Tag: work

How to keep on top of your e-mails

They are one of the biggest distractions of office life, pinging into your inbox every few minutes.

But ignoring your emails, even if you get hundreds a day, is not the best way to be more productive.
Checking just a few times at work has the opposite effect, a review by Kingston University has found, and will probably just make you more stressed.

Ignoring your emails, even if you get hundreds a day, is not the best way to be more productive. Checking just a few times at work has the opposite effect, a review by Kingston University has found, and will probably just make you more stressed, even if you get hundreds a day, is not the best way to be more productive.

Checking just a few times at work has the opposite effect, a review by Kingston University has found, and will probably just make you more stressed.

The four steps

1) Delete or file away emails whenever you check  your inbox – by reducing inbox clutter, people report feeling less overloaded.

2) Switch off email alerts – interruptions can have a negative impact on our efficiency, but make sure that you are still logging on every 45 minutes or so – to stay on top.

3) Use the ‘delay send’ function when sending email out of hours – this means recipients only receive their email during normal working hours. While you are taking advantage of the flexibility of email, you aren’t imposing this on the recipient.

4) Review your personal email strategies – are your emails purposeful and efficient or are they habitual and reactionary? The best advice is apparently to log on every 45 minutes to stay on top of new emails and work priorities.

The review’s author, Dr Emma Russell, Head of the Wellbeing at Work Research Group at Kingston Business School, says: “People use email to help them get their jobs done. Most people say they couldn’t imagine being able to do their work effectively without it, and very few send non-work critical email during their working day.”

The review highlights three popular myths which are not backed up by the academic evidence.

Email myths
The review highlights three popular myths which are not backed up by the academic evidence.
The first is that emails are a ‘time-wasting distraction from “real” work’, while in fact recent studies show up to 92 per cent of emails received are critical to people’s jobs.

Another is that we should limit ourselves to checking email a few times a day, such as in the morning, at lunchtime and before leaving work, which in fact makes people feel less in control.

The third myth is that emails stop us getting on well with other people, because of ‘back-covering’ messages, for example, cc’ing in colleagues who people want to implicate in mistakes.

However studies show the cc’ing culture of copying people into emails in facts forges rewarding relationships by keeping workmates informed and in the loop.

Dr Russell wrote: ‘The same participants also reported that processing more email resulted in greater perceived coping – actually dealing with email and keeping on top of it helped workers to feel in control.”

The study was commissioned by Acas, the mediation service which also provides workplace training.

By Victoria Allen for The Daily Mail

Open plan: the suboptimal office?

Although the current work zeitgeist is for open plan offices, further thought is needed to keep different types of office workers happy throughout the workday.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says the open plan office has been around since the 1960s when it was first introduced in Germany to boost communication and de-emphasise status.

“As the idea took hold in North America in the decades that followed, employers switched from traditional offices with one or two people per room to large, open spaces.

“Right now, it is estimated that roughly two-thirds of U.S. workers spent their days in open-plan offices. South Africa has a similar experience.”

But as the layout became commonplace, problems emerged.

A 2002 study of Canadian oil-and-gas-company employees who moved from a traditional office to an open one found that on every aspect measured, from feelings about the work environment to co-worker relationships to self-reported performance, employees were significantly less satisfied in the open office.

One explanation for why this might be is that open offices prioritise communication and collaboration but sacrifice privacy.

“A reason for this is that ‘architectural privacy’ (the ability to close one’s door) went hand in hand with a sense of ‘psychological privacy’. And a healthy dose of psychological privacy correlates with greater job satisfaction and performance.” Trim noted.

With a lack of privacy comes noise—the talking, typing, and even chewing co-workers.
A 1998 study found that background noise, whether or not it included speech, impaired both memory and the ability to do mental arithmetic, while another study found that even music hindered performance. There’s also the question of lighting.

Says Trim: “Open offices tend to cluster cubicles away from windows, relying more on artificial light. Research has shown that bright, overhead light intensifies emotions, enhancing perceptions of aggression which could lead to a lack of focus during meetings if arguments get heated.”

Another under-appreciated twist is that different personality types respond differently to office conditions. For example, a study on background music found its negative effects to be much more pronounced for introverts than for extroverts.

“Even the office coffee machine could be hurting some employees. Although a moderate dose of caffeine was found to enhance long-term information retention and was ranked as the most important thing in the workplace by an Inspiration Office survey in 2016, caffeine has previously been shown to hinder introverts’ cognitive performance during the workday.”

A recent craze is the standing desk, inspired by the widely reported health risks of sitting all day. One study found that people who sat at least six hours a day had a higher risk of premature death than those who sat three hours or fewer—regardless of physical-activity level. But being on one’s feet presents its own health risks: standing for more than eight hours a day has been tied to back and foot pain.

So what’s a company to do?

“Give employees their own private offices, with plenty of sun, and turn off the overhead lights.

“Supply the introverts with noise-canceling headphones and decaf, but pump the extroverts full of caffeine and even let them listen to music now and then.

“And don’t let anyone sit too much—or stand too much.” Trim adds.

The way you dress says a lot about you – especially in the workplace. Dress codes differ across sectors (that’s a reality), but the general rule is: at work, keep it professional.

The way we dress at work not only affects how others perceive us, but affects the way we feel. Research shows the way you dress can significantly increase your confidence which results in increased productivity – what psychologists call ‘enclothed cognition’. Even if you’re not into fashion, it’s something to consider.

Research also suggests it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. Fashion missteps can create misconceptions about your skills or how seriously you take your job. If your wardrobe is holding you back, it might be time to revamp this year. Here’s why:

What not to wear
Company dress codes are a good guide as to how to dress in the workplace. Informal attire in a corporate can suggest you value comfort over anything else and send the message you’re in cruise-mode. Casual attire might be well-received in certain workspaces, if everyone is on the same page. It’s about knowing what the boundaries are, so you don’t overstep them.

When you join a company, ask management or HR for guidelines on the general dress code and use them as a starting point. If you’ve been with the company for a while, it’s never too late to start over and it’s worth asking what the dress code in the office actually is, to find out if you’re on track.

The new formal
Workplace research shows more offices are moving towards ‘business casual’ in place of suits, but often the rules aren’t clearly defined. Even experienced professionals sometimes have trouble deciding what’s appropriate. If there are grey areas (or the dress code seems to be shifting), chat to colleagues or management to get a more definite idea of what’s appropriate, before going full tracksuit-and-trainers.

No end to the ’80s
Vintage styles are having a revival, but it’s wise to mix old-school trends with modern clothes. Dressing like it’s still the 1980s can give the impression you’re out of touch and find it difficult to embrace change. If you’re into vintage, mix it up with classic pieces to keep it professional.

Work wardrobe goals
It may be tempting to don a different look for each day of the week but it’s not always sustainable. In fact, Facebook co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg swears by t-shirts and jeans every day to eliminate unnecessary decisions and implement routine. Although a ‘one-look-every-day’ approach is a bit extreme, there’s value in simplicity.

A minimalistic wardrobe is about quality over quantity. Stick to fewer quality items that last longer and look more professional. A capsule wardrobe will save you infinite time deciding what to wear in the mornings – and you have less chance of committing a serious office-wear faux pas.

The right fit
Believe it or not, psychologists say poorly fitting clothes give the impression the wearer is unrealistic about their abilities. If clothes are too small, it suggests the wearer is lacks confidence. Oversized clothes allude to the fact that the wearer is trying to hide from the spotlight. Buy clothes that fit. And if your weight fluctuates – adjust accordingly.

Start the New Year with an objective assessment of the message you’re sending to colleagues. You want to be known for the things you say and do, not your outfit malfunction.

Studies show 53% of South Africans don’t take their annual leave. SA may be a hard-working nation, but these religiously diligent habits have a downside.

Not all employees jump at the chance to take their annual leave for various reasons, including fear of falling behind at work or disappointing their manager. However, employees who take adequate time to rest make for a healthy business and taking leave should be encouraged. Here’s why:

Down with stress
By taking a break, employees get a chance to re-energise mind and body. Studies confirm after a holiday, employees are less stressed and can manage work responsibilities more efficiently. Accumulative workplace stress can lead to headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure and depression – all reducing work performance and productivity.

Workplace productivity
A rested mind and body boosts productivity and creativity – and allows employees to approach tasks with perspective and a fresh mindset. Recognise hard work and targets met by offering incentives that extend annual leave (bonus leave days).

Giving an extra annual leave day on an employee’s birthday or offering a half day for overtime worked highlights the importance of taking time off to recharge. The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously – we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.

Decline in absenteeism
Encouraging employees to take annual leave is also linked to individual and organisational well-being. A healthy and happy employee is less likely to be absent on an ongoing basis. Stipulate a date by which employees should use their leave, reminding them to book for busy periods like school or summer holidays. Consider closing during a major holiday period, if possible, and encourage all employees to take leave.

Positive energy
Research shows recharging promotes a positive outlook towards new projects and challenges. Moreover, this positivity is often infectious and can be felt throughout the business. Instil a holiday-friendly atmosphere by responding positively when an employee applies for leave. They’re less likely to apply for leave if they feel it’s frowned upon or discouraged.

Creating an environment that encourages taking accumulated holiday leave offers the opportunity to improve the mood and productivity of employees. It can also help better manage your workforce. Managers can avoid last-minute holiday requests by making it easy to apply for annual leave and responding to requests in a positive way.

A happy team is more engaged and likely to view their jobs as meaningful work to be pursued for the long-term. As much as business owners want to grow a workforce of super-human employees, humans need to rest. For real growth, give employees the leave they deserve.

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