woman on her phone while from home

Tips for Time Management While Working Remotely

While some people thrive in traditional office atmospheres, many have had to adjust to working in the comfort of their own homes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2025, it is estimated that 22% of the U.S workforce will continue to work remotely, an 87% increase from pre-pandemic statistics.

There are often drawbacks to working in an office environment, but remote work can present challenges as well – such as prioritization and time management.

Here are three easy tips to help improve your WFH time management skills.

1. Schedule deep focus time.

To minimize distractions and maximize your efficiency, establish blocks of uninterrupted work time into your day and put them on your calendar. Consider using tools / software that temporarily blocks access to websites or apps of your choosing. Deep focus time blocks can be beneficial to get your hardest or most tedious tasks done since you won’t be able to use your identified distractors, and your colleagues will see that you are currently unavailable.

Scheduling these focus blocks for the periods that you have the highest energy levels will help you optimize your time, make the most progress on bigger projects, and improve your quality of work. Aim for sessions between 1.5 to 2 hours at a time to achieve maximum productivity.

2. Give yourself breaks.

Instead of dreading certain tasks that you end up dragging out, try scheduling microbreaks (short, regular interval breaks) into your day. Research has shown that taking breaks can give you a fresh perspective that helps maintain job performance throughout the day, lower stress levels and exhaustion, and increase productivity. Mental and physical fatigue can result from things like repetitive tasks or sitting in one spot for a long period of time.

Short breaks can give your brain the time it needs to recharge and the option to move and stretch your body. Use these breaks to meditate, call a friend, grab a healthy snack, or take your pet for a walk outside in the fresh air.

3. Establish boundaries.

Working in a traditional office setting makes it easier to be in the mindset and schedule of a good work/life balance. Without leaving an office and commuting home, you may struggle with “clocking out” or unplugging at the end of the day at home. Try disabling notifications from work applications, changing your chat status, and setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to “sign off”. This will help reduce the urge of checking back in after-hours, which should be time spent unwinding with your family.

Working remotely also means that your TV and refrigerator are within close proximity, so you may find yourself trying to multitask (unsuccessfully) or roaming to find a snack more often. Designating an area of your home for specific purposes can help you create a connection that allows you to focus on specific tasks. While it doesn’t have to be an entire office in your home, try to section off a small corner to establish as your desk and office space where you only perform work-related duties and nothing else. It can take up to 23 minutes to regain focus after being distracted, so the best advice is to limit those distractions as much as possible.

Because there are only 24 hours in the day, and often too much to do, it’s crucial to be efficient with how you manage your time. Give these tips a try so your time doesn’t slip away while working remotely.

The Benefits of Putting Your Brand on Social Media

With approximately 240 million people using social media nationwide, there’s a good chance that your niche customers and clientele are using at least one social network platform. Having a presence on these platforms is a great opportunity to get your brand in front of them.

Let’s look at a few of the benefits of marketing your business in a continuously growing digital community.

1) It establishes credibility.

With a whopping 81% of shoppers researching a brand or product online before making a purchase, it’s important that your business has an established online presence. When a potential customer or client sees an active social media platform from a company that regularly posts updates, it reassures them that you’re a legitimate business and not another internet scam. If you haven’t updated your website or social media platforms in a while, customers or clients may think you’ve gone out of business, or lacked legitimacy from the start.

2) It builds brand awareness.

The U.S Small Business Administration states that there were 31.7 million small businesses at the end of 2020, proving how competitive it can be for a business to thrive. Social media can communicate your brand’s distinguishing factors that set your business apart from the competition. There are multiple formats of content you can share on your business profiles, including images, videos, and blogs. Social media platforms typically operate with similar features that allow users to share your content, thus exposing more potential customers to your brand. If creating content for your brand seems overwhelming, hiring a social media coordinator could be worth looking into.

3) It encourages engagement.

Interacting with your clients across social media platforms allows you to strengthen your customer relationships and build a loyal base of followers. Personalizing your responses to questions, concerns, and comments can show that your business genuinely cares about their experience. Once your customers feel connected to your brand, they will be more likely to use your service or shop your store.

73% of marketers have found that social media has been either “somewhat effective” or “very effective” with their brand. If you haven’t thought about integrating social media as a functioning tool of your business strategy, today is a great day to start.

What Qualities and Skills Make an Effective Leader?

As you experience life, you come to realize that everyone reaches various stages and milestones at different times. And when you reach a crossroad or have a big decision to make in terms of your career, you often turn to more experienced individuals for mentorship, usually in the form of a leader.

Leaders may come in various shapes and forms, but most of them share the same core set of qualities.

Communicate efficiently.

Open, honest, and clear communication is crucial to the success of any business. By setting an example of transparency and demonstrating the will to listen, you can encourage your team members to follow suit and build a sense of trust.

Effective leaders take the “open-door policy” to another level by learning how to adjust the way they interact with different team members and show genuine interest in their ideas and concerns. To do this, ask engaging questions or schedule time to check in with your team members on a regular basis.

Motivate others.

Being motivational towards your team members should include encouraging growth in both their personal and professional lives, from learning new skills to sharing exciting developments.

If you take the time to train your employees on new activities, you may inspire them and help them adopt newfound confidence in their abilities. Empower them instead of giving orders.

Once you’ve taught your team members valuable skills and more efficient practices, you can encourage them to take on new and challenging opportunities, while offering them guidance along the way.

Have empathy.

Being empathetic means more than being a nice person – it means understanding motivations, trying to find valid solutions to problems, and putting yourself into others’ shoes to help understand where they are coming from. From a workplace perspective, this can give insight into your employees’ ideas or how they made certain decisions.

Empathy is one of the greatest workplace assets you can have in terms of productivity and profitability. By being empathetic toward your team members, you can help create and foster a more open and collaborative work environment.

These are just a few of the characteristics required to become an effective leader. Other attributes may come with time, experience, and introspection. Are you ready to begin your path to improving your leadership skills?

Establishing a Personal Brand at Work

When the term personal brand is used, people tend to think of politicians, executives, or even celebrities. The concept of a personal brand has expanded to include all kinds of trades and positions, no matter the industry. Implementing one for yourself may help to advance your career.

So where do you begin?

What is a Personal Brand?

While it can have various definitions, a personal brand boils down to your distinct professional reputation. This includes the skills and values that you can offer to your employer, and is a great way to stand out from the crowd.

A personal brand is a roadmap of your desired career trajectory that can be used to make the decisions that will help you along the way. This can help adjust any preconceptions that your coworkers and supervisors may have of you while putting you in a position that could lead to promotions/advancements where you might’ve been overlooked upon before.

Here are some ways you can begin to solidify your personal brand:

1. Offer to take on new challenges/opportunities.

If you want to progress in your career by establishing a personal brand, maintaining your status quo isn’t going to help. The next time a new project is introduced that’s in the direction of projects you’d like to move towards, offer ideas that you think could be beneficial, or offer to take responsibility for some of the tasks that it entails. Showing interest and initiative can leave the door open for future opportunities.

2. Speak up.

It can be difficult for others to realize your full potential if you aren’t making yourself known. By voicing your opinion and sharing occasional personal anecdotes, your authentic self can shine through. This may encourage others to open up and help foster a creative and communicative environment for everyone.

You should also consider having a discussion with your supervisor. If you inform them of your career goals, they may be able to offer advice and feedback. They’ll appreciate having an employee that is actively working to improve and taking initiative on projects and tasks.

3. Be consistent.

Once you start taking these steps to build your personal brand you’ll want to be patient and consistent. A good reputation is achieved when evidence of a positive pattern can be observed by others. Self-improvement takes time and evolves as you continue to grow and learn about yourself. Maintaining consistency in your work and attitude will help your coworkers and supervisors trust in your abilities.

Personal brands can help you take your career to the next step while also making you feel more confident. It’s never too late to start on a journey of self-improvement.

man in business clothes looking stressed while staring out a window

Job Stress & Health

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress and your health are directly related.

Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved for longer periods of time, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear-and-tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or disease increases.

Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which then responds by preparing the body for defensive action. The nervous system is aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse, deepen respiration, and tense the muscles. This response (sometimes called the fight or flight response) is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations. The response is preprogrammed biologically. Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home. While responding in primarily the same way, the levels of intensity do vary from person to person.

Many studies have looked at the relationship between job stress and a variety of ailments, especially in the last 20 years. Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family and friends are examples of stress-related problems that are quick to develop and are commonly seen in these studies. These early signs of job stress are usually easier to recognize. Comparatively, the effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see because chronic diseases take a long time to develop and can be influenced by many factors other than stress. Nonetheless, evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in several types of chronic health problems especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.

Early Warning Signs of Job Stress:

  • Headache
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Upset stomach
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Low morale

Stress, Health, and Productivity:

Some employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil.  In these cases, management feels they must turn up the pressure on workers, however, this can end up setting aside health concerns in order to remain productive and profitable in today’s economy. Contrary to this belief,  recent research findings are stating quite the opposite.  Studies show that stressful working conditions are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs—all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.

Recent studies suggest that policies benefiting worker health also benefit the bottom line. A healthy organization is defined as one that has low rates of illness, injury, and disability in its workforce and is also competitive in the marketplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health research has identified organizational characteristics associated with both healthy, low-stress work and high levels of productivity. Examples of these characteristics include the following:

  • Recognition of employees for good work performance
  • Opportunities for career development
  • An organizational culture that values the individual worker
  • Management actions that are consistent with organizational values

Finding ways to balance work life and the stressors that come with it are far and wide with options. It can be as simple as taking a walk and getting some fresh air during your lunch break or even encouraging a friendly office-wide wellness competition of sorts. The most important part is finding the method that works for you, and then being consistent with it.

couple with young child playing

Is Your Emergency Fund Ready?

Emergencies are unpredictable, but the money you set aside to cover unexpected expenses (usually big ones) can help.

Along with paying off debt, an emergency fund should come before other financial goals like saving for a down payment on a home, funding your child’s future college, and even investing for your retirement.

Planning Ahead

Conventional wisdom suggests keeping your emergency fund in a place that’s safe and readily accessible (like a savings account). But with interest rates so low, why set aside money you hope to never use in an account where it’ll earn little to no interest?

A safe approach would tread the line between reasonable liquidity (knowing your money will be there when you need it) and growth (earning enough interest to at least keep pace with inflation).

The Cost of Financial Safety

The first step to determining how much money you should be saving will require you to determine what your household spends in a typical month. Next, separate the costs of the necessities from the non-essentials. Lastly, take the monthly cost of your necessities and multiply it by at least three. Industry experts recommend saving enough money to cover at least three to six months of living expenses.

Taking the Next Steps

Financial wellness can bring you peace of mind and help you live well today and plan for tomorrow. That’s why it is important to be proactive in regards to topics like these. Finetune your emergency fund plan ahead of time to relieve yourself of the stress, in case that emergency fund is needed down the line.

The 3 Most Important Reasons to Invest in Dental Insurance

Over the last year we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on staying healthy. We’ve washed our hands to the tune of happy birthday, worn face masks in public, and stayed home instead of going out. But when was the last time we focused on our oral health? Science has shown that problems that begin in our mouths can have an impact on the rest of our bodies.

But aside from daily flossing and brushing, taking care of our teeth and gums can be expensive. Dental insurance can help you cover the cost of keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

So, what else can dental insurance help you cover?

1) Emergencies

Dental pain is often a double-edged sword. There’s the physical pain – and for those without insurance – the pain of a hollowed-out wallet.

If you find yourself experiencing tooth pain, there’s a chance it is the result of something left unattended for too long and now requires major restorative work.

Most dental insurance plans offer deep savings on major restorative dental work and cover all or most preventative care which can help you avoid dental emergencies in the future.

2) Prevention

The American Dental Association recommends that you visit a dentist at least once a year for an exam and cleaning.

You may not always know what dangers could be just around the corner for you and your pearly whites—but a dentist can. Minor issues can lead to bigger and more costly ones down the road.

But the good news is that costly and painful dental problems can often be avoided with regular visits to a dentist and maintaining an oral hygiene routine at home.

3) Orthodontia Coverage

According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association, roughly 4 million people in the U.S. wear braces. But perfectly straight teeth can come at a hefty price.

The cost of dental braces can range anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 (not including any other orthodontia services that may be required to help you achieve perfectly straight teeth).

And while not all dental insurance plans cover orthodontia, the ones that do can save you thousands, making you or your children’s path to a great smile a lot less painful.

Keeping Your Smile Bright

Dental insurance can help you and your family maintain your smiles for years to come. Tackle dental emergencies knowing you’re covered, address concerns before they become problems, and prevent future issues while saving on your out-of-pocket costs.

5 Ways to Help You Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

The holidays are going to look a lot different this year due to COVID-19.

Every year millions of Americans pile into each other’s homes to celebrate the season with food, family, and football. That urge has never been stronger than this year. With millions of people working from home and many states enacting safer-at-home measures, Americans are feeling the financial, physical, and mental health effects of living in a coronavirus-infected world.

But in addition to practicing social distancing, there are several things you can do to remain healthy while minimizing the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 (or any illness).

1) Consult local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions before traveling.

According to the CDC, “travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.” And as COVID-19 cases continue to spike throughout the country, many experts are urging Americans to avoid holiday travel.

Many states are imposing new limitations on gathering sizes, extending mask mandates, and even issuing mandatory quarantine periods (or negative COVID-19 test) for people traveling from other states. If you or your loved ones are considering traveling internationally during the holidays, please be sure to make sure the country you are traveling to is granting entry to travelers from your point of origin.

2) Embrace video chat.

Technology can help us feel connected to our loved ones when we can’t be there in person—something that has proven to be essential for so many people this year.

Video calls have skyrocketed in popularity this year professionally and personally. Zoom did its part to bring people together safely by lifting their 40-minute limit on free meetings for Thanksgiving Day this year.

Consider using video chat services or avoiding in-person contact altogether through the holidays if you or a family member are at a high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

3) Do your holiday shopping online.

You may want to consider skipping the check-out lines this year and put your health first by shopping for gifts online.

Traditional brick and mortar stores will still be dangerous areas despite heightened cleaning measures. The CDC has listed “Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a higher-risk activity.

Due to the anticipated surge of online shoppers this season, many big-name retailers have announced changes to their traditional holiday sales such as online-only sales, online pick-up options, and more.

4) Wear a mask around others.

Studies continue to affirm the effectiveness of wearing a mask in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And both local and federal government branches have cited the importance of wearing a mask when around other people who do not live in your home. So if you find yourself going out in public or spending time with friends and family, consider wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.

5) Find the right health insurance coverage.

Modern medicine has yet to fully discover the long-term effects of COVID-19 but there are many health conditions scientists can already link to the virus.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 symptoms can sometimes persist for months. The virus can damage the lungs, heart and brain, which increases the risk of long-term health problems.”

Having health insurance coverage for you and your family can help cover the cost of both major and preventative medical care – and now is the best time to get coverage. The annual individual health Open Enrollment period began on November 1 and runs through December 15.

This is the only time of year to enroll in ACA-compliant health coverage unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event.

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