Working From Home – The Physical, Virtual and Psychological Aspects

Mandy Griffin an Upwork provider in the Admin Support and Web & Programming categories, has maintained a home office in her Bay Area home for more than 15 years. Recently, I sat down with Mandy to learn her work-at-home secrets.

From the physical workspace to the psychological and family aspects of working from home, Monita shares how she’s become a work-at-home pro:

R: How is your home office set up?

M: I have my own office area located in an add-on to our home. My office has very large windows which overlook our garden – so I get a lot of natural light and I get to be near nature.

R: How do you stay organized and connected while working from home?

M: I use a big desk with filing drawers, a laptop, and an all-in-one printer, copier, invoice software and fax machine (although I use eFax for faxing). I have one broadband connection and one wireless connection as a backup – because as we all know – things happen! I have a phone, of course, a large calculator, and plenty of pens, paper clips, and other office supplies.

R: What do you do in the evenings, when the kids get home?

M: I had recessed lights placed above my desk so that there is good light when I am working late. The room also has a gas fireplace and a couple of sofas so that my children can do their homework there after school – because they never sit at the desks in their rooms.

R: How do you keep your children busy while you work?

M: I keep them focused on their homework. I bought a three drawer rubber maid cabinet where I placed all my children’s supplies so they don’t have to come to my desk looking for scissors, calculators, etc. Once they’re done with their homework, they can go out and play or watch television in another room. The one thing I have not allowed is any television in this room. It is an office area, not a recreation area – and they know that.

R: What type of virtual set up do you have at home?

M: I have the usual Microsoft 2007 suite of software with Adobe, Photoshop, etc. I also use Skype and MSN Messenger. Since I use Skype VOIP pretty frequently, I have a microphone – it’s great for talking to clients from around the world.

R: How do you mentally prepare yourself to begin your workday?

M: I make sure I am dressed for the occasion, everyone has their own opinions and thoughts on this, but I have tried it both ways – being casual and comfortable in my pajamas, and being more careful about how I look.

R: So, you choose to dress professionally despite the fact that you’re working from home. How does that help you prepare mentally for work?

M. What I wear, and how I look directly impacts how I feel and therefore how I work. If I look presentable, I feel presentable and in control, and if I am in control then my work product is professional.

R: Do you ever feel like you miss out on the perquisites of working in an office?

M: Mostly, no. But to avoid the feeling of being alone, I make it a point to visit the Elance Water Cooler. I feel like it’s really as good as being in an office place. You get to interact with other people and share their points of view.

R: How have you managed to keep yourself from getting distracted while working from home?

M: I work an eight hour day – sometimes more. I also make sure to take an hour off for lunch and 10-15 minute breaks after every 2-3 hours of work. I don’t keep a television in my office area and I stay off the Internet unless I’m working on something related to a project.

Another thing I do is avoid clutter in my office. Clutter can be very distracting for me. I don’t want to spend time searching for my paperwork or a pen. I like to keep things neat and organized.

R: What about human distractions; do you ever get any drop in visitors or unexpected personal calls?

M: I take a conscious step to tell people I am at work. I make my friends and family aware of my schedule and let them know when I’m free and when I’m not. If they call and I can’t talk – I let them know I’ll call them back. After fifteen years of being open and honest about my schedule – the number of personal calls I receive during my office hours has dropped.

R: How have you prepared your family to allow you to work?

M: When my children were younger, it really was a juggling act for me. I spent a lot of late nights working to make up for time lost during the day. Now that they are older and understand the boundaries better, I’m able to work normal hours without disruption.

R: Does working from home allow you to spend more time with your children?

M: My children and I have set aside some time every day during which I am exclusively at their disposal. Of course they have issues that they want to discuss with me and it’s important for them to know that they have that set aside time to do that. Like any family, we have some very good days and then there are always those meltdown days we have to face.

R: What tips would you share with other work-at-home moms that are trying to thrive in a home office?

M:

1. Devote a separate space to call your work area.

Even if it is just a corner in your bedroom, which is what I had before we remodeled, it’s important to have a place to “go to work” to.

2. Make your work space inviting.

You need a place where you can sit, think and concentrate on your projects. This is different for everyone. For me it means a cozy separate room with a great view.

For you, it may mean having lots of plants around and big bright windows that open, while for another, it may mean bright, bold colored walls with paintings hung all around. Remember, this doesn’t mean it has to be Martha Stewart style perfect – it’s just needs to be a place where you genuinely feel comfortable.

3. Use the latest and greatest software.

Having the software that you need at your finger tips makes working at home much easier than not. It can increase your productivity tremendously.

4. Replace faulty equipment.

If you’ve made a career from working at home – then you want to make sure that your equipment works – and that you can count on it. And, it always helps to have a back up of all your files – just in case.

5. Take yourself and the work you do seriously.

And make sure your family and friends take it seriously too. If working at home is your full-time job – or even if it’s your part-time job – if you take the time to express its importance to your family and friends, you’ll have a better chance at success.

6. Don’t forget, you are a professional.

Make no mistake, you are working hard, getting rated for your work, and earning hard cash – that makes you a professional. Always keep that in mind when working with clients.

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Powering Your Company Culture with Technology

These days, employees crave tech-savvy work environments in order to stay motivated and be productive. The introduction of generation z, i.e. the digital natives, into the workforce means companies are challenged to optimize the workplace for engaging employee experience. This usually means integrating technology into day-to-day operations to ease the burden of everyday tasks.

As you look to add talent to your growing business, you’ll want to make sure that your company is utilizing technology in a way that will both entice young professionals as well as improve the productivity of your current employees. Below, we’ve shared a few resources to help you learn more about the modern small business’ relationship between technology and company culture.

Flexible Benefits

The internet has provided the unique opportunity for work to be done in any place and at any time, and many businesses are utilizing this benefit by giving their workers a little more control over their work schedule. Work-from-home and flexible office hours allow employees to work when and where they are most productive, helping to prevent burnout in your workers while offering them the opportunity to create a healthier work-life balance. 

Flexible hours also help to improve the overall vibe of the office. When people are able to adjust their hours, they are less likely to use paid time off or sick time for appointments and other events that require them to be away from the office. This means more people are likely to be at work, which promotes the sense of community and company culture. Your workers are also happier and more relaxed when they’re able to shift their schedules to meet their at-home needs, meaning they’ll have better focus once they return to work.

The efficient use of technology is the key to granting this privilege to your employees. Before the wide-spread use of the internet, it was nearly impossible to be sure that your remote workers were actually working when they said they were. Cloud-based time management software is a tool that enables remote work by allowing users to track their time off-site over the internet. This tool helps avoid micromanaging, as well as creates trust between workers and upper management— allowing employees to feel autonomous, free, and loyal to the company.

Communication

Effective communication is essential to develop a unified company culture and drive a clear direction for your business. It’s what keeps everything running smoothly, and allows for employees and management to be in alignment with what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. 

If not properly managed, poor communication can be detrimental to small businesses— leading to increased employee turnover rates, unsatisfied customers, and potential physical and mental health hazards for your workers. Poor communication can be caused by a number of factors, from employees not being reachable because of time and distance barriers to lacking the structure needed for information to move freely within the company.

Luckily, the internet has made it easier for employees to communicate with each other throughout the company. Internet-powered Voice over IP is just one example of technology that helps businesses improve their communication efforts, allowing employees to make and receive calls over an internet connection rather than traditional phone line networks. Services like this make your workers more accessible, meaning it’s easier to transmit messages across time zones and satellite offices.

Training

Efficient training programs not only bring your new hires to proficiency more quickly, but they can also aid in long-term employee retention and happiness within your organization. These programs allow your workers to rapidly learn the responsibilities and operations of their role which, in turn, builds their confidence in their ability to do their job. 

These programs also give businesses the ability to address any areas of weakness in terms of skill and productivity. This helps to ensure that everyone in the company has the same level of knowledge and leads to more consistent work, making people self-assured in their ability to complete the tasks expected of them.

Technology has made it easier for companies to train their newly-hired and current employees. Virtualized learning management systems allow businesses to standardize their approach by building specific courses and tracking employee progress. These cost-effective computer programs are easily customizable, making them an ideal choice for smaller businesses looking to improve their training process. 

Career Development

Employees today highly value personal and professional growth in their workplaces, making mentorship and soft skills development courses a key part of any company culture. These programs help workers feel valued by the organization and encourage them to grow within the company rather than taking their skills elsewhere. They also allow your company to be ready for any changes in the industry by preparing your employees with skills that could be useful in the future. 

Businesses can utilize software to help nurture their workers’ skills. There are plenty of new mentor program technologies that can help small businesses create and facilitate effective programs. Artificial intelligence, for example, can assist in creating ideal mentor and mentee pairings. These technologies help businesses identify their often overlooked mentor-ready employees, giving these people the chance to spread their soft skills throughout the company. These programs help mentors feel valued by the company while giving mentees the chance to learn from individuals they may not otherwise interact with, which strengthens company culture.

Recognition

Recognition is an incredibly powerful tool that leaders and managers can use to keep employees invested and excited in their work. Not only does it promote a positive and forward-thinking work environment, but it also increases the recurrence of desired behavior— meaning that employees will be both productive and proud of the work that they’re doing. 
Technology has made recognizing great work easier than ever before. Tools like browser-based employee recognition software allow small businesses a platform for shouting out great work and easily sharing it across an organization. These tools also allow peers to recognize each other as well, eliminating the idea that upper management is the only place to receive valuable praise. Technology helps to encourage and promote positive relationships throughout the business, leading to a happier, more productive work environment.

Designing a Powerful And Effective Content Remarketing Plan

Designing a Powerful And Effective Content Remarketing Plan
In the past few years, content marketing has moved from an unproven marketing idea to becoming the center of many digital marketing strategies. Content marketers use blog posts, whitepapers, videos, and a variety of other content to build trust, create engagement, establish authority, and create leads. When content marketing is successful, the return on investment is great. However, in spite of these efforts, not every initial point of contact leads to a conversion. When that happens, content remarketing can improve on that ROI significantly.

What is Content Remarketing?
Not every person who consumes your content will be converted into a lead. Some will simply visit your site, but for whatever reason fail to answer your call to action. With content remarketing, you retarget these potential leads with relevant advertising. The idea is based on the concept of behavioral marketing where customers are based on actions they have previously taken online. Content remarketing is a valuable tool that you can use to impress customers you may not have reached on the first point of content. Here are some of the benefits of remarketing:

Boost awareness of your brand among members of your target audience.
Increase the power of your marketing budget.
Improve your ability to target audience members who have already shown an interest in your products.
Boost the conversion power of your content and landing pages.

What Does Content Remarketing Look Like?
How does content remarketing appear to your audience? Imagine that you search the internet for a specific type of jewelry. Later, you see advertisements for that exact jewelry on your social media feed, or as a banner ad on a different website. You might also see ads in the video content you watch. In many cases, these are created with the specific purpose of bringing you back to the site you visited earlier so that you can continue the conversion process.

How Does Content Remarketing Work?
Content remarketing allows you to boost engagement, and helps you get the most out of your content. It reminds users of your products, and motivates them to continue down the path to conversion. You reach out to them via social media, email marketing, PPC advertising, all based on their previous behavior when consuming your content.

Here are the steps involved in content remarketing:
A potential lead visits your website and reads/watches your content.
Your site uses a tracking cookie on that prospect’s browser session.
The potential customer exits your website before they convert.
The cookie remains active as the prospective customer surfs the internet, and displays ads promoting your company, its products, and services.
Ideally, the customer is drawn back to your site to complete the purchasing process.

Each time you retarget a potential customer with advertisements that have been specifically created for their interests, you create a new opportunity to improve the impression you have made. Even better, if you have a potential customer who is a bit ‘on the fence’ about making a purchase, remarketing can push them to go ahead and convert. You can also reach customers who were very close to converting previously.

Creating Remarketing Content
You can use remarketing as a means to drive customers back to existing landing pages or product pages. You may also redirect them to new or existing content. This, in particular, allows you to either make use of old content, or leverage new content. You can then add a conversion magnet or call to action to the bottom of that content to help drive your audience closer to converting.

Of course, if you are going to use content as part of your remarketing strategy, it’s going to have to be particularly powerful to be effective. Try some of the following tools to ensure your renewed content efforts are successful:
Canva: For adding great visuals to your content without graphic design expertise.
Wow Grade: A professional source of content writing and editing assistance.
Yoast: The ultimate in SEO and other content tools for your WordPress Site.
Hemingway: A great source for ensuring that your writing is reader friendly.
Studicus: Copywriting and editing assistance.

Your Content Remarketing Plan: Choosing Your Platforms
The first step in creating your remarketing plan is to select the platforms for your targeted advertising. Chances are, you’ll be using Google or Facebook as the base of your remarketing plan. This means you can retarget your audience through:
Gmail
YouTube
Android Apps
Search Results Advertisements
Display Network
Social Media

Clarifying Your Remarketing Goals
When you create your remarketing plan, you can focus your effort on one of three types of campaign:

Cart Abandonment Campaigns
In these campaigns, you use remarketing to reach out to customers who have abandoned the checkout process. Ideally, you will be able to attract them back to your site to continue with their purchase. Here, the tracking cookie can be placed on the checkout page. Later, the user will see advertising based on the purchase they almost made.

Content Retargeting Campaigns
When a potential customer visits a specific page on your site, you can use retargeting to direct them to additional content that could be interesting to them. For example, if they visit one of your product pages, you could use an advertisement to send them to a page that contains a product demonstration video.

Lead Renewal Campaigns
When a customer visits your landing page, but fails to convert, you can use retargeting to renew that potential lead with advertising that focuses on continuing to build confidence and trust.”

Edna Betters, a content marketing advisor at Trust my Paper says, “Once you know the type of campaign you plan on launching, you know what you want your end results to be. When enough customers take the desired action, you know that you have reached your goal.

At this point, you can also choose the pages on your site that will use remarketing cookies. Create the marketing, ad content. Build the pages to which you will direct your retargeted customers.

Understanding The Remarketing Process
If you have a Google Ads account, you can use remarketing. Fortunately, Google does an excellent job of making it relatively easy to create a remarketing campaign. You’ll find plenty of resources, and other information online to help you get started. Here is a great remarketing setup article written by Google. This comprehensive content will walk you through the technical steps of setting things up.

Another option for retargeting is using Facebook Pixel. You do this by installing Facebook Pixel, creating the pixel, and installing it on your site. You can then use this to target audiences on Facebook based on pages they visit on your site. You can also use Facebook tools to create custom audiences for your remarketing campaigns.

Final Thoughts
Retargeting is an exceptionally effective way to double down on your content marketing efforts. Use it to increase the ROI on your marketing efforts, and to ensure that interested customers keep their eyes on your brand.

Author Bio:
Melanie Sovann is a blogger and editor at BestEssay.education and GrabMyEssay. She is passionate about teaching small business owners effective marketing techniques that can be applied on a lean budget. In her spare time, she enjoys playing golf and traveling.