The Basics of Working from Home

The Basics of Working from Home April 17, 2020 As more people give up long commutes and traffic for working from home, staying productive outside the office can be a challenge. From occasional telecommuters and full-time remote employees to freelancers, everyone has grappled with the idea of workspaces within the home. While each individual’s needs and contexts vary, a few simple steps can significantly elevate the work from home experience for everyone. Here are a few remote working basics that can set anyone up for success. Maintain a Regular Schedule It helps to begin your day like you typically would in an office. Wake up on time, have breakfast, get dressed, and show up to work – even if work is the coffee table in the kitchen.  Maintaining a daily schedule helps you stay motivated and provides structure. Take some time to evaluate and determine the best rhythm for your day or week. Once that is done, set realistic goals and timelines each day. Create an Enjoyable Workspace Find ways to turn a non-descript workspace into a place with plenty of mental stimulation. Studies show how color, light, and form influence calmness and productivity. Hang artwork, posters, or motivational quotes on your desk or wall. Experiment with colors wherever possible and change up light strength throughout the day. A vibrant environment is vital to keep motivation high and improves creativity and productivity. Set Clear Boundaries Take care to maintain boundaries to avoid feeling like you are always at work. One of the biggest challenges in remote working during the pandemic is the perceived loss of a sense of ‘home.’ It is essential to keep the two spaces separate by setting clear boundaries. Communicate with colleagues about when you are reachable or unavailable. Similarly, let your family know you are off-limits during work hours. Maintaining a balance with everyone concerned allows you to switch from work to home mode and back again more effectively. Take Regular Breaks Taking regular breaks helps rejuvenate the brain. Researchers at a social media company discovered that the best workers typically averaged 52 minutes of focused work and followed it up with a 17-minute break. The key is to indulge in activities that make you feel good – from stretching, walking, exercising, reading, to just lounging around and doing nothing. Stay Connected Make the extra effort to stay connected with colleagues, clients, and peers. Prolonged isolation can take a toll on even the most introverted person, so it is vital to stay engaged. Schedule informal meet-ups or chats with people now and then. Use social networking platforms to engage with organizations or causes that are special to you. With a few shifts in behavior and rejigging physical spaces, navigating work from home will not seem like a daunting task. Acknowledge what you accomplish each day – completing a project, finishing laundry, cooking a meal – instead of stressing about all the things still left to do. Since staying motivated and focused can be difficult, remember to celebrate small wins regularly. Written by Charlie Garner, a Researcher at Harper HR

5 Ways to Manage Your Time Better

5 Ways to Manage Your Time Better November 28, 2019 If the days and hours during the COVID-19 pandemic seem to blend into one another, you are not alone. As lines blur between office, home, and recreation spaces, managing time (or lack thereof) is one of the most challenging aspects for everyone everywhere. Time management can be difficult on regular days. Working remotely – with its endless new variables to negotiate – makes it that much tougher to accomplish. Here are our top five tips for time management to improve productivity while working from home. 1. Assess Your To-Do List  Working from home is liberating in several ways. It also means being accountable for your work since nobody is around to ensure you get things done. Start your workday by evaluating what needs to get done. Make detailed checklists of tasks that need completing. Use a digital tool or calendar to set up reminders for daily, repeatable tasks. It helps to free up valuable brain space, allowing you to prioritize urgent tasks that require your attention and energy. Check these activities off your list first, and then move on to other, unimportant tasks. For most people, early mornings are calmer and quieter times in the day. It is the ideal time to plan and assess how much you can realistically get done. Inculcating a work or personal routine first thing boosts energy and productivity for the day ahead. 2. Create a Schedule Once you have the checklist figured, create a schedule for your day or week. Identify what tasks you would like to do at certain hours and block your schedule accordingly. Creating time blocks in a day keeps you focused as you efficiently move from one task to the next. Mix it up so you can factor in work, family, and personal time (including meals) into your schedule. A schedule need not be rigid but helps in setting business hours that work for you and your family. 3. Limit Distractions Distractions are a reality of working from home. If you struggle with productivity while at home, identify and eliminate potential sources of distraction. Switching off social media notifications, Netflix, or message notifications on your phone is one of the most effective ways to enhance productivity. 4. Seek Support & Delegate To avoid stress and burnout, avoid taking on more tasks than you are capable of completing. Most of us may hesitate to say ‘no’ due to the fear of being labeled incompetent or a shirker. However, seeking support is an integral part of time management. Delegation, when done effectively, is a win-win for everyone. If you are a manager, learn how to delegate work to your team members based on their skills and interests. Delegating frees up your time while making your team feel involved and valued. Seek support from your team when things get overwhelming, and work together to meet goals. 5. Stress Management Attempting to juggle work and home responsibilities can take a toll on anyone. When there are too few hours in a day for everything you need to do, staying self-motivated and focused can seem impossible. Try and schedule short and fun activities in your day to avoid boredom or burnout. Take regular breaks for 10 to 15 minutes or schedule time for a nap, if needed. Take walks, listen to music or exercise. Switch off from work and spend time with loved ones or call up a friend. Time management is a huge challenge when working at home,  but it does not have to be. While these five tips will provide a blueprint to manage your time, the key is to adapt them in a manner that works best for you.

What Do All Languages Have in Common?

What Do All Languages Have in Common? May 6, 2019 Language and how it came to be is a subject of intense study and research. How did language evolve? Why do some languages die out while others rise to prominence? There are an estimated 7000 languages globally, each one as complex and rich as the next. Despite a multitude of differences, the concept of universality across languages has always intrigued language enthusiasts. With the sheer number of languages and dialects spoken the world over, uncovering the universals in each is a tall ask. Linguists and scientists have nonetheless made attempts and conceptualized various ideas of what these universals could be. In the early 1950s, Noam Chomsky proposed the Universal Grammar theory to look at how familiar grammatical structures, even in unfamiliar languages, can indicate speakers to its meaning. The theory suggests that there are universal grammatical rules that apply to all languages. It also proposes that humans have the innate ability to process language basis these rules. Chomsky’s theory would chart the course of linguistics for years to come. With time, most linguists would change their school of thought. Despite copious amounts of data, mapping the intrinsic structure of language proved immensely complex. Linguists could only scratch the surface in deciphering English itself, even after decades of study. Perhaps one of the loopholes in the theory was its emphasis on using Euro-centric languages as a base. Since European languages evolved from a common ancestor, their grammars contained several overlapping elements. As linguists gathered data on several world languages, clear and glaring inconsistencies in the Universal Grammar theory emerged. These unfamiliar languages had nothing in common with European languages. They appeared to defy every established notion of syntax and grammar. Chomsky’s position that there is a specific, innate language faculty in the brain was seemingly incorrect. Universality is an elusive concept, even at the level of phenomes (sound). All languages should have small units of sound that combined, form syllables and words. But what of sign language that does not make use of any sound at all? The Universal Grammar theory could not achieve what it set out to do, but it had unintended consequences. It re-evaluated established linguistic theories and prompted a further study of the human brain. Moreover, it sparked curiosity about different cultures in the attempt to discover what connects each of us. Linguists today posit that despite numerous differences between languages, all human languages have some universal properties – some at the phonological levels while others at more complex levels such as morphology and syntax. All languages, for instance, contain consonants and vowels or have clear distinctions between nouns and verbs. The universal truth – all languages have a specific way of forming words, turning words into sentences, and systems that assign meaning. It holds even for oral languages or those without any sound, like sign language. With increasing discoveries of new people and languages, there is no saying how these universals will evolve in the future. Regardless of the context, we can rely on certain truths. Languages are fascinating endless variables that evolve, each with its grammar and sound systems. At their most fundamental, what languages have in common is a shared mental system that enables people to communicate and convey meaning.

The Difference Between Winning & Succeeding

The Difference Between Winning & Succeeding December 11, 2018 John Robert Wooden, fondly called Coach, had a profound impact on everyone he met. Considered the greatest NCAA basketball head coach ever, Wooden led the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program to numerous wins with a 664-162 record. He was also named NCAA College Basketball Coach of the Year six times. With a career spanning 40 years, Wooden’s legacy in the sports world is unparalleled, but his most enduring legacy is that of a master teacher whose lessons extended to life overall, not just sports. At the core of his teachings lay a simple truth – succeeding is better than winning. How It Started Wooden coined his definition of success in 1934 when he was teaching at a high school in South Bend, Indiana. As an educator, he struggled with a system that boxed in student achievement to grades. It was, he felt, an inadequate measure of varying intelligence in each learner. He noticed similar patterns on the basketball court and how the world judged athletic teams or coaches. ‘If you won them all, you were considered to be reasonably successful – not completely…But it seemed that we didn’t win each individual game by the margin that some of our alumni had predicted…And quite frequently I really felt that they had backed up their predictions in a more materialistic manner. Wooden wanted to conceptualize a path that could make him a better teacher while giving his students something higher to aspire to, other than grades or more points in an athletic contest. And I knew how Mr. Webster defined it, as the accumulation of material possessions or the attainment of a position of power or prestige, or something of that sort, worthy accomplishments perhaps, but in my opinion, not necessarily indicative of success.’ said Wooden during a TED talk.  The Difference Between Succeeding and Winning Wooden defined success as peace of mind that comes from knowing you put in the effort to do the best of which you are capable. He made distinctions between success and winning by likening the two to character and reputation. A person’s reputation is driven by perception, whereas character is who they really are. Winning is a lot like reputation with its outward trappings. Success, on the other hand, is like character. It focuses on the journey and is much more important than reputation. Wooden strongly considered players who reached their full potential as his success. Some of his other pearls of wisdom included: Learn from others instead of trying to be better than them Focus on things you can control.  Achieving your ultimate potential which is in your control.  Stressing out about factors not under your control undermines the best you can be Always show up on time and close on time Never use profanity Never criticize a team-mate Never whine or make excuses The Pyramid of Success Wooden went on to create the Pyramid of Success and wrote books to share his philosophy. The cornerstones of the Pyramid are industriousness, enthusiasm, working hard, and loving what you do. Right at the top of the Pyramid are faith and patience. Long term changes come from patience and hard work. People must believe they will succeed and do everything possible to make it happen. Too often, the human tendency is to hope things will turn out the way we want them to without doing what is necessary to make dreams a reality. Wooden was in good physical health until the later years of his life. On May 26, 2010, Wooden was admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after suffering dehydration. He died of natural causes at age 99 on June 4, 2010. In a world that values external signs of achievement and wins, Wooden’s outlook on coaching and life was a quietly radical departure that continues to impact everyone who met him. Written by Chiara Cipriani, Recruiter at Harp

The Little-Known Benefits of Sleeping

The Little-Known Benefits of Sleeping August 16, 2018 Sleep is an extraordinary state of being that deserves more attention. Most of us already know the benefits but tend to place our focus elsewhere in the humdrum of everyday life.  It is a beautifully complex biological function that helps repair damage and renew cells. During sleep, the body flushes out toxins and waste, balances hormones, and so much more. Beyond the physical health benefits, sleep supports several aspects of brain functions, facilitating mental health and long-term wellness. While most of us are aware of these core benefits, recent scientific studies provide further insights to demonstrate how valuable sleep is. Sleep Helps Solidify Learning Sleep has significant benefits for the brain. When a body is resting, the brain can solidify previously gained information and transform it into learning. In essence, a person is learning even when taking a snooze. Sleep and Memory Formation Insightful research indicates that the amount of sleep impacts how the brain consolidates learning into memory. Resting helps recharge brain activities and forms new activity on dendritic branches that are responsible for learning. The study provides evidence on the connection between sleep and memory. Sleep and Better Mental Health Poor sleep quality can have adverse effects on mental health, particularly depression. Studies show that people who sleep less than 6 hours per night have a higher genetic risk for symptoms of depression. According to estimates, 90 percent of people with depression complain about sleep quality. A well-rested body significantly improves overall well-being and feelings of happiness. Sleep Enhances Recall and Productivity Sufficient rest enhances information recall and improves focus. A survey in Belgium demonstrated how university students who slept at least 7 hours achieved 10 percent higher grades than those who did not. Similarly, a study on medical interns shows that those on a work schedule of more than 24 hours committed 36 percent more critical medical errors. While most of us may have left our test-taking or internship days behind, studies like these reinforce the connection between adequate sleep and recall, especially at work. Sleep and Immunity Well-rested people have better immunity against illnesses like flu and colds. Getting enough sleep reduces body inflammation and protects your body from a host of other anomalies.  A study of Finnish workers found conclusive data that well rested people take fewer sick days compared to their sleep-deprived counterparts. Interestingly, their research showed that sleeping under 6 hours or over 9 hours could lead people to take more sickness-related absences from work. Sleep and Weight Loss People attempting to lose weight should not only alter their diet and exercise regimen but their sleep patterns. As rest plays a critical role in boosting metabolism, weight gain and irregular sleep patterns have strong links. Additionally, sleep deprived people tend to consume higher-fat foods and pile on calories. The longer the hours, the more time there is to eat. Sleep Affects Emotions and Social Interaction Irregular sleep patterns also affect people’s ability to make social and emotional connections. Several facial recognition tests found that sleep-deprived people had a reduced ability to process expressions of joy or anger, which reduces their ability to interact socially. Sleep helps us understand important social cues and getting a read on people’s emotions.  Tips for Better Sleep If you are looking to prioritize sleeping better, there is no time like the present to start. Here are some ways to get the recommended sleep duration of 6-9 hours. Seek bright or natural sunlight during the day to keep your circadian rhythm (body clock) healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as night-time sleep quality Avoid caffeine in the later hours of the day. Try decaffeinated coffee if you cannot do without it Try and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day Reduce alcohol consumption at night. Drinking before bedtime can negatively affect sleep and hormones Optimize your sleep environment by minimizing noise and light. Limit blue light exposure at night. Smartphones and computers emit large amounts of blue light and can affect the quality and duration of sleep