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Online Bullying Even When Working From Home (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Online Bullying Even When Working From Home

African man sleeping at his workplace in officeFor me, this is a personal topic. Bullying was endemic in the company where I worked prior to becoming a mother. Human Resources is a challenging and fast moving area of any business. At first it excited me – the ability to find ideal, new employees, evaluating them, helping them flourish and rewarding the good ones. However, it soon became like many other areas of business and life in general – a case of who you know, what you say to the right person, and more, how you destroy those you do not like. Those in power bullied the new, the weak, and the ostracized. This had nothing to do with ability or work ethic, but everything to do with cliques.

No Boundaries for 21st Century Bullying

The level of bullying increased whenever someone was ill, made a mistake, or worst of all, got pregnant. So you can imagine my own feelings on becoming pregnant for the first time. Sure enough, the bullying stepped up a notch. Luckily, senior management was flexible and accommodating, so they let me become a remote worker. My jobs could be done from home just as well as in the office and for a while this was fantastic; largely because I had a new daughter who brought joy to my life, a supportive and engaged husband, and maternity leave – sweet maternity leave.

Once back, even though I worked from home, I would receive bullying emails, text, Skype messages, and phone calls. Eventually I was released from my work for “under-performance,” despite being one of highest producing employees. Working from home is not a protection from bullying in the 21st century. Whether as a remote employee or a freelance worker, those who seek to bully will do so regardless of the working environment. It can be brazen and open or covert. In fact, the proliferation of smart devices, chat apps, online work platforms, and so on make it easier for bullies to get a hold of their targets and harass them 24/7.

What Employees can do to Reduce Online Bullying

If you need to leave your current employer or client, then you are presented with several options. There may be legal angles you can take due to the nature of the bullying. This is, however, a long term compensation rather than a solution. Finding new clients is obviously the first thing for a freelancer to do. Being self-employed, there are benefits and problems when work is slow, so it can feel difficult to give up a source of income and trade it in for insecurity. If you have been earning for long enough, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. While there are federal regulations, most of this is handled on a state by state basis. Any unemployment insurance and benefits can be vital in giving you the chance to turn around your situation and find new employment, new clients, or a totally new direction.

However, it may be possible to save the situation. Being bullied has untold effects on our bodies and our minds, but it is not something to suffer or put up with. First, you should gather evidence of how you are being bullied by this person or people. Then you need to find the support of someone in authority – this can include a Union Rep if you have one. Check your legal rights under both federal and state law. Then you need to stay tough, hold your ground, and sadly, as noted above, have an exit strategy just in case. Now, the important part is not to confront the bully directly because they can and will twist this to suit them. First confide in management or a colleague, and work with them to address the situation.

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Bullying can come in all shapes and forms – and even from someone you consider a friend. If a colleague or client’s actions are causing you mental and emotional distress and impacting your work, it’s time to take action. No amount of money is worth putting up with negative and harassing comments. Often it’s the subtle harassment that builds up over time that is the hardest to identify. Working together doesn’t mean you have to be friends, but it absolutely means you must treat each other with respect!

Have you been a victim of workplace bullying? Please help us shine a light on the common occurrence of this very important topic!

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Building a Network: Working from Home Doesn’t Mean Working Alone (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Building a Network: Working from Home Doesn’t Mean Working Alone

The flexibility of working from home appeals to many people and is a great way to fit your job around your lifestyle. However, it can be isolating and difficult without a group of colleagues immediately on hand. Luckily, it’s easy to get out there and make connections.

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Shared Office Space

You will be able to find office rental space in almost every city, with options to suit every budget. You get a desk, Wi-Fi, coffee; all the essentials – but most importantly, colleagues right on hand to problem-solve, brainstorm, and connect with. Even if they don’t work in your specific industry, they will have transferable experience and broad networks of their own which you can plug into and take advantage of.

Social Media and Networking

If physically sharing office space isn’t for you, then it’s time to get active on social media. Social media is great for building your brand’s image and engaging with customers, but it is equally useful for making vital connections with peers in your own industry. Social media isn’t just for youngsters, it can be useful for all generations who are setting up in business. Create profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find other people in your field, search out possible mentors, and follow businesses and organizations with which you might want to work. Search for groups and forums, but don’t be afraid to also approach people individually. A personal touch can really make the difference!

Conferences and industry events

Keep tabs on what the big events are each year in your industry, and make time to attend them. Research ahead of time what talks, events, or trade stands are offered, and set up some meetings if you can. This will make sure your visit is worthwhile, and that you don’t end up browsing at random with nothing to show for it when you go home. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and be sure to talk to everyone you can, exchange contact details, and then follow up when you get back home. A little effort goes a long way.

Take every opportunity

It’s important not to limit yourself to your own specific area of business. Other industries will need your skills and expertise, and at some point you’ll find yourself in need of something they can provide, especially with a growing business. For tasks like accountancy and tax returns, it’s easier and more efficient to use specialists rather than struggling yourself. If you have busy periods, you might need to bring in temporary workers to make sure everything is completed on time. Already having a great network means you have every situation covered!

Do you work from home? How do you actively build a network of fellow business owners and vendors? Share your thoughts by commenting below. 

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Maintain Balance When Working from Home (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


How to Maintain Balance When Working from Home

Portrait of beautiful young woman working in her office.

Maintaining your relationships while working from home can be a little more complicated than others may think. It is often assumed that since you are home all day, you have all the time in the world to socialize with friends or spend quality moments with your family. It is important for you to be firm from the beginning about you needing to actually work to make money, that you cannot be at the disposal of others just because you do not leave your house for work.

Based upon my personal experience with this very scenario, here are four tips for maintaining balance between your personal and professional life when working from home.

Find Worthwhile Opportunities

According to an article in Woman’s Day Magazine about Real Ways to Make Money from Home, there are 61 scams floating around the internet for every one legitimate work-at- home opportunity. If you already have a position with a company and are just taking your work from the office to a telecommuting setting, you do not have to worry about these scams. However, if you are just starting out, it is important to research true possibilities, rather than invest any time or money into fraudulent claims.

Create a Dedicated Work Space

You need a separate workspace in your home to be productive. Though a dining room table or extra dresser may work temporarily, it is hard to organize all of your supplies. Also, if your office is in a communal area of the home, the distractions alone can make for a very unproductive setting. If you cannot have a closed off space, think of a visual hint to let you family know you cannot be disturbed, such as having headphones on, whether they are plugged into anything or not.

Set Office Hours

Set work hours for yourself, as well as others. Though one of the benefits of working from home is flexibility in your schedule, if you allow too much flexibility you will not meet your goals. Do not answer personal phone calls, texts, or messages during your scheduled work times, unless they are true emergencies. Be firm with loved ones that they need to treat this as a real job

Give Yourself Breaks

An article on the Psychology Today website about How to Remain Sane/Productive when working from home talks about the importance of taking the time to recharge and connect with others. Just like you get breaks as an employee, you need to allocate them at home, as well. Work for a preset time, and then, return phone calls to chat, have lunch with your spouse, or have an after school snack with your kids.

The trick to maintaining balance when working for home is to leave work at work, at least in your mind. When the day is done, turn off your desk light and concentrate on your loved ones. This needs to be included in your daily schedule, along with business goals.

Do you work from home? Share your own tips for maintaining balance between personal and professional life!

 
 

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How to Take Advantage of Working From Home in the Summer

Working from home in the summer

Taking full advantage of working from home in the summer by taking client work out on the back deck.

If you’ve ever had the experience of working from home, you know there can be some unique challenges. However, there are also some pretty cool benefits, particularly during the summer months when working from home can allow you to get outside and enjoy the season as much as possible.

Here’s our guide for taking full advantage of the perks of working from home in the summer.

Take your work outside

Make sure to take advantage of the nice weather in the summer! Taking your work outside with you for even just a small part of the day, like checking emails on the porch, reading from a park bench or taking a phone call from an outdoor café, helps to recharge your focus. Better yet, being present in nature can even offer you some great inspiration!

Do work earlier or later in the day to carve out free time during the best daytime hours

Working from home often gives you more freedom and flexibility with your time. During the summer months you can take advantage of hitting popular attractions like a waterpark or amusement park when they tend to be less crowded. The key to finding time for these mini “day-cations” is to get your work done earlier or later in the day so you have free time during the best daytime hours.

Multi-task by picking an outdoor meeting location or taking a call from the park

As we mentioned in a previous point, taking a business call outside can give you that extra time in the sunshine. Whether you’re a single adult working from home just looking to get out and enjoy the summer days, or a work-from-home mom trying to entertain your kids while taking care of work, getting outside is a great way to multi-task!

Work hard and efficiently to maximize your free time to enjoy summer activities

It’s always important to work hard and efficiently to make the most of your time and earn the respect of your clients and customers. However, the summer months offer an additional incentive for maximizing free time – you can spend it doing fun things outside. This means giving your work your complete focus until the tasks are complete, and then fully enjoying the time you get to unplug!

Do you work from home? How do you take advantage of summer weather and activities with your flexible work schedule?

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Struggle is Real: How to Overcome a Slow Wi-Fi Connection (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following post comes to us from returning guest blogger, Sarah Pike. Sarah is a freelancer and teacher with a passion for sharing innovative ideas about entrepreneurship, productivity and company culture. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and connect or read more of her guest blog posts!

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The Struggle is Real: How to Overcome a Slow Wi-Fi Connection

How to Overcome a Slow Wi-Fi Connection

When you’re participating in a professional development webinar, Skyping with a client, or simply emailing journalists—a strong Internet connection is essential. Without it, you’re not getting the most from your Wi-Fi the way you should. Don’t let the slow Wi-Fi struggle get you down. Below are some tips to help you overcome slow Wi-Fi and get back to being on top of your work game.

Cut back on the number of devices using your network.
If you’re running nine devices on bandwidth designed for five, your Wi-Fi will be sluggish. Fortunately, you don’t have to guess at how many connected devices are too many. This tool tells you how much Internet speed you actually need, whether you’re video conferencing, streaming music, or just emailing clients.

There are too many networks in your area. 
There are a limited amount of radio waves that transmit wireless signals in any given area. If you live in a busy city or an apartment building, with hundreds of networks competing for space, your Wi-Fi will be slow. You may be able to reduce interference by changing your wireless channel.

Your router is in a bad place.
The further your connected device is from your router, the slower your connection. Move the router to a central location in your home or the spot where you most frequently need fast Wi-Fi, like a home office, to help improve your signal.

You’re running apps or programs that are bandwidth-hogs.
Some apps, like BitTorrent and Steam, use a lot of bandwidth, but you may forget they’re running. This will slow your connection. On the other hand, if you’re trying to simultaneously download massive amounts of information, upload photos, and watch a video, you’re overloading your bandwidth (and possibly your device’s memory). Stick to one bandwidth-heavy process at a time.

You expect too much from Wi-Fi.
Your Wi-Fi can only do so much, and that certainly isn’t as much as a hard-wired Ethernet connection. If you’re stuck with slow Wi-Fi and need to use the Internet, optimize your browser for a slower connection by viewing mobile or HTML versions of Web sites and disabling images. Take care of tasks that aren’t as bandwidth-intensive and save the massive downloads for a time when you have access to an Ethernet connection or faster Wi-Fi.

Maybe It’s Not Your Fault After All.
Slow Internet may have nothing to do with your routers position, the apps you’re running, or your high expectations for today’s technology. Sometimes your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is having trouble. These may stem from the central office, the connection going into your home, or the cables at the street. If that’s the case, give your ISP a call.

Once you establish what the problem is, whether on your own or by talking with your ISP, take action. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be back to work without fear of lagging Wi-Fi interrupting your progress.

Have you ever had the frustrating experience of working through a slow Wi-Fi connection? Share your tips for overcoming this challenge by commenting below!

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About the Author: Sarah Pike is a freelancer and teacher, with a slight productivity app obsession. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably reading about career-pathing and wellness. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

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6 Valuable Lessons I Learned from Working from Home

6 Valuable Lessons I Learned from Working from Home

As I enter my fifth year of running my own Public Relations business from the comfort of my home, I got to thinking about how this experience is so vastly unique compared to the few years I spent working in a traditional office environment.

I made the entrepreneurial leap not that long after graduating college, which means I truly have limited knowledge as to what it’s like to work a 9-5 job from an office building. However, I make up for my lack of cubicle-life experience with the many valuable lessons I’ve gained from running a successful business under the same roof in which I raise my family.

There are pros, there are cons and there is no shortage of comical experiences I could share, but for now I want to focus on these six important lessons I learned from working from home.

You still need to structure your day

When you work from home, you can structure your day however best fits your personality and workload, but the key is that you must still incorporate structure of some type. I like to get up early to catch up on emails and knock any daily, reoccurring tasks off my list right away. I then spend time with my family and get them on their way before I use the rest of my morning to tackle my biggest and most pressing tasks of the day.

I break my big to-do list down into the must-do’s for each day of the week. I set realistic expectations for the day and try my hardest to reach them before taking a break or doing something off task. This is the structure that works best for me.

In a work-from-home environment, failing to plan is planning to fail. You need to be very clear about what you plan to get out of each day and keep yourself accountable to this task list.

Some of the “perks” of working from home are better in theory

Sure, when you work from home you can multitask and clean or do laundry, you can also sneak in a workout anytime of the day. I have found that these “perks” can backfire and disrupt my day if I am not careful. People who work in a traditional office environment can more easily push these household or personal tasks out of mind because they are out of sight. Sometimes I too need to let these wait until my off-hours so I don’t waste my workday doing things that aren’t related to my clients.

Another perk that is better in theory? Having endless access to snacks. I really have to use self-control to not dive into those leftover brownies or grab a snack because I’m bored. When I worked in an office, I only ate what I packed for the day and was able to more easily stay away from the break room.

You have to be intentional about separating work and personal time

My home is my office and my office is my home. You can’t be the commute, but the flip side is sometimes it can be hard to switch from work mode to family mode. If I leave my laptop open on the kitchen island, I tend to check emails and try to work ahead on work tasks when really I should be focused on quality time with my family.

Other people get to leave their work and worries at the office. When you work from home, you don’t have this obvious separation so you must be intentional about leaving your virtual office for the evening. Most everything can wait until the morning!

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Because I work from home and set my own schedule, I can sleep in, watch reruns of my favorite TV show, do some online shopping and run errands that are completely unrelated to my client work. But this doesn’t mean I should do these things. I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder to see what I’m working on, which is all the more reason to be accountable to myself.

No matter where you work, you still have to do work to keep your job. Taking a little break to indulge in a guilty pleasure is not only a perk of working from home, it’s a necessity for keeping your sanity. But be sure to balance what you can do with what you should do.

Fight to not revert back to “cube life”

It’s surprising to me how so many people who fight for the freedom to work from home still manage to recreate all the crappy parts of a traditional office workspace. I once worked for a company that was completely virtual, yet made all their employees sign into skype between 9 and 5. We were expected to be strapped to our computers during this time unless we “made an announcement” via the online chat that we were getting lunch, going to the gym or heading to the bathroom. That’s not only as bad as a traditional office workspace – that’s worse!

My lesson here is embrace your freedom to work from a local coffee shop one day and your back porch the next. I know I said to need to structure your day, but this doesn’t mean every day has to be the same. Maybe this means one day you tackle tasks early so you can take an afternoon nap and the next day you close up shop early to head out of town for a long weekend. Most importantly, never take a job where you feel obligated to announce to your coworkers that you’re stepping away from your computer to take a shower.

Even introverts need human interaction

Finally and most importantly, working from home can be a very isolating experience. The majority of the time I love the peace and solitude of my house during the work day when the only sounds are the clicking of my keyboard. But there are other times when I really wish I had a cube-mate to engage in some casual conversation when I’m feeling stressed.

As an introvert, it feels ironic to admit that I need human interaction from time to time to energize me. This is why I attend weekly networking meetings and scatter client meetings and phone calls throughout the week to ensure I get just the right dose of time with real people before I retreat back to the sanctuary of my home office.

Do you work from home? What life lessons has this experience taught you? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Ease the Transition to Working from Home (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following guest post comes to us from Sarah Pike, a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee, an innovative and resourceful company that helps small companies successfully manage and grow their businesses. Sarah is also a college writing instructor. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and to connect!

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How to Ease the Transition to Working from Home

working from homeThe ability to work remotely grew 80 percent between 2005 and 2012 and it shows no signs of stopping.

Research shows working from home might be harmful to your health, but there are a lot of benefits you can gain from it too. If you’re nervous about making the transition from office work to working remotely, here are some ways to help make that transition a bit easier.

Learn to make yourself “present.”

Many people feel like they’ll miss out on opportunities by working from home. To combat this, make yourself as “present” at the office as possible without actually being there. Connect your smartphone and laptop to your office. Have instant messengers and email open at all times while you work. You can give the impression of being physically in the office by being easily reachable during your normal work hours.

Find more ways to connect.

Working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean working from home. Keep your options open. There are apps available, like Work+, designed to help you find available Wi-Fi connections no matter where you are. This way you won’t feel compelled to stay in your house all day, which can end up feeling just as confining as an office.

It’s been shown Internet access directly correlates to a person’s happiness, so having a good connection is essential to creating the perfect work-life balance. Make sure you have a reliable Internet connection at home or that you’re going to a coffee shop you know has a strong Wi-Fi connection. You’ll need a stable connection with speeds fast enough to handle your workload. If you’re unsure if your at-home Internet is up to par, this test can help you check your speed.

Set your schedule.

You can easily fall into a trap of staying in bed all day when working from home. To prevent this, sit down and define your schedule. It should follow a similar schedule you’d have if you were in the office. Begin work each day at a set time and stick to it. Just remember to end at the specified time each day too. Overworking when you work from home is an easy trap to fall into when you’re working in a solo setting.

As Ariana Huffington discusses in her book “THRIVE,” overworking can lead to sleep-deprivation. Not only can this lead to serious injury, as in the case of Huffington, but it can also lead to a fall in productivity and happiness.

Take breaks.

It’s easy to work without stopping when you don’t have people coming to chat with you or when you don’t have a break room to visit. In the same vein of setting a work schedule, you need to schedule break times. Set aside 15-minute breaks and a lunch period each day—and take them. Studies show people are more productive when they take their breaks.

Create your own commute.

For many people, the drive to work is the ideal time to mentally prepare for the day ahead. You may think you lose that period of reflection and preparation when you work from home, but you don’t have to. Take time each morning to walk to a specific place, maybe your neighborhood coffee shop, and back home. You’ll mimic the morning commute and give yourself time to relax and prepare before the stress of the workday takes over.

Avoid unnecessary distractions.

When you’re at the office, you don’t have the option of throwing in a load of laundry or starting to prep for dinner. When you work remotely, you need to stay disciplined to not do these things. These are distractions only serving to keep you from getting your work done. Set aside time to do your home-life chores when your work is done, not in the middle of it.

Make sure you still socialize.

Studies show that workplace socialization is paramount to getting ahead in a job. Not only does it make you more productive and help cultivate ideas, but it also builds trust among colleagues. Find social groups via sites like Meetup.com to help develop interaction or form a weekly or monthly get together with colleagues.

Over 75 percent of employers with remote work programs in place report happier employees. Clearly, there’s something to be said for working somewhere other than a cubicle. The key to making it work is finding the right balance for your schedule and needs. If you’re considering transitioning to working from out of the office, try out some of these tips to give you the confidence you need to get started!

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About the Author: Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next camping trip. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

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