this, you will find that your employee will become highly motivated. A highly motivated employee will begin to inspire and motivate all the other employees within their circle.

11. Learn What Makes Each Employee Operate

To be known is a deep desire of humanity. Inside each of us that secretly wishes someone could see us for who we are and not just what we bring to the talent table. One of the best ways to dramatically increase employee motivation is through learning their personality types.

DISC, MBTI, and Enneagram all offer valuable insights that can be leveraged for growth, motivation, and alignment. Having your employee walk through an indicator then taking time to get to know the person behind the personality will instantly increase motivation.

Each personality has something they long for and specific ways they connect. Taking the time to learn and unpack each personality type is a gateway into a bond of loyalty that will drive motivation for years to come.

12. Be Inclusive

If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it is that people desire to be included. Each movement was an outcry saying, “we have been forgotten.” If people are starting these movements nationally, you can bet that they are happening within your company’s ecosystem. Instead of fearing the conversation, learn to engage in it. I do not believe that people need you to agree with them. I think that people want to feel as if they have been listened to and heard.

Being included is directly linked to employee motivation. If a person does not feel heard or included, this lack of connection has serious ramifications. Not being included can lead to loneliness, depression, anger, and detachment. You and I both know that if an individual is going through the gambit of these emotions, they will lack the motivation to do their tasks and build the organization with you.

A fundamental human right and dignity is to be included. We must ensure that we include our fellow employees regardless of religion, political belief, or lifestyle choice. When we learn how to include others and help them feel like they have been heard, we will instantly have a loyal follower motivated to help us build the organization.

A connected person is a healthy person, and a healthy person is a motivated person.

Motivation Is Just the Start

To truly move a company forward, systems need to be in place to reach goals and expectations. Opportunities like this don’t happen in a vacuum, so you’ll have to learn how to motivate employees and maximize their productivity.

Motivation is merely a stepping stone to productivity and maximizing company growth, which is why leaders and employees need to communicate their intentions with clarity and by taking action consistently. Much like one cannot acquire the benefits of physical exercise by merely thinking or speaking about it, the same holds for setting goals and having genuine intentions of change.

Your actions will always speak volumes, so be sure to stay consistent as you implement these steps. Motivation is a lot like bathing—you must do it daily to uphold your standards.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated in a Frustrating Job Hunt

by Julia Corbett

Another day, another click to “connect” on LinkedIn. Your motivation bottoms out after searching for the latest variation of the same job with a different name. After checking—yet again—your stagnant inbox, you close your laptop in defeat.

It’s easy to get stuck in this draining cycle. My experience in the job search taught me that one of the biggest challenges is just maintaining the motivation to continue, especially when you’re dealing with rejection and radio silence. But I also know that you can revive your motivation by making simple changes to your job-search approach, focusing less on all those resumes and cover letters, and more on you and what you want.

Climb out of your motivational slump with these five tips.

1. Get Specific With Your To-Do List

When your motivation is low, general job-searching tasks like “network” and “redo resume” can be overwhelming. A great way to instantly make your search seem more manageable? Rework your to-do list to include smaller, more specific tasks.

For example, when I was job searching, I made it a goal to reach out to two direct contacts one day and two referrals the next for informational interviews. Both were easy to-dos that, over time, helped me reach my broader goal of expanding my network (and, as a bonus, do so without feeling like I was “networking).

In addition, when it came to actively applying, instead of telling myself I had to find more jobs in general, I gave myself a weekly quota of two to three jobs. This was a realistic goal that allowed me to focus my attention on crafting the best job applications each week (and saved me from writing hundreds of cover letters).

2. Look Up Your Career Role Models

When you’re job searching, reading description after description requiring “five to seven years of experience” in a certain field, it’s hard to remember the truth about career paths: They’re rarely linear. In fact, most successful people made loops, jumps, and a few skids to get to where they are today.

So, step away from the job boards, hop over to LinkedIn, and search for people who have your dream jobs or who work at companies you are interested in. Looking at the various ways people have gotten to where they are now will likely remind you that there is no straight path to success (for example, I once interviewed with a former journalist and screenwriter turned vice president of marketing).

Better yet, reach out to a few of these people. Asking people to share a bit about how they got to where they are and some advice for your own search can be incredibly helpful—and motivating.

3. Seek Constructive Criticism from Your Supporters

Your biggest fans can also be your most helpful critics—if you ask them to be. That supportive former co-worker, professor who believed in you, and friend who just gets you all know your full potential and how you could improve. So, if you’re feeling like you’re trying everything but still getting nowhere, try asking them for some constructive criticism.

Identify where you’re struggling, whether it is with resume formatting or interviewing, and ask for advice from the appropriate people (that former professor who pushed you to do your best public speaking, for example). Based on their knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses, they can give specialized, honest advice (that you’ll be much more motivated to put into practice than the generic tips you’re reading everywhere).

One of my professors, for example, encouraged perfecting the elevator pitch, so I sat down with him to learn how to pitch myself in 30 seconds. He had me pitch over and over to him, making me restart every time he found a fault—and he told me exactly what I was doing wrong. It was frustrating, but it kept me going—and soon, I was able to deliver an effective pitch that I later used when I met potential contacts.

4. Put Your Career Goals on Paper

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” is a question we all try to avoid. But right now, when you’re in a slump, is exactly the right time to answer it.

Take some time to make a list of all of your dreams, big and small. Actually putting them on paper will force you to think about what you want to achieve and—better yet—motivate you to see at least one goal (if not all of them) through. Think of it kind of like a to-do list for your career: Seeing things on paper will get you excited to check things off.

As an added bonus, seeing your dreams in writing may give you some ideas on how to tie them together. From winning industry awards to landing a C-suite positions to starting your own company, each goal, no matter how random, can shed light on a new opportunity. You may even find ways to widen your search (like linking your interest in writing and food to discover restaurant PR).

5. Take Days Off

At one point, I was doing something job-search related every day, from going on informational interviews to searching Indeed for every type of entry-level communications position imaginable. I was burned out. And I found myself losing sight of my main objectives and looking for jobs just to find a job, even if they were not right for me.

What I realized is that the best way to deal with a motivational slump of any sort is to take a few days off. Pre-determined free days—where you get some time off from thinking about resumes, cover letters, and interview questions—can alleviate all those job-search frustrations and help restore your drive. By taking a few days off here and there, I found that I was able to refocus and better tackle the search when I was ready.


I stumbled a few times during the job search, and, along the way, learned the importance of making the search about me—not just the job. I gave myself manageable goals, time to regroup, and countless, countless lists, which all helped me to power through and land my current job in the marketing department of a magazine.

The job search doesn’t have to be a daunting task every time you open your laptop. These tips worked for me, and they can for you, too.

What to know about Zoom Fatigue

 

By Kif Leswing at CNBC.

Ever get off of a video call and feel like it wiped you out?  You’re not alone — as people around the world left offices March 2020 and replaced in-person meetings with videoconferences from spare bedrooms and kitchens, they started noticing that videoconferencing made them feel tired.

The phenomenon was dubbed Zoom fatigue, after the popular videoconferencing software.

As the Covid pandemic enters its third year, with many people still working and attending school remotely, researchers from Stanford and other schools are starting to closely study how videoconferencing affects people on a psychological level. There are four main ways that videoconferencing could contribute to feelings of exhaustion, wrote Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, in a paper published recently:

  1. Videoconferencing forces users to make extended eye contact
  2. Nonverbal signals like nodding require more effort
  3. The little box where users see themselves is unnatural
  4. Users are forced to sit in one place.

“Going from, on average, a handful of video conferences per week to, in some cases, nine or 10 a day, that’s a really new thing in media use history,” Bailenson said. The possible explanations aren’t specific to Zoom, and apply to other videoconferencing software, too, but the researchers used the Zoom brand name because it was recognizable and became a verb during the pandemic.

In Bailenson’s opinion, the biggest contributor to Zoom fatigue is the little box during a videoconference that allows users to see themselves. Lots of research has looked at what happens when people see themselves in the mirror, and suggests that constant self-evaluation leads to negative emotions.
Also, videoconferencing software often displays faces so large that it tricks your brain into thinking they’re directly in front of you, in your personal space. That can trigger some deep-seated instincts.

“We know from a physiological standpoint, that if somebody is really close up to you, and they’re looking at you, that you’re about to mate, or you’re about to fight, from an evolutionary standpoint,” Bailenson said.

How to fix the problem
The next step for these researchers is to gather data to validate or reject some of these theories. Eventually, they want to make evidence-based recommendations on best practices, like whether certain meetings should be a Zoom or a phone call.

Researchers including Bailenson have developed a 15-question scale for evaluating Zoom fatigue, and are currently collecting data from study participants across the web. In the meantime, Bailenson said in an interview that there are some easy fixes that he’s been working on that people can try at home now to improve their videoconferencing experience:

Hide self-view. On Zoom, you can right-click the video then press “Hide Myself.” Other videoconferencing software has similar options.
Shrink the Zoom window to make other people a little bit smaller. Make it a third of the screen instead of maximized, Bailenson suggests. Or you can place your chair a little farther away from the webcam.
Spend half an hour tinkering with your setup ahead of an important meeting. Check the lighting, figure out where to place an external camera, and make sure your chair is comfortable and at the right height. Maybe try placing your laptop on a stack of books to raise its height.
Turn off your camera and take a five-minute audio-only break during a long meeting to give yourself a chance to move around.

Set cultural norms with your co-workers that it’s OK to turn off the camera sometimes.

How to Spend the Holidays Alone and Still Make Them Merry Without Family

Alone doesn’t have to mean “lonely.”

By Stephanie L. King oprahdaily.com


‘Tis the season for attending (yes, Zoom celebrations count, too!), decking your halls–and, of course, your holiday trees if you celebrate Christmas –with festive decorations, checking out all the magical light displays, and binge-watching classic holiday films . Not to mention spending Christmas Day (and eve!) listening to holiday songs on repeat, partaking in  time-honored traditions and exchanging gifts and cards with your loved ones (ideally, while wearingmatching pajamas ). So it’s no surprise that the prospect of spending Christmas alone–whether for the first time or the twentieth time–can feel, well, not always so merry and bright. But here’s the thing: You’re not alone. The reality is that plenty of people spend their holidays solo. Some people have demanding work schedules that make it difficult to travel, while others might not have the money for expensive round-trip tickets, and others simply want to spend Christmas alone. That’s true in a normal year—but perhaps even more so in 2021, when many of us will be celebrating Christmas without friends or family due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines. And while, yes, you’ll probably miss your mom’s legendary bread pudding, there are plenty of things you might be happy to skip, like faking your surprise (and excitement) when Aunt Sue gives you yet another old-fashioned nightgown, sitting through the same political debates, and having to get dressed up just to eat at your own dining room table, to name a few. Whether by choice or circumstance, there is plenty to do on Christmas Day alone, from catching up on the TV shows you say you’ll watch (but never do) to indulging in some much needed self-care to starting new traditions, like  making your own ornaments. You don’t have to stand by and have a blue Christmas–which is exactly why we’ve rounded up 12 simple ways to spend Christmas solo, all of which will bring joy to your world.

Be your own version of jolly old Saint Nicholas. Spread some cheer this holiday season—with a few small acts of kindness. Get in touch with elderly relatives who might appreciate a warm greeting. Smile to people you pass on the street. Help a neighbor. You know the drill!


Binge all those shows you’ve had no time for. Surround yourselves with friends, even if they are on your television. There’s a definite comfort in allowing yourself to just put on some fuzzy socks  and commit to not changing out of your flannel pjs all day.
Sweat a little. While your gym might not be open and it could be too cold for a run, consider starting your morning by streaming a workout video or yoga class. After all, as you’ve heard before, exercise increases endorphins, which will help you start your day with your mood already elevated.


Visit a nearby church, if that’s your thing. “Instead of being cooped up in your home watching reruns of others enjoying the holiday, why not take a trip to a local church,” suggests Ireland. “Spiritual moments have a way of taking your mind off of your needs and centering you on your many blessings,” he says.

Reminisce or create new memories Enjoying the holidays is partially about reliving memories, even if you can’t be with the people you made them with, explains Dr. Jeremy Nobel, founder and president of the Foundation for Art and Healing, whose signature initiative is the UnLonely Project, which addresses the health challenges of loneliness and social isolation. Nobel recommends compiling old holiday photos into a collage on photo websites or whip out those scissors). Or, try writing in your journal about your memories. Another strategy is going for a walk and taking new pictures that bring back the feelings of those cherished moments, like that of a local park where sledding happened. Sharing those pieces of art with friends and family–even when they are not present physically–can allow you all to feel connected, says Nobel, who is also a professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. “If you’re spending Christmas alone, it can be tempting to pull the covers over your head, isolate, or even go on a bender, but maybe it’s better to consider making a memory that gives you joy in the midst of what may be a painful day,” says Ashley Abercrombie, author of Rise of the Truth Teller. Soak in some self-care. According to Pinterest the platform has recorded a 44% increase in searches for meditation, a 60% increase in searches for gratitude, and a 42% increase in searches for positivity just in 2020–meaning that while you might be physically alone, there are tons of people who also need  self care this holiday season. To turn your home into a spa, treat yourself to an at-home facial and whip up a bunch of DIY treatments, like a sugar lip scrub, a hydrating face mask, and a repairing hair mask. (More of a DIY disaster than master?


Listen to a joyful playlist, without the carols. Have you heard? Music is a scientifically-proven way to boost your mood, thanks to the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine (which regulates pleasure) and serotonins (which contributes to wellbeing and happiness). So, try creating your own soundtrack “for a festive me-day” or rock out to this happy songs playlist. (Pro tip: Try Stack your songs days in advance so when the morning comes all you have to do is press “play.”)


Make yourself a dish you loved as a kid.“In the same way we think of caring for and treating our loved ones for the holidays, bring that same thoughtfulness and intentionality to yourself this Christmas,” says Dr. Leslie Nwoke, physician, “If you’d normally make a big deal arranging dinner with friends, use that same energy to plan your brunch or dinner that day,” says Nwoke. Prepare yourself something comforting or decadent, like a childhood favorite. And of course, while not everything’s open on Christmas, there’s always takeout.

Try a well-being action Despite the twinkling lights and endless eggnog, holiday cheer isn’t always guaranteed—which is why you might want to have some mood-boosting activities on hand. Maybe that’s knitting a cozy blanket, working on a challenging jigsaw puzzle or coloring, which is a known stress buster. You could also look on the Pinterest app, which offers a variety of emotional well-being activities. Simply search for #pinterestwellbeing to jump into exercises for feeling gratitude and self-compassion, along with other interactive practices that could help you lift your spirits.


Play an online game. Using technology to connect with others can give us the illusion we are with someone else psychologically, even if we are physically apart, says  Donghee Yvette Wohn, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) assistant professor of information systems. This feeling can be generated without even looking at the other person, like playing an online game with someone else. Think: Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, or even something simple, like Words with Friends

Change your mental narrative. “Loneliness is a liar. Acknowledging that you are alone for the holidays in no way indicates that no one cares about you or that you will forever be alone,” says Erickson. “There are people in this world that want your time and attention,” she says. Erickson suggests those alone on Christmas combat negative self-created narratives with truth and opportunity. Here’s the truth: You’re alone on Christmas and that’s okay. Next, give some thought to the choices or situations which led to spending the holidays alone. “If it’s a decision that you understand or agree with, you can find comfort in the reasoning behind it,” says Nwoke. “If it’s a situation or decision you’re not happy with, reflect on this and how you’d like to approach it differently. Either way, you have the power to choose how you want things to be moving forward.”

How To Maximize Your Networking Success At Zoom Conferences And Events

This article was originally published on Forbes.com by Dawn Graham on Sept 25, 2020

Screen of multiple people socialising on video call
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If you tend to be a frequent work traveler or regular conference attendee, it’s likely you’ve seen many of these events move to an online platform in the last several months.

While something is better than nothing, Zoom conferences certainly lack the engagement and energy that comes with traveling to a different place, dining with new people, stepping out of your day-to-day routine and being focused on a particular topic for a few days while your “Out of Office” message earns you a small breather.

Perhaps you have an upcoming conference scheduled for early 2021 and you’re holding out hope that it’ll run as planned? Sadly, it’s not likely to happen.

The world has gone fully virtual in most places due to the impact of the pandemic, and it’s probable that some of those changes will be long-lasting.

While Zoom fatigue is real, we need to accept that even when life returns to “normal” (whatever that looks like), many events and meetings will continue to be virtual to a larger extent than we’d seen pre-COVID.

So, instead of resisting this new reality, why not get a jumpstart on engaging it to the fullest? Here’s how to increase your network during virtual events:

1) Embrace the change. It’s not uncommon to hear people speak about “when the pandemic is over” in a way that suggests there will be a shift back to life as it was. Although the pendulum will rebalance in some areas, others will remain on the current trajectory, and those who embrace the new reality will benefit.

  • Learn to fully use the tools. With the recent boom in virtual engagement, many platforms are adding new features regularly in an effort to provide an enhanced experience. This can be daunting, but many of these features and tools are pretty user-friendly once you know they exist. Make an effort to become an expert user on at least two popular platforms so you can get the most value out of virtual meetings and conferences. At a basic level, learn how to modify your screen name for the audience. If you’re with known colleagues, your first name may be enough, but if it’s an online conference with people who don’t know you, a descriptive title or other identifier can take the place of your lanyard name tag.
  • Invest in your environment. Many were able to wing it initially, and dark lighting, busy backgrounds or fuzzy images were relatively acceptable. However, now that we’ve been working from home for over six months (and will be for the foreseeable future), the bar has been raised and a shoddy virtual set-up will stand out (poorly) against a sea of professional ones. First impressions still count. If you’re able, invest $70 for a professional USB laptop camera with adjustable lighting. If finances are tight, a basic selfie-ring adds a ton of brightness for about $12 and an ironed, plain sheet can create a simple, clutter-free background. While virtual backgrounds can be fun in casual settings, at times they’ll make you appear as a bodyless entity drowning in the scenery, so use caution.
  • Initiate virtual solutions. Humans have a tendency to gravitate towards habit, so while you may be most comfortable with a conference call or basic video calling, this is a perfect time to stretch beyond your comfort zone to try new tools and features. You are in good company because many people have been working on expanding their virtual skills and will be sympathetic to the challenges of transitioning to a new method of communicating. You’ll likely get helpful feedback and a patient audience. However, that patience will start to wear thin as we move into 2021. The expectations will be higher for virtual communications and delivery, so now is the time to experiment.

2) Attend fully. One of the unspoken benefits of attending conference calls or online meetings over in-person sessions is the ability to multitask. We’ve become so skilled at it now, we can even respond to messages, check social media, and watch silly cat videos while our video cameras are on without anyone being the wiser. Although there are admittedly many new distractions to working at home including family members, pets, and homeschooling, often we create our own distractions because our minds are more restless than usual during these ambiguous times. To get the greatest benefit from online conferences:

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  • Focus. This is harder than it sounds so notice where your distractions lie and remove them. If it’s external, close the door and hang a note explaining your call will be over at 3pm. If it’s a wandering mind, turn off your notifications, place your phone in another room, and power down any devices that tempt you to stray. Other helpful strategies include taking notes and making an effort to follow the chat box or jot down all the attendees’ names. Also, don’t plan to attend a conference when you’re in the car or otherwise engaged. While this might seem like a good use of time, if part of your goal is to build your network, you’ll miss out on key opportunities to connect over interesting slides or chat interactions.
  • Prepare in advance. If you can find out who’s attending, you can research them in advance and make note of people you’d like to meet or connect with later. Look at the agenda and begin thinking about the topics that will be discussed. Plan to contribute in the chat and breakout rooms or through polls and have some questions ready for presenters or panelists. Many webinar participants take a passive role, as if they’re watching a television program. However, if you approach the session with the intention of taking an active role, you’ll get more return on your investment.
Mature woman doing a video call during home quarantine
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  • Get involved. At a basic level, introduce yourself in the chat when joining with your name and location, and respond to questions the presenter asks. As an introvert, I realize this can feel as scary as standing up in an auditorium full of strangers, but others will notice you’re engaged. If you have the option, take on a role like timekeeper, note-taker, moderator or even panel participant or facilitator. This will expose you to just about everyone on the call, which is a great way to build your brand and network. Also, many online conferences are getting creative with virtual networking or coffee breaks where participants can mingle casually between sessions. Attend a few and you’ll meet more people.

3) Follow-up. Many of us are scheduled on back-to-back video calls now, so not only do we miss the opportunity for the informal conversations we might have had between meetings when in-person, but we barely have time to process what just happened before clicking on the next meeting link. Although the thought of taking another step may feel daunting, those who know the power of networking recognize it takes initiative, and relationships are built after the initial introduction. Here’s how to follow-up:

  • Connect on LinkedIn. This is the easiest step and a great start. During the meeting, jot down the names of people you’d like to get to know better (or take a screenshot with your phone) and specifically what you found interesting about them. Then, send a personalized note asking them to join your network. Usually it’s best if this is done within 24 hours. Also, be sure to include the name of the conference or webinar where you were introduced so they recognize the shared commonality.
  • Set up a 1-1. Make it a habit to select a few people to meet with individually to learn more and continue the discussion. Although not everyone will have the time, if you have a compelling invite, you may be surprised who is willing to hop on a 20-minute phone chat. Obviously, you want to make a good impression and not waste their time, so prepare an agenda, do your homework and be ready to lead the conversation.
  • Consider a small discussion group. If you’re learning new material, sharing best practices or discussing strategies for the future of the industry, it’ll be tough to flesh out ideas and detailed plans in a conference or single webinar. Ask if any other participants are interested in a post-session meet-up to continue brainstorming or sharing ideas. It’s likely many are game, and they’ll be grateful you suggested it. This is a good way to meet others on a more intimate basis and continue to develop your relationship.

The keys to successful networking on a large video seminar include presenting a great first impression, showing you care by paying exquisite attention (very rare these days), and taking the initiative to follow up and continue the discussion. Most won’t do this, so you’re at a distinct advantage to stand out if you do.

While we can’t necessarily control what’s happening in the external world, those who are most likely to succeed find a way to adapt and make the best of the circumstances, no matter what obstacles are presented.

Happy hunting!

How to impress in a Virtual or Zoom interview – Setup, Showcase & Shine!

This article was courtesy of Pooja Krishna and maroonoak.com

Setup, Showcase, Shine - How to impress in a Virtual or Zoom interview
Photo courtest of maroonoak.com

Go beyond the conventional job or gig process, when it comes to video interviews. Online conversations need a different kind of prep in terms of the right tech set up, an appealing persona, and most of all, the right way to communicate and persuade. Explore these 21 tips to ace and impress in your virtual interview. 

The basic processes of a job application remain the same. Read, apply, connect, and interview. But everything has turned virtual in recent times. And these best practices for Zoom interviews can help immensely!

While resume submissions and screening have been digital for a long time, most interviews are now on Zoom too. With more employers offering remote jobs and freelance gigs, how well you show up in the online interview can ink the job for you. 

Check out our top tips that can help you succeed in a Zoom interview!

Plan your interview in 3 main components.

  • Setup and practice for an online meeting
  • Interact and respond effectively during the virtual interview
  • Follow up and close afterward. 

Even if you are experienced at job interviews, these virtual interview tips and hacks can help you stand out while applying for remote jobs. And yes, explore these pointers when you’re looking for phone interview tips too.

Setup and practice for the online interview

Like any job application, read the job description carefully and customize your resume, if needed. 

Include a compelling bio summary in the application form or email cover. Do link to your portfolio in your resume or cover email, particularly if you are applying for a freelance job.

The resume and email become even more important when employers can’t meet you personally. Ensure that you have updated your online profiles – check out these tips for a strong LinkedIn Profile.

Run through your responses to the commonly asked questions for your role and type of work. Keep in mind that these tips on prep, clarity and managing communication matter in phone interviews as well.

How can you prepare for your Zoom or Skype Interview?

Work on your opening statement 

As a Virtual Interview Candidate, you should practice speaking out your basic bio. Plus, answers to common questions so you are comfortable sharing your responses. Even if you have interviewed many times before, an online interview is a vastly different experience until you get used to it.

Like a regular interview, prepare for an online interview with the commonly asked questions. Here are some examples.

Write your cheatsheet

A handy list of key pointers that you can refer to, is a huge plus with virtual interviews. You can write down your key numbers, specific achievements, or even phrases and names. But remember to glance quickly when you need to and sound natural when you’re sharing.

Figure out the location, tech, and lighting

Apart from a quiet, disturbance-free spot, make sure you choose one that looks pleasing with a professional-looking setup. This not only makes you feel confident, it also shows the interviewers that you have the right infrastructure for remote work. Many pros recommend a lighter background, adding simple accessories, even a plant or two.

Ensure that you have the right device and internet setup – technology snafus will reflect poorly on you. It also tells potential hirers that you might have issues with tech and hence working remote. 

Get comfortable with the basic features of Zoom, Skype or Webex beforehand. 

Ensure that the lighting is just right.  It should be flattering to you not too low or so bright that it starts to blind you after a while. Invest in a small clip-on light for your laptop that casts soft ambient light on your face. Similarly, if you’re next to a window, make sure your face isn’t in half light and shadow.

A light behind you is a strong no-no! No interviewer wants to be blinded by the glare and a lot of hirers say that it’s their no.1 pet peeve.

Manage appearance and body language

Place your camera at eye level or just a little higher. This is usually the most flattering angle.

Dress the part

Focus on dressing in a tasteful, employer-friendly attire. Look up the company website to get a sense of the dress code. But err on the formal side and dress one level up. Go with a good fit, clean lines, and simple accessories. Avoid colors that are too light – they wash out your skin tone; or overly bright ones that take away attention from you. 

Ensure that you choose something that you’re comfortable in when you’re sitting down for an hour. So set aside that flattering blazer that’s super snug and go for a well-cut top that complements your coloring.

Record yourself on video

A key online interview tip is to do a dry run using the same device and setting that you plan to use for the interview. That way you can get a sense of how you look and sound, as well as your postures and expressions. A recording will tell you what you should fix, say if you grimaced many times or maybe you were slouching too much. Plus it often gives you an idea of the camera angle that suits you best. 

Show it to a friend or family member, if you can.

Check your online avatar

Make sure you have a good picture as your Zoom or Skype id (instead of your dog’s :-). Ditto for your name – include both your first and last names. 

Prep if you’re screen sharing

If you are presenting during a Zoom interview, prepare your content well by making sure that it’s visually appealing and easy to read. Rehearse what you will say and anticipate the questions. Remember to position your cursor to the start of the document.

Be punctual and relaxed

On the appointed day and time, settle in preferably before time, so you are relaxed and prepared to talk, instead of scrambling at the last minute. How early should you join a Zoom Interview? Load and set up about 10-15 minutes earlier (even if you have to wait for the host) since Zoom or Webex can take time to load.

A few deep breaths and belly laughs before you start can work wonders.

Interact and respond effectively on video

Stay distraction free

Shut down other apps which might cause you loss of attention or cause annoying notification pings. Sometimes multiple issues can also impact the bandwidth of video conferencing apps like Zoom.

Communicate effectively

It is a lot harder to keep attention in a virtual interview. When you’re speaking, keep your responses to a moderate length. You don’t want to sound abrupt but nor should you ramble endlessly – this is also good interview etiquette. Make sure you close your response clearly so that the listener knows that you have finished. 

Check out these tips to engage successfully in any Zoom interview

  • Write down the names so you can personalize responses
  • Speak in shorter sentences.
  • When struggling for words, pause strategically (instead of using fillers like um or ‘you know.’)
  • When in doubt, clarify a question rather than respond instantly. Did you mean…?
  • Keep it interactive. Since you can’t see the body language or the communication between a group of interviewers, ask ‘continuity questions’ to keep the conversation going. E.g. Does this make sense to you? Or, I hope I understood this right…

Smile

You cannot smile enough, more so in a virtual interview. A positive attitude is a prerequisite in most jobs and this will help for sure. Use humor as an icebreaker and to showcase your positive personality. 

Animate with facial expressions

In the absence of body language to communicate your message, make sure your face emotes well and often. This projects confidence and shows that you are engaged and enthusiastic. 

Slow down (a little)

In the absence of body language, your words need a little more time to get through and be effective. So slowing down helps your listener grasp things better. Plus, it also helps when there is a loss in transmission.

Keep eye contact

As far as possible, keep your eyes on the camera lens as well as the on-screen images of the participants. This keeps the contact more personal.

Prepare for lack of eye contact too

Talking to a camera can be disconcerting. Keep in mind that the interviewer may be taking notes, so you might feel like you’re talking to your own computer.

Plan for delays and pauses

Similarly, make sure that the other person has finished their question before you leap to respond. Time lags are a challenge in video interviews so avoid talking over each other.

Demonstrate your skills with your narrative

While most interviewers will ask you questions about your experience and abilities related to functional skills, soft skills are harder to show online. Make sure you thread them in the narrative. Have incidents or examples to show your initiative, teamwork ethic or communication abilities. In particular, you need to show that you are comfortable with working in a remote setting.

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Close and follow up after the virtual interview

Prepare for future interviews

Identify a few dates that work for you and keep them handy, in case the interviewers want another online meeting. 

End it right

Ensure that you close on a positive note. Offer to send any additional info they might need. Remember to thank the interviewers and acknowledge their understanding, if there were glitches at your end.

Keep in touch

Send a thank you email and offer to answer any questions that they might not have covered. Be quick and responsive to questions or communication from the company’s end.

Conclusion

Remote jobs are here to stay. As companies, startups and businesses hire for different roles, your ability to communicate and impress online will make a significant difference. When you practice and prepare for an online interview, you will be more effective in showing them why they should hire you.

Zoom up, Camera, Action!

How to Combat Zoom Fatigue

HBR Staff/1001slide/Getty Images

If you’re finding that you’re more exhausted at the end of your workday than you used to be, you’re not alone. Over the past few weeks, mentions of “Zoom fatigue” have popped up more and more on social media, and Google searches for the same phrase have steadily increased since early March.

Why do we find video calls so draining? There are a few reasons.

In part, it’s because they force us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information. Think of it this way: when you’re sitting in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side exchanges to catch you up if you get distracted or answer quick, clarifying questions. During a video call, however, it’s impossible to do this unless you use the private chat feature or awkwardly try to find a moment to unmute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves.

The problem isn’t helped by the fact that video calls make it easier than ever to lose focus. We’ve all done it: decided that, why yes, we absolutely can listen intently, check our email, text a friend, and post a smiley face on Slack within the same thirty seconds. Except, of course, we don’t end up doing much listening at all when we’re distracted. Adding fuel to the fire is many of our work-from-home situations. We’re no longer just dialing into one or two virtual meetings. We’re also continuously finding polite new ways to ask our loved ones not to disturb us, or tuning them out as they army crawl across the floor to grab their headphones off the dining table. For those who don’t have a private space to work, it is especially challenging.

Finally, “Zoom fatigue” stems from how we process information over video. On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face? Probably never. This is because having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. In person, we are able to use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room. On a video call, because we are all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, we worry it might seem like we’re not paying attention. Not to mention, most of us are also staring at a small window of ourselves, making us hyper-aware of every wrinkle, expression, and how it might be interpreted. Without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains grow fatigued.

If this all sounds like bad news, don’t despair. We have five research-based tips that can help make video calls less exhausting.

Avoid multitasking.

It’s easy to think that you can use the opportunity to do more in less time, but research shows that trying to do multiple things at once cuts into performance. Because you have to turn certain parts of your brain off and on for different types of work, switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time. Researchers at Stanford found that people who multitask can’t remember things as well as their more singularly focused peers. The next time you’re on a video chat, close any tabs or programs that might distract you (e.g. your inbox or Slack), put your phone away, and stay present. We know it’s tempting, but try to remind yourself that the Slack message you just got can wait 15 minutes, and that you’ll be able to craft a better response when you’re not also on a video chat.

Build in breaks.

Take mini breaks from video during longer calls by minimizing the window, moving it to behind your open applications, or just looking away from your computer completely for a few seconds now and then. We’re all more used to being on video now (and to the stressors that come with nonstop facetime). Your colleagues probably understand more than you think — it is possible to listen without staring at the screen for a full thirty minutes. This is not an invitation to start doing something else, but to let your eyes rest for a moment. For days when you can’t avoid back-to-back calls, consider making meetings 25 or 50 minutes (instead of the standard half-hour and hour) to give yourself enough time in between to get up and move around for a bit. If you are on an hour-long video call, make it okay for people to turn off their cameras for parts of the call.

Reduce onscreen stimuli.

Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time gazing at your own face. This can be easily avoided by hiding yourself from view. Still, onscreen distractions go far beyond yourself. You may be surprised to learn that on video, we not only focus on other’s faces, but on their backgrounds as well. If you’re on a call with five people, you may feel like you’re in five different rooms at once. You can see their furniture, plants, and wallpaper. You might even strain to see what books they have on their shelves. The brain has to process all of these visual environmental cues at the same time. To combat mental fatigue, encourage people to use plain backgrounds (e.g. a poster of a peaceful beach scene), or agree as a group to have everyone who is not talking turn off their video.

Make virtual social events opt-in.

After a long day of back-to-back video calls, it’s normal to feel drained, particularly if you’re an introvert. That’s why virtual social sessions should be kept opt-in, meaning whoever owns the event makes it explicit that people are welcome, but not obligated, to join. You might also consider appointing a facilitator if you’re expecting a large group. This person can open by asking a question, and then make it clear in what order people should speak, so everyone gets to hear from one another and the group doesn’t start talking all at once. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if we don’t know what’s expected of us, or if we’re constantly trying to figure out when we should or should not chime in.

Switch to phone calls or email.

Check your calendar for the next few days to see if there are any conversations you could have over Slack or email instead. If 4PM rolls around and you’re Zoomed-out but have an upcoming one-on-one, ask the person to switch to a phone call or suggest picking up the conversation later so you can both recharge. Try something like, “I’d love a break from video calls. Do you mind if we do this over the phone?” Most likely the other person will be relieved by the switch, too.

For external calls, avoid defaulting to video, especially if you don’t know each other well.

Many people now feel a tendency to treat video as the default for all communication. In situations where you’re communicating with people outside of your organization (clients, vendors, networking, etc.) — conversations for which you used to rely on phone calls — you may feel obligated to send out a Zoom link instead. But a video call is fairly intimate and can even feel invasive in some situations. For example, if you’re asked to do a career advice call and you don’t know the person you’re talking to, sticking to phone is often a safer choice. If your client FaceTimes you with no warning, it’s okay to decline and suggest a call instead.

Some of these tips might be hard to follow at first (especially that one about resisting the urge to tab-surf during your next Zoom call). But taking these steps can help you prevent feeling so exhausted at the thought of another video chat. It’s tiring enough trying to adapt to this new normal. Make video calls a little easier for yourself.

Article by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy originally published by the Harvard Business Review on April 29, 2020

5 Quick Ways to Organize Your Home Office

Home Office Organization Made Easy

Organizing your home office
Photo courtesy of thebalacesmb.com

BY SUSAN WARD Updated February 06, 2019

Home office organization is something we don’t think much about until it’s too late. You need a home office, so you create one. And over time, as you work in your home office, things stack and layer around you – used coffee mugs, a stack of files you keep meaning to put somewhere, software boxes, bills, orphaned pens – until one day, when something gets in your way or disappears for the umpteenth time, you suddenly realize that getting your home office organized is long overdue.

Full home office organization is a big job. It tends to be overwhelming at first glance (and even the second and third). If you feel up to it, you can follow a 12-step plan to make your office space functional and attractive again. But if you’re not quite ready for a full makeover but desperately need to be able to find things, here are five small manageable things you can do to organize your home office right now.

Pick Three Things and Throw Them Out

We’ll start our home office organization with something easy just to get you in the mood and clear some space. There’s probably a lot more than just three things either on your desk or scattered around your home office that can go from your workspace right to the trash or recycling bin.

Look closely. Do you really need those old magazines? That pen that doesn’t work? Those used snack pudding containers? No. Get rid of them!

You don’t need to stop at just three things. If you see more obvious candidates for the trash, throw them out, too. You could even use author and celebrity organizer Marie Kondo’s method of asking yourself, “does this paperweight, photo frame, gel tipped pen…spark joy?” If it doesn’t spark joy, toss it.

Weed One Filing Drawer

Filing cabinets are the kings of clutter for most home offices, which is ironic because we think of them as clutter solutions. In reality, though, we stuff them with whatever we can’t find a place for or whatever piece of paper we don’t need to deal with anymore but don’t want to throw away. So our filing cabinet becomes our own personal landfill and when it’s full, we just move in another one.

Sorting through the standard-sized four-drawer filing cabinet can resemble an archeological dig with years of accumulated stuff to sift through. So let’s start small. Organize your home office by choosing one drawer and weeding through it, removing anything that’s no longer current or necessary. (Remember, though, that you need to keep your business records for six years.)

Documents and papers that you no longer have to keep should be shredded. You may be able to re-use old file folders.

Take it a step further by buying a cardboard file box and use it to store old files that you need to keep but don’t have to have immediate access to. Store the box in a spot away from your home office.

Clear Your Bulletin or Message Board

Bulletin or message boards are a feature in many home offices. Alas, rather than keep us posted on up-to-date events and helping us to keep our lives organized, they often degenerate into cluttered time capsules.

Look at yours right now. Is there anything posted or written there that relates to something you need to do today or even this week? What do you see instead? Pictures drawn by the kids? Photos from last summer’s camping trip?

Keep the purpose of home office organization in mind. We’re not just decluttering; we’re creating a workspace that will help you be more productive. There’s nothing wrong with having the kids’ pictures and family photos displayed in your home – but your home office is not the place for them. Take them down and move them elsewhere. Then clear all the old messages off the board. You’re ready to move forward.

Organize One Desk Drawer

Drawers tend to be dumping grounds anyhow but in a home office. Start small. Select one desk drawer and taking everything out of it.

Sort through the contents, throwing out whatever is no longer useful and moving whatever is misplaced back to its better location. (The recipes, for instance, are probably best located near the kitchen rather than at your desk.)

Then insert a plastic organizer tray (available at any office supplies store) and put things back into the drawer, using the different sections of the organizer tray to keep things separate and easy to find.

Clear Your Desktop for a Week

Start by getting a large cardboard box (or two). Now take everything off your office desk except for items that are absolutely necessary for your work, such as your computer and phone. Put everything you remove from your desktop into the cardboard box(es).

Put the box(es) somewhere accessible but out of the way so you’re not tripping over them. Then go to work just as you normally would. As you’re working in your home office, if there’s something you need that’s not on your desk, fish it out of the box and put it in a logical place on or around your desk. For example, if you find you’re word processing from typed copy, get your desk copyholder out of the box and put it back on your desk.

By the end of a week, you’ll have everything you need to work efficiently on your desk or close to hand – and nothing else. As for whatever’s left in the box, it belongs somewhere else, properly filed if it’s a necessary piece of paper or thrown out if it’s something that’s just cluttering up your workspace.

Your Home Office Organization Can Stop Here

If you want it to. That is, as promised, five small manageable things to organize your home office. Take your home office organization further if you like. Organize all your desk drawers. Master your filing system. Go through the full home office organizational makeover if you want to.

Learn how to create a document management system. But that’s for later. Right now hopefully the organizing you’ve done is doing what it was meant to do – letting you get more done more easily when you sit down to work in your home office.

Article published on February 6, 2019 on thebalanacesmb.com