How To Easily Create An Efficient Workspace

The more efficient you are, the more effective you are.  That’s true whether you’re working from the office or from home.

Fortunately, most office environments lend themselves to being efficient, so there’s probably not much you need to do on that front. So, the tips below are aimed mostly at those who are working from home.

Having said that, if you want to try and squeeze out a bit more efficiency from your office setup, you can certainly apply these ideas there too!

1 – A second monitor

One thing that’s true about modern work life is that it’s complicated.  On any given day, depending on what you do for a living, you need to access a stunning range of online resources.  So many in fact, that it can be a little overwhelming.

The advent of tabbed browsing has helped somewhat. However, if you find yourself having to access your email system, several locations on your company’s network, and several online applications during  a typical workday, having a second monitor can be a real lifesaver.  Consider it a matter of “dividing and conquering” digital style.

2 – Remove distractions

This is a big one for anyone working from home.  Most offices are inherently designed to minimize distractions. If you’re working from home and have decided to set up shop at the kitchen table, you could find your work day to be absolutely riddled with distractions.

Far better than the kitchen table would be a seldom used spare room if you have one.  A place you can go and shut the door as needed so you can focus on the task at hand.  If that’s not possible, then communication with and understanding from your family is key so they know that when you’re working, you’re working.

3 – A visually interesting space

Our minds don’t tolerate monotony and drudgery very well.  Most people need at least a splash of color to make a space visually interesting to work at something close to peak efficiency.

That will take different forms for different people.  Some might be enchanted by the idea of a small deskside plant.  Others will want a visually interesting picture on the wall or on their desk.  Find your thing.  Find that component that puts your mind at ease and add it to your work environment.  You’ll be amazed at the results!

Efficiency is as much about organization as it is a state of mind.  Both of those elements need to be working in tandem if you want to maximize your efficiency and your productivity.

Conflict Resolution In The Workplace

Conflict in the workplace is sadly inevitable.  Put a group of people in a room together for eight hours or longer every day, week after week. No matter how well they get along, sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Since it can’t be completely avoided, the next best thing is to have a plan for when it occurs. That’s because if left unaddressed, employee conflicts can ruin morale and permanently damage your company’s culture.  Simply put, letting conflicts in the workplace fester is a very bad idea. The question is what can be done about it?

You’re in luck!  Just below, we’ll outline a few simple things you can do to resolve workplace conflicts before they get out of hand and cause lasting damage to your company.

1 – Address It Head On

When you see two of your employees feuding, they will most likely be sniping at each other with barbs or insults and it may be either in person or via email. No matter what, it is important to address it right away.

Meet with all the participants of the conflict and find out what’s behind it.  There are only two possibilities here and it’s either personal or it’s professional.

2 – How You Address It Matters

In the case of personal differences driving the conflict, you can likely just meet with both parties at the same time.  Sit them down and remind them to keep the personal stuff out of the office.

If it’s professional, it may be best to meet with each side separately so you can get each party’s side of the story and assess from there. Then, involve HR at that point if necessary.

3 – Listen and Seek Input

After hearing from the parties involved about what’s driving the conflict, ask each of them how they’d like to see the issue resolved.

Sometimes, nothing comes from this when both parties may have unrealistic expectations. However, more often than you might think, a solution presents itself from that conversation.

There are several other things you can do to help resolve workplace conflicts, but if you do nothing more than adopt the suggestions above, you’ll be miles ahead of most managers!

Conduct More Effective Meetings With These Simple Tips

Do the meetings you hold tend run off the rails?

Do you find that they frequently run far longer than you intended and that very little actually comes out of them?

If those things are true and if you’re looking for ways to improve the structure of your meetings, here are some quick tips that will help make them more effective:

1 – Consider Your Attendees Carefully

Unless someone’s presence is essential at any given meeting, don’t send them an invite.  Keep the circle as small as possible.  The fewer people, the easier it is to keep the meeting on track.

2 – Laser-Like Focus

Create an agenda for the meeting and stick to it.  Don’t try to do too much.  Focus on one item or two at the most and then hammer out the details and move on.

3 – Prompt Follow-Up

The first two items on this list will practically guarantee that your meeting time is shorter but it won’t necessarily guarantee that the meeting itself was fruitful and productive.

For that, you need quick follow ups, and part of the content of the meeting should be to set aggressive timetables on when deliverables are due.

Once those timeframes are set, it’s on you to follow up and make sure that everybody’s on track and the deliverables will be wherever they need to be by the agreed upon time.

If you adopt these strategies, you may find that you’ll have relatively more meetings than you’re having right now.  The good news is that those meetings will tend to be short, tightly focused, and productive.  In other words, they’ll simply be more effective meetings and at the end of the day, that’s exactly what you want!

Try it and see for yourself.  If you put these tips in practice during your next meeting, you’ll be amazed at the difference.

Microsoft Teams Gets Optimizations To Use Less Resources

Do you use Microsoft Teams and do you have an older PC that struggles with Teams video meetings?  If so there’s good news.  Microsoft has recently upgraded Teams and halved the power used by Teams video meetings to make life easier on people with older hardware.

Of course, even if you’ve got newer hardware this is still very good news because odds are excellent that the video meeting that you’re participating in isn’t the only thing you’re doing on your PC. Anything that Microsoft can do to make Teams less resource intensive means you’ll have more resources for other uses.

Robert Aichner is a program manager at Microsoft Research.

Aichner had this to say about the recent improvements:

“We’re committed to ensuring great calling and meeting experiences for users on low-end hardware as well as those on high-end workstations and high-resolution monitors.

One of the factors we’ve addressed is the difference in power requirements for different customer profiles by ensuring Teams meetings are as energy-efficient as possible, regardless of setup.”

Video meetings rely on three power-intensive processes:  Capture, encoding and rendering.

Again, per Aichner:

“Isolating and optimizing each of these processes enabled us to reduce power consumption up to 50% for energy-intensive scenarios such as having over 10 users in a meeting when everyone has their video turned on.

A simple 3×3 video grid once required nine distinct rendering operations. By combining the streams and composing them into a single video, we have been able to consolidate operations in video rendering and significantly reduce the power requirements for each device used.”

The company made major improvements by redesigning how Teams handles grid videos with multiple participants.

Microsoft has stiff competition in the arena where Teams is operating, and there are several viable alternatives, which is why Microsoft is spending so much time and applying significant resources to the task of continually improving Teams.

So far it is working.  Microsoft has an impressive product indeed, in teams and these recent changes are excellent.

Warn Your Employees About The New DocuSign Phishing Campaign

Phishing attacks tend to focus on executive level targets. They focus on high ranking targets who have considerable system access.

That appears to be changing. A recent trend tracked by researchers from Avanan has revealed that nearly half of all phishing emails analyzed in recent months were crafted to impersonate non-executives.

Additionally more than three quarters of them (77 percent) targeted employees on the same level.

This is something of a departure and it allows those who orchestrate phishing campaigns to target a significantly larger pool of potential victims. The reason behind the shift in focus is easy enough to understand.

The Avanan researchers summarize it as follows:

“Security admins might be spending a lot of time providing extra attention to the C-Suite and hackers have adjusted. At the same time, non-executives still hold sensitive information and have access to financial data. Hackers realized, there is no need to go all the way up the food chain.”

Increasingly hackers and scammers are coming to rely on spoofed DocuSign emails to gain access.

If you’re unfamiliar with it DocuSign is a legitimate platform used to digitally sign documents. In this case a scammer creates a dummy DocuSign document and emails a request to a low to mid-level employee to update direct deposit information or something similar.

By all outward appearances the DocuSign request looks completely legitimate but there is one important difference. An actual DocuSign email won’t ask the recipient for login credentials. The spoofed ones do. Naturally this is done so that the hackers can harvest those credentials.

Given the crush and volume of daily business emails the difference is easy to overlook which explains why this approach has enjoyed an uncannily high degree of success.

Be sure your employees are aware of this latest threat and stay on their guard against it. One moment of carelessness could wind up being costly indeed.