Category Archives: Productivity

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A basic checklist for business travel

Traveling for work is something that many professionals will have to do eventually. To avoid problems and ensure a smooth work experience, HR should double check this quick and simple checklist during the planning process, before someone departs, and after they return.

If you’re the one doing the traveling, double check this list as well and send it to whoever is responsible for organizing the trip.

Before the trip

Most of the preparation that needs to be done is before someone actually gets on a plane. Here’s what you need to pay special attention to.

Passport expiry date

Ensure the passports of everyone going on the trip are valid for at least 6 months after your intended return date. This is to make sure no one gets stuck in a country with an expired passport.

Double check this requirement, since it may vary from country to country.


There are some countries you may need a visa to travel to, depending on your passport. Check your eligibility and attain the valid visas if needed.

Tickets to event

Flying to attend an event or conference? Make sure you purchase tickets beforehand and each attendee has a copy of theirs.

Check your flight

Double check your flight landing time, timezone difference, and length of stopover. Having too long of a stopover is an opportunity for some work, but it’s better to get someone to their destination as soon as possible. Avoid flight layovers that are more than 4 hours.

Pay attention to the change in timezone. If you’re flying over the day before a big meeting, make sure the timezone change doesn’t cause you to miss it. Look at the landing time in the destination country to make sure you can meet any scheduled appointments.

Location and WiFi

When booking accommodations, pay attention to location and amenities, specifically, WiFi. Find a place that’s in a safe area, close to wherever your obligations or purpose for traveling is. WiFi is also important because it’s likely you will need to do some work while you are traveling, and having Internet at your home base will help with this.

Share the schedule

Does everyone know where they need to be certain dates while they travel? If you’re traveling for a conference, this is easy. What if you’re traveling for client or investor meetings? Make sure you share out the schedule with everyone, including sending calendar notices to the people you plan to meet with to confirm meeting times.

During the trip

During the trip itself, it’s important to stay organized and focused, and travel prepared.

  • Remember to bring your portable WiFi with you when you go out
  • Set alarms for important meetings
  • Stay hydrated
  • Try to sleep and eat on time, especially helpful if there’s been a timezone change
  • Review your schedule for the next day the night before

After the trip

You made it through! After a trip, debrief the rest of the team on what happened, and submit a post-mortem report. This report should detail what went right, what went wrong, and suggestions for next time.

Document any additional expenses needed for reimbursement, and congratulate yourself on getting through business travel!

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Are Competencies Enough to Build Strong Teams?

Employee assessment tactics like behavioral competencies are extremely popular in HR, and often for good reason.

Recognizing how and why an individual will react and act in any given situation gives leaders the opportunity to put those people into work environments where they will excel, to offer training to help people excel, and to recognize when people will and will not work together.

Behavioral competencies are also more and more often used to find and root out characteristics that will allow teams to work well together.

But, are they enough to ensure teams will work well together? That depends on the competencies and the people involved.

In most cases, behavioral competencies can add a great deal to team-building,

Building Around Key People

In most cases, the ideal way to build a team is to set its purpose, define a team objective fitting into larger business objectives, and identify key roles and responsibilities that will fulfill that.

For example, if your team is set up around the goal of improving UX, you know you need a UX manager and supports for that person.

While not every team has a key role, many do, and you should select your key role and build the team around that person when possible.

Here, employee assessment to determine behavioral competencies becomes extremely valuable.

Balancing New and Experienced People

While it’s not always possible to put together a completely internal team, it’s always a good idea to ensure that most of your team has experience in the organization, experience with processes, and experience with company culture. You can achieve this by onboarding new hires into other teams so they can build experience before moving them into an existing team, by creating a new team from existing employees, or by creating teams composed of about 75% experienced people and 25% new.

Here, you can use tools such as employee benchmarking and success profiles to determine when new people are or are not ready to move into a new team, which will obviously have much less in terms of established work-methods and goals.

Leveling Emotional Intelligence

Ideally, everyone on your team should have a high level of emotional intelligence. However, this isn’t always possible. Your goal should be to review the needs of key roles and move people into the team who can meet those needs.

For example, if someone is largely in a supportive role, they have to be good at collaboration and understanding communication.

However, they also have to be able to take on some autonomy, complete work to get it out of the way of the key role and be able to speak or up discuss when they think things are not going well.

Fitting Skills and Competencies Together

Behavioral competencies do not typically include hard skills such as software design, which means you will have to balance both hard skills and competencies to create a strong team.

Someone who is very good at their job may miss competencies such as dedication and creativity, which may be necessary for the team. If you have an excess of skills and not enough behavioral competencies, you may find that work slows through lack of drive, creativity, or motivation.

If you have people with desired behaviors but not enough skills, you may have to actually pause the team to train employees. A balance of both, so that everyone has time to catch up while still contributing, is likely your best option.

No matter how your teams work, it’s important that they be able to work at the same level, be able to communicate in the same ways, and that they all contribute to team goals. This may be realized through creating a support network for a single employee, creating a team of equals who each contribute in different ways through different behaviors, or through creating a balance of hard skills and behavioral competencies. In every case, simply looking at behavior won’t help you to create your strongest team.

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Are you all set for a successful 2019?

As January draws to a close, it’s important to make sure your company and employees are set for a successful 2019. This includes understanding your company’s values, goals, and resources, as well as knowing what is expected of them.

Understanding values

The values of your company are important for everyone to know, because it’s what your brand stands for. For example, if you value transparency, your team should know to always default to transparency rather than secrecy.

Values are important so your team knows how to act professionally, and what values they must align the decisions in their role with.

Knowing overall goals

The big goals of your company can be considered your mission statement. These goals are vital to keep the business defensible, unique, and sustainable. When the entire company knows and strives to hit your company goals, it drives your overall success.

This is important for everyone to know so that they can ensure every action they make pushes the company further towards their big goals. It’ll also show each team member how their role is vital for reaching those goals, which creates a sense of purpose.

Using your resources

Each company has a set of resources that are available to different departments. Each team member should know what resources they have access to. This helps keep everyone well-equipped, knowledgeable, and capable of doing their jobs well.

For example, if someone is working on your ads team, give them access to their budgets, software tools, and any consultants your company may use.

Staying accountable

Finally, make sure every team member knows what s/he is accountable for. This is important so that they can take ownership of the metrics and tasks they’re responsible for, and analyze what went wrong if something isn’t done. It will also help prevent them from stepping into another department’s resources and tasks, unless asked, to avoid confusion.

When your team understands their responsibilities, overall company goals, brand values, and the resources they have available to them, they’ll be best equipped to do their jobs well this 2019.

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How Presenteeism Hurts Business: Using Sick Leave and Time Off to Boost Productivity

Most people assume that the more time you spend at your job, the more work you’ll complete. Today, we know this isn’t true. We also know that spending more time can actually reduce productivity. This is especially true in the case of presenteeism, where employees are physically present but not really “there”. This happens due to illness such as a cold or flu, chronic illness, stress, sudden disasters or emergency, or even emotional turmoil such as a heartbreak. Presenteeism is also a very real problem, costing U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion in lost work productivity each year.

While this problem is well-understood, most businesses still don’t have policies in place to create the emotionally intelligent processes that would work to combat presenteeism while boosting productivity through increased employee motivation and trust.

Practicing Emotional Intelligence

In many cases, employees will go to a manager or boss with a problem, will ask for time off, and will be denied. Leaders can also listen to clearly traumatic or problematic instances and respond with nothing. Giving time off can logically slow processes, can actually create bottlenecks, and may incur additional costs or other problems.

At the same time, if someone is focusing on something else, whether their own physical discomfort or emotional turmoil, they logically won’t be focused on work. This can result in reduced productivity, bitterness, or even decreased safety in the workplace depending on the location.

Creating a policy of emotional intelligence and recognizing other people’s needs is an important one. Here, a team leader could be trained to respond to emotional trauma with “Take a day off and recover”, giving employees room to actually process problems.

This applies to sick leave, family trouble, trauma (accidents, attempted mugging, burglary, natural disaster, etc.), and even chronic pain. Leaders should be able to recognize when an individual cannot focus or concentrate on work because of a problem, and then simply give them time to cope with that.

Developing Secondary Measures

While it’s nice to be able to say that employees can take time off whenever they need it, this can be difficult to allow for inside of small organizations and small teams. Taking a single key person out of play can result in bottlenecks and delays. How do you compromise?

This often requires creating business processes that allow for individuals to take time off. This can include structures moving immediate work to another team or qualified individual, allowing the individual to work from home or work half days, or having an agency or freelance team on call to fill gaps when necessary. While each of these will naturally be costlier than simply making someone work through illness or emotional turmoil, it will pay off in the long term.

Making Investments in Reducing Problems

Most presenteeism is caused by very preventable issues surrounding stress management, fatigue, lack of healthcare, substance abuse, and even lack of knowledge of how to take care of themselves. Making small investments into improving insurance availability, offering eye testing, offering stress management classes, and so on, can decrease presenteeism. Similarly, creating programs for more affordable healthcare for diabetes, programs to help people get treatment for substance abuse, and so on can greatly help you to reduce it.

Offering programs including time off, training, and better healthcare can and will reduce presenteeism. It will also work to boost employee morale, motivation, and company trust by showing that you are willing to take care of them. This will, in turn, boost productivity, reduce employee churn, and increase loyalty, which will benefit your organization.

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How to Use Humor to Inspire Employees

Humor is an emotion that’s often left out and even avoided at work, but research increasingly shows that humor is a powerful, motivating, and inspirational thing. Utilizing and encouraging humor at work can inspire and entertain, build camaraderie, and drive team spirit, so that employees are happier and more productive. While it’s often something that cannot be forced, and something that must be used with respect, understanding how humor works to inspire employees will help you to leverage it across your organization.

Attracting Attention and Engaging Listeners

In “The Psychology of Humor”, two psychologists share how humor is one of the most powerful tools for driving engagement in listeners. Simply using humor during meetings and discussions brings levity, attracts attention, and keeps individuals more focused on what is being said. Here, the effect relates to building rapport with the listener, where individuals are more likely to trust and be willing to invest time in someone who has brought them a positive emotion (joy or laughter). Building rapport with listeners is a primary goal of nearly any manager or leader, because it is the easiest way to inspire, to drive engagement, and to get teams to be truly passionate about what they are doing.

At the same time, humor makes people more open to new ideas, more open to considering new perspectives, and less like they’re being forced to learn something. Taking a humoristic approach to messages that would normally spark arguments can also reduce them, simply because it’s difficult to switch from a positive emotion to disagreement.

Reducing Stress

Humor is proven to reduce stress, benefiting the nervous system and how people process and handle stress. Integrating humor into everyday work will eventually reduce stress by creating distraction, stimulating and relieving the stress response, relieving pain, and improving mood. Over time, consistent humor also works to improve personal satisfaction, resulting in individuals who are less stressed and more able to handle stress as it occurs. This will, in turn help individuals to stay inspired and engaged, because they’re in a better mood and better able to focus on and commit to what they are doing.

Creating Approachability

Approachable leaders are easier to work with, can help their teams more, and inspire individuals to be open and transparent about what they are doing. Creating a culture of approachability means that individuals will be more likely to engage with leaders, to listen to them, and to bring problems, questions, and even new approaches to them. This will create an environment where people are inspired to do their best and to create new solutions and ideas, because they can bring that higher up and receive recognition and credit for it.

Building a Culture People Want to Work In

While humor can impact nearly every level of work, its largest impact is on culture. If people feel safe and able to have fun with humor, you are building a culture that is pleasant to work in. While humor (obviously) has to be respectful of everyone involved and not at anyone’s expense, humor increases personal satisfaction, builds camaraderie, and helps people to enjoy being together. It also sparks creativity and inspiration, creating an environment that is actually pleasant to work in.

No matter what industry you work in, humor can be a valuable addition to your work floor. While you cannot force humor, and simply telling people to be funny won’t result in a real culture where humor can be effective, giving people room and hopefully examples to use humor as part of leadership and everyday work will have a positive impact across your organization.

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How to Build a Workspace for Maximum Productivity

This is a guest post from Aaron Schaffer of Taktical Digital.

Anyone who has worked in multiple offices during their career knows that some are more conducive to productivity than others. An employee who gets a lot done in one office may complete significantly less work over the course of a day if their office doesn’t provide the resources they need.

This is very important to remember when designing a workspace, be it an all-in-one coworking space or a more traditional office setting. By reviewing employee surveys, you can better understand what elements the average worker needs in an office to maximize their own productivity. The following are some of the more important features they cite.

6 things to pay attention to for workspace productivity

Comfortable & Functional Workspaces

Obviously, an employee’s desk should offer enough space for any items they use regularly, like a computer, writing materials, phone, and files. Just make sure you don’t prioritize functionality so much that you overlook comfort.

It’s also important to focus on the ergonomics of the chairs your staff will be sitting in when planning an office design. Physical comfort can have a major impact on productivity, so it’s important to choose models that keep everyone comfortable.


Providing employees with the tools they need to get work done is certainly important. That said, you also need to offer amenities that make the office a more appealing place to be in general. Research indicates that happy employees are more productive. Offering coffee, tea, and designating areas where people can socialize will help ensure workers feel satisfied on the job.


Make sure the office design isn’t so cramped that cleaning it regularly is a difficult chore. A messy office will absolutely impact a worker’s mood. Additionally, if you can’t regularly sanitize the office, workers are more likely to be exposed to bacteria. They can’t be productive if they’re sick.

Necessary Equipment

You’re likely already aware that your office should provide computers, internet access, printers, communications tools, and similar resources employees regularly use to get work done.

That said, you also need to make sure those tools work reliably. Do thorough research when deciding what equipment to include in your office. Taking the time to install functional equipment and resources will have a very positive impact on productivity in the long run.

Access to Fun

If you’re still deciding where your office should be located, keep in mind that workers also report wanting easy access to restaurants or bars they can visit after work. Having a chance to unwind and socialize at the end of the day can significantly impact employee satisfaction. If the area also offers abundant parking and easy access to public transportation, even better.

Natural Light

A well-lit office makes getting work done easier than it might be in a different space. However, don’t rely solely on artificial light. Installing large windows to let in sufficient natural light is also a smart idea. In fact, studies indicate that exposure to natural light can boost productivity.

Proper office design plays a major role in how much work an employee gets done on an average day. That’s why it’s crucial that you take your time to consider what employees want when planning your office design. The long-term rewards are very much worth the time and effort involved.

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