Category Archives: Productivity

Workforce trends that have fueled the growth of coworking spaces

The coworking sector has been experiencing massive growth and challenging the traditional workspace ecosystem. The factors contributing to this disruption would be their expansive geographical footprint, flexibility and affordability. According to a CBRE survey, the coworking industry is expected to grow by 3X by 2022, changing the dynamics of the workspace and modifying the future of work.

While shared office spaces allow companies and large enterprises eradicate their expenses on capex, they, in turn provide a collaborative work environment for the employees. Some of the workforce trends that have fueled the growth of coworking are:

The Rise of the Startup Culture

The sudden spurt of the startup culture and the rising spirit of entrepreneurism has led to the growth of coworking space over the last decade. With everyone aspiring to be their ‘own boss’ and start their own line of business and services, the demand for professional and affordable office spaces hiked exponentially. Coworking spaces are completely fit-out ready to move-in office spaces that welcome independent entrepreneurs with both small as well as large teams to collaborate and work in a tech-enabled and a nurturing workspace.

The growing demand for tech-enabled workspaces

The millennial workforce of today aspires to work in a tech-enabled work environment which maximizes their productivity. Most coworking spaces provide impeccable tech support, combined with advanced security devices, hi-speed internet, IoT-powered conference rooms which help enterprises reduce energy wastage while providing employees an office space which helps them work efficiently without any tech failures.

Flexible workspaces

Most traditional office spaces have a pre-determined office layout and standardized amenities, which is not in sync with the needs of the modern workforce. Most flexible workspace providers allow companies to configure spaces in accordance to their brand ethos and values. They can easily modify a workspace according to the needs of the employees, this flexibility of workspace design allows employees to work in an environment most suited with their work demands. This instills a greater sense of belongingness in employees and enables them to work in a space they are comfortable in.

Workspace Amenities

Employees spend at least 7 to 10 hours of their day at work and they desire to work in a nurturing workplace which offers them immense amenities for a perfect work-life balance. Coworking spaces have a variety of amenities in their facilities including gyms and sports arena, creche and breakout zones, collaboration rooms and sleeping pods, to give employees enough space and flexibility to choose when they want to work and when they want to relax.

Enhanced collaboration and networking opportunities

The employees of today demand a collaborative workspace with ample of networking opportunities and keeps them in sync with their fields. Coworking spaces are not only managed office spaces but they are also preferred due to their community. Mostly professionals from different companies and walks of life work out of these coworking spaces, forming a larger community. This provides ample of opportunities for interchange of ideas, mentoring and networking as well as chances of learning from each other or effective skill development.

Employee Engagement activities

Coworking spaces are popularly known for the splendid events and workshops they organize to keep their members and employees motivated and engaged. These events bring people together and allows them to connect, share ideas and have fun. The events range from corporate grooming sessions, upskilling workshops, sports competitions, events around art, dance, music or many more. Such fun gatherings help companies to keep employees satisfied and motivated.

The emergence of ‘work near home’ phenomenon

According to a Harvard report, about 75% employees prefer living close to their workplaces as it makes the commute shorter and allows them to save a lot of time. This rise of ‘work near home’ phenomenon has forced companies to explore the option of allowing employees to work out of their nearest coworking spaces as they offer a tech-enabled working environment as well as have the necessary office infrastructure for maximizing productivity.

While employees prefer coworking spaces because of the abundance of networking opportunities, companies prefer co-working spaces due to the tech-enabled working environment and real-estate efficiency. Every coworking space has its own vibe and fervor, aims at creating a collaborative work environment for all.

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Boost Your Productivity With These Desk Essentials

As people start heading back to work with various lockdown restrictions easing, settling in to your office desk might take some time. After all, most of us were getting used to working from home. At home, you are surrounded by our personal collections and ambience. Your office set up at home is a reflection of your personality yet keeping it professional for your official tasks. At work, you might need to update certain aspects of your desk. Your work desk often plays a vital role in streamlining your thoughts, inspiring you to get through a deadline, and assist in reflecting on your tasks and checklists.

So how can one go about personalising their desk while keeping it professional? Here are 10 tips to guide you through:

1. Computer Stand

Often known as a monitor stand, these humble platforms keep you focused on your task, literally! These stands come with placeholders to elevate the laptop screen to your preferred level. Some of them even come with additional storage space which can help manage any desk clutter.

2. Calendar

Even in the age of smartphones, desk calendars are a practical accessory. Some of these items come with inspiring quotes or photo collections which are visually appealing. One can even get them personalised.

3. Desk Organiser

As the saying goes, a table is a reflection of your mind. A messy desk may not necessarily mean your work is not up to the mark. However, a desk organiser can make your life a lot easier and ensure everything you need is accessible. In any given day, while dealing with tight deadlines and work pressure, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find all your essential documents and stationeries in their designated compartments, right where you kept them.

4. Cutlery Set

In this new normal of post COVID-19, it becomes imperative to carry your own cutleries. Everyone needs to eat and when working from a coworking space, often there might not be enough cutlery to choose from. This not only delays your lunch time, it is also frustrating and eats up your break time. Having your own set of cutleries will save both time and effort.

5. Cable Organizer

In this era of technology, getting jumbled in a tangle of cables can be quite vexing and annoying. Most of our devices need to be plugged in for use. A series of cables from various devices will end up getting entangled and separating these can be quite tedious. One can avoid this mess by purchasing an attachable cable organiser which allows you to place a chord within a designated space. It not only look professional, it also keeps your cable safe from undue damage.

6. Sticky-Notes

As a professional, you will not sit at your desk all the time. You might be needed to attend a meeting at another place. Consider this, while you’re gone, an important work comes along but there is no way to communicate this to you. A sticky note comes in handy for your colleagues to leave a message on your desk. Alternatively, these sticky notes can also be used for additional notes in your diary or notebook. Colourful sticky notes can be used to denote priority of work and tasks.

7. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Another aspect of working from an office space is getting used to the background noise. It can be your work colleagues discussing work or events of the day, however, it can be distracting. Investing in pair of solid noise-cancelling headphones can drown this background chatter and allow you to get on with your work. Plus, one can listen to their favourite tune which can improve productivity too.

8. Stationary Set

Every professional must invest in good notebooks and pens. A great stationary set will keep one running for few months without having to worry about running out of pages or pen. It makes life easy during a client meeting to quickly jotting down some pointers. A luxurious looking notebook and pen set might even set the right tone for your meeting and leave a stylish impression on your prospects.

9. Personalised Mugs

It is accepted part of professional culture to conduct ‘water cooler’ conversations. It is also a known behaviour for everyone to take a tea/coffee break from time to time. Having your own personal mug can set your mood right too. Such item gives a sense of freedom to express oneself. A personal or personalised mug gives a sense of individuality and can boost confidence, thereby improving your productivity.

10. Plants and Succulents

Greenery is great for the eyes. An office environment is often filled with pressure and stress. Having a plant or a succulent on your desk can help in reducing stress, is great for the eyes to relax (the colour green reduces eye strain) and a plethora of such plants even helps in freshening up the air inside the workspace.

Working from an office space need not be boring or dull. It is an accepted part of work culture everywhere for employees to spruce up their work desk according to their own style and preference. The above points are a basic guide to how one can improve their work life, enjoy their work and yet feel relaxed and comfortable in that environment.

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Effective ways of managing re-entry anxiety of employees

As the world nears an unlock, organizations plan to resume operations and intend to bring employees back to work in a staggered manner. While workspace design considerations and logistics planning take precedence, addressing employee re-entry anxieties will also be of paramount importance.

According to a Weber Shandwick and KRC research about 45% employees fear returning to work before it’s safe, owing to the ongoing situation. Managing the mental and emotional health of employees becomes critical for addressing the overall wellbeing of the organization. While workforce re-entry is the need of the hour, managers must alleviate workspace anxiety to maximize productivity and curb disengagement of employees. Here are some ways of managing re-entry anxiety of employees :

Communicate Consistently

Employees should be consistently briefed about workspace policies and safety measures to remove any ambiguity and instill confidence. Regular updates and clarifying doubts can initiate a two-way dialogue between the management and the employees, making the transition as smooth as possible. Keeping the employees in the loop can help them understand the impact of the pandemic on the company and pave ways to determine and address any grievances.

Train the managers to support the employees

As Managers are an important link between the management and the employees, they shoulder greater responsibility to ensure employees have a smooth transition into the new normal. Managers should be trained and familiarized with the key triggers of stress and emotional distress as they will play a crucial role in determining employee wellbeing. They can hold team meetings and one-to-one meetings with employees to solve ambiguities and resolve issues and questions real-time. Some support groups and networks can also be formulated to help employees reconnect virtually and overcome apprehensions together. This practice can help lower employee anxieties and enable them to adapt with the new procedures connected with the re-entry phase.

Work flexibilities

While the lockdown has been a great push to implement work-from-home policies, nothing replaces the human connection and the joys of achieving goals together. Most employees complained experiencing insecurities and anxieties while working remotely which hampered their productivity and motivation to work. As companies world-over eye workspace resumption, employees should be allowed to make the re-entry leap in a staggered manner. It is imperative to reevaluate workplace policies and decide the immediacy at which the functions should resume work. While some companies are choosing to work on alternate days, others are looking at rotational shifts, each company should suit their business requirements and decipher a suitable model, keeping in mind employee safety and government guidelines.

Introduce Employee Engagement Programs

Having employees work on projects together or crowdsourcing ideas from different teams is an effective way to keep employees engaged and motivated to stay committed to their goals. Employee engagement plans can be an integrated learning and development program or a photography contest or even a fitness contest among teams. Such employee engagement programs help boost employee morale and help them feel connected and keep them happier.

Focus on team building

Maximizing collaboration and using team building exercises is an effective way of anxiety management. Every team is facing some or the other challenges, when people collaborate to achieve common goals, stress can be eliminated, and goals can be efficiently achieved. Team building is a steppingstone towards building a strong culture in the organization and effectively resolving conflicts. After all, shared experiences can help members feel connected and engaged.

One-on-one feedback sessions

Many employees are likely to experience a high level of anxiety owing to the dearth of feedback from their managers. Regular one-on-one feedback sessions between superiors and subordinates is an effective mechanism to reduce stress. It assures employees that they are on the right track and enables them to overcome their shortcomings on the go. Such light- hearted feedback sessions help employees stay focused towards their goal and eliminates anxiety.

While companies are innovating newer methods for keeping employees physically safe by using social distancing markups, contactless technology integration at workplace, installing automatic sanitizer dispensers among other measures, they should also pay a close attention towards the psychological health and wellbeing of the employees. Adapting to the ‘new normal’ upon workplace resumption can be an overwhelming experience for employees but with proper communication and cooperation, it is easy to overcome the re-entry anxiety.

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Work From Home: 6 Reasons Why It Is Not For Everyone

With the rising cases of the COVID-19 pandemic, it made sense for businesses to adapt and adopt work from home policy to safeguard their workforce without hurting the business. It not only helped in flattening the curve, but also ensured some aspects of the economy, both at home and aboard, kept going. One the benefits of this new normal was the flexibility it offered, improved productivity, increased time management and gave freedom for work and life balance.

However, remote networking for work was already happening around the world. With France implementing strict office hour rules, Scandinavian countries experimenting with 4-days work week, the current pandemic put such efforts in the forefront. Over the last 10 years in the US, there has been 91% increase in remote working, representing 3.4% national workforce. Use of technology has also increased during this time, but there has now come a sense that an indefinite work from home set up may not be feasible in the long-run.

Under the new normal for businesses, along with maintaining social and physical distancing, it is now the right time to revaluate office hours with possible rotation in the form of working from home and from the office space. However, sticking to just working from home may not be productive. Here are 6 points for the value employees place on working from an office space for the company and the culture:

Lack of Human Connection Can Be Detrimental

Work from home has enabled technology to come to the rescue, from video calls to hosting webinars as events. However, according to a report by Virgin, 84% employees prefer in-person meeting and it makes sense. When interacting with a client, a video call may not attract the finer body language that one can notice while dealing with them face-to-face. Plus being in an office space allows for the flow of ideas and creativity, improves social skills with fellow colleagues and get tasks done quickly.

Time Management Becomes Difficult

Human beings are used to routines. The current scenario has displaced that sense of routine and replaced it with a new style of working. However, in the long run, employees might have high burn out rates if they do not address working hours according to their normal day. Being in an office environment, one is able to make sense of time, be punctual and leave for home at their designated hour. WFH disrupts that process, while a highly energised employee might log in much before business hours, that same employee may end up working much late into the evening. Such action on a regular basis will not only affect his/her downtime but also productivity.

Home and Professional Imbalance

One of the benefits of working from home is the sense of work life balance. However, during the lockdown it was observed that in many cases, this sense of balance was short-lived. The distraction of working from home is real and can impede the productivity of an employee. From washing dishes to attending to laundry, looking after children, plus working on a presentation for a client pitch can bog down an employee. Even with lockdown being lifted and kids going to school, other household duties can affect the focus and input needed for a successful outcome for any businesses.

Technology Is Not Always Friendly

Every office or workplace today is technologically enabled to assist and ease businesses and employees in conducting their duties and performance. Often many such operations have specialised software and products that can be used from a workplace. Such limitations can pose a problem for individuals to work from home. As everything is available in the office, chances are even a simple tool such as a printer may not be available at home (plus not to mention the costs of purchasing paper and inks). In some areas, issues relating to electricity and internet connection can also pose problems in the long run for employees to work efficiently.

Office Culture Is Important For Growth

As stated before, remote workplace can often be a lonely experience. The novelty of working from home wears off after a while and it starts to affect productivity and the business. Workplace culture becomes an important aspect of dealing with stress and anxiety, it allows for people to collaborate, network and grow themselves. The ability to learn new concepts and upskilling gets restricted.

With the lockdown being eased across many parts of the world, businesses still need to adopt to the new normal, ensure worker safety and maintaining physical distancing till a cure for COVID-19 is found. This is also a great time to experiment with workplace settings and work environment. However, restricting your employees to working from home on an indefinite period might stagnate their growth which can affect business output.

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smartworks Mobile App

SmartEdge- Our online events platform

As the world struggles to find an equilibrium amidst the ongoing Covid-19 situation, employees world over brace themselves to adapt to ‘the new normal’ of workplace resumption- maintaining physical distancing and prioritizing personal hygiene and personal space.

Coworking space providers, hosting these companies have sprung into action and put in place all the global best practices within their premises while ensuring prescribed social distancing measures and staggered seating arrangements are followed. Alongside the battle with the pandemic, most employees are battling dreariness and anxieties, owing to the uncertainty. Human connection and regular collaboration have become more critical than ever in determining employee productivity and wellbeing. Most large enterprises and businesses are looking for swift measures to help employees cope with the ongoing situation.

In an attempt to help members uplift employee morale, Smartworks had launched ‘SmartEdge’, our online events platform with an exclusive range of events curated specially to engage and inspire. These events have been designed to enable people from different backgrounds, skillsets and walks of life to interact and share, discover and grow together.

Here’s a glimpse of the different webinars and workshops conducted by Smartworks:

Policy Making and Investment Workshops

Policy makers play a critical role in keeping employees engaged and motivated, our sessions on policy making and investment were conducted by industry leaders to share their valuable insights and tips on the same.

    – HR Policies and Legalities

  • This exclusive webinar was designed to help policymakers and HR professionals design a legal recourse and a wholesome employee engagement plan to keep employees motivated and productive while working from home.
    – Investing In Volatile Times

  • Amidst these times, financial literacy and saving for the future becomes imperative for long-term returns. This exclusive seminar brought industry experts on one single platform to help employees understand the basics of savings and investment.

Sessions on Health and Wellness

We know that this is an unreal situation, where everyone is struggling to find their equilibrium and peace of mind. Our focused sessions driven by health coaches and fitness trainers will help you relax and rejuvenate.

    – Hatha Yoga and Meditation

  • The Hatha Yoga and Meditation session in collaboration with SweatByShwetha, was a series of power-packed yoga poses and asanas designed to align your body, soothe your mind and spirit in preparation for meditation.
    – Power Yoga

  • This guided session by yoga masters was focused around teaching several energetic vinyasa-style yoga and bodily postures. Some of the key benefits of practicing this form of Yoga is to increase flexibility, focus on your body’s core and boost your immunity.
    – Embrace Your Emotional Quotient

  • Motivating the self to push our own boundaries and achieve the unattainable, requires immense time management and self-management skills. This session on emotional intelligence shares expert tips and methods of self-regulation and nurturing your existing social skills.

Creative Art Workshops

These recreational workshops were aimed at reducing stress and anxiety, while allowing people to take a deep dive in their creativity and showcase their innovative ideas.

    – Mandala Art

  • Drawing a mandala pattern is considered therapeutic and the entire experience will help you reduce stress and lower your blood pressure while promoting sleep and easing depression. This session was focused on teaching the basics of mandala art.
    – Newspaper Craft

  • To reminisce the excitement of making creative art from paper, a fun session on making newspaper craft was organized where people from different walks of life came together to draw and design interlocking patterns and take a break from their tedious routines.

Sessions Related to Smartworks’ Preventive Measures

Our team at Smartworks has been working relentlessly to provide a safe and hygienic work environment for all. Some sessions were specially curated to share a glimpse of our workspace preparedness measures.

    – Workplace Considerations for Business Resumption

  • This insightful session had Real estate experts from Keppel Land, who discussed workplace considerations and best practices from China and Singapore. Their outlook and viewpoint helped Smartworks design and implement global measures to safeguard the health and security of all upon business resumption post the lockdown.
    – Smartworks’ Preparedness and Response post Lockdown

  • This session was conducted to share an insight into Smartworks’ preparedness and preventive measures to make your workspaces safe and ready to use. The discussion addressed all the queries that members and employees had and helped in reassuring them.

Smartworks is driven to provide a safe and productive work environment for our members and employees. We will continue to implement all the global best practices and design employee engagement programs, to know more about our safety updates and upcoming events, visit- https://www.smartworksoffice.com/safetyfirstworkplace/

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How companies can boost employee morale upon workplace resumption

It goes without saying that the current COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for all, be it the first-line responders such as our health professional to manufacturers and small businesses who depend on the daily transactions to keep themselves afloat. While employees were forced to adopt remote working options, many struggled with maintaining a healthy work-life balance and keep their spirits up. With the lockdown slowly easing and most of the employees gearing up to get back to work, there is a good chance that your employees would need an extra dose of motivation and positive vibe to help them adapt to the ‘new normal’.

A recent Gallup survey has shown that low morale can cost companies anywhere between $483 to $605 billion loss each year due to low productivity. It is a huge figure, one that cannot be ignored. Low morale has a direct effect on an employee’s productivity leading to low turnover, high rate of absenteeism, and general negativity. There is nothing wrong if a person feeling low sometimes, however, the management should indulge in a ‘pulse check’ with various departments and teams before it becomes an organisation-wide issue. With most employees struggling to find a balance and manage their anxieties, all employers must consider employee engagement programs to keep the employees focussed and in sync with the organisational goals.

Here are some ways to boost employee morale and improve business productivity in the long run:

1. Low Hanging Goals

Employees need a target as part of their daily motivation to work. Setting achievable low hanging fruits can improve their focus and help them boost their confidence once the said objectives are achieved. It puts them in a better mental frame, improves positivity, and gives a sense of accomplishment. Start from small and work their way to more challenging tasks. As managers, you will need to help them out of their low morale.

2. Encourage Employees to invest time in skill-building

Another method to boost employee morale is encouraging employees to take up a course and focus on skill-building. Taking a course just for half an hour a day in their spare time can help employees feel focussed and motivated. Such online courses need not necessarily interfere with their daily tasks. Most companies such as Google, Twitter, Unsplash encourage their employees to get some time off their daily routine and focus on skill-building workshops, courses, and projects.

3. Increase Lunch Time For Relaxed Team Building

Businesses have not stopped working, it has just slowed down in this current pandemic. Therefore, to beat any type of blues within your employees, consider extending the lunch break hour. For fear of being in the bad books of their bosses, 20% of employees skip lunch. This is not only bad to boost morale, it will also affect those employees with low energy, making them more stressed, cranky, and tired. Managers should take their teams for coffee and tea breaks as part of a healthy team-building exercise which has proven to have a significant impact on the team’s morale and positive outlook.

4. Celebrate Milestones

It is important to celebrate even the small milestones, appreciating the good never goes out of fashion. Employees need to be told that they are doing well and are on the right track. When an employee overperforms, let them know, as it helps to boost their morale and the recognition motivates them to go above and beyond their call of duty.

5. Crowdsource Ideas Within the Company

Instead of hiring an external agency for developing cost-cutting strategies or coming up with marketing plans, allocate an hour a week to crowdsource ideas from employees within the company. As the employees are aligned with the organisation’s goals and objectives, they will be able to ideate and come up with innovative ideas for the existing knots and problems. This will help keep the employees motivated, engaged, and valued.

These are some of the actionable strategies that can be implemented by any type of company in the current situation to keep the employees engaged and motivated. In these uncertain times, when people around the world are struggling to find their balance, focusing on team-building exercises while creating transparent workflows can help both employees and businesses to weather this storm together.

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COVID-19: Maintain Social Distance And Host A Virtual Conference

With crisis comes opportunities and 2020 has been a year where the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner to the work for various industries and sectors of the economy. So much so, some of the world’s biggest conferences called off their events – from SXSW, a technology and music festival, to Google and Facebook calling off their annual developers conference.

However, many took up the challenge of hosting their events through virtual conferencing and brought communities together for it. This was not limited to tech events but also various music festivals were organised to raise donations for the frontline workers others affected by a coronavirus. Various broadcasting platforms such as Twitch, Zoom, and Google Meet became popular choices to host a virtual conference.

While hosting a virtual conference might seem daunting, it is one of the best ways in the current situation to connect with your industry members and sector. Here are some tips your business must consider to host a successful online conference and webinar:

1. Set The Right Theme

To host a meaningful online conference for a day or a week, it needs to have an overarching theme. A series of various sessions scheduled as is without any pretext or context will leave your attendees clueless, distracted, and directionless. A successful virtual meeting is one where all the topics, sessions, workshops are brought under one umbrella or theme which gives a context for the conference.

2. Live Sessions

Various platforms such as Facebook and Instagram provide live streaming options for users. Along with this, Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Team, and various other video hosting platforms allow for a live session to be conducted. Such live streaming makes a virtual conference more humanised and allows attendees to ask questions and queries. Thus, while your conference remains virtual, it allows your audience to participate and engage.

3. Make It Interactive

While hosting a virtual conference, it is important to keep it engaging. The best way to do it is by allowing and encouraging attendees to ask questions and conduct a live Q&A session. These can be done by means of online polls, conducting activities, and quizzes. Virtual sessions are mostly passive in nature and therefore, to conduct a successful one, organisers need to understand this nuance. Another way to keep it interactive is by letting your audience to submit suggestions or questions before a session is conducted and have it addressed towards the end. People asking questions in such a scenario are far more likely to be around to hear it answered.

4. Run A Demo Session

Conducting an online conference can be tricky. There can be many potential failure points and it is certain to hit some technical glitches while going live. Thus, to avoid any unmitigated risk, run a demo session with your speakers much in advance. Test your equipment and internet speeds, identify back up points in case of any failure, and plan for potential trouble.

5. Simple Is Best

Hosting a virtual conference is not exactly the same as a normal conference at a particular location. You will need to re-create and re-imagine your online sessions in a virtual manner and strip it down to the bare minimum. Keeping it simple will go a long way in making your online events a success. Use the popular streaming sites such as Facebook/Instagram Live, initiate a Twitter thread. Make it transparent and make it easy for your audiences to access the content for more reach and engagement.

6. Engage And Network!

While hosting an online conference can seem tedious, it still maintains getting almost the same traction and opportunities to network as at a physical conference. Video hosting platforms such as Zoom and the likes provide chat features which help in having a discussion between the host and participants, even during a session. Facebook and Instagram Live session encourages participants to comment as the session is being conducted, as well as allowing for a break out session, one-to-one conversations.

Conducting an online session and virtual conference brings in a new avenue of engagement and keeps your brand image alive with your audience. It also allows your business to create a series of video library which can be reused at a later stage. Apart from keeping your audience safe by keeping them social distanced with each other, virtual conferencing allows your audience to participate with experts from your industry and your brand too.

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10 Best Video Conferencing Tools For Remote Teams

Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and their team have to find novel ways to remain productive and stay connected with each other. With work from home notices across the world, video conferencing tools are booming, helping teams connect in real-time and allowing for remote networking. However, with this also comes the question of the effectiveness and usability of these online video chat software. Some can be pricey for a small business, while some open platform tools perform better than others.

Companies are increasingly finding and experimenting with online video conferencing software to find the right fit. The ideal choice is one which is easy to use, accommodate the various sizes of your department/teams, compatibility with various devices, operating system and so on. A business, even in this trying time, has to maintain its bottom line and thus ensure standard operational productivity by their employees.

Here are the 10 best video conferencing tools to engage with your remote teams:

1. Zoom

This platform has seen its business suddenly booming during this crisis. Zoom offers both free and paid versions, however, it has become the go-to platform for many small businesses. Up to 100 participants can join a single conference with a time limit of 40 minutes. For more advanced features such as meeting recording and multiple admins for additional controls, the Pro version costs $15 per month, per host. If you wish to use this for a larger gathering of around 300+ participants, one can upgrade to business or enterprise plan for $20 per month, per host.

Pros

  • For short usage, the free plan is great as it comes with screen sharing option and allowing 100 participants
  • Easy to set up meetings, link-based access to invitees to join a meeting
  • With Paid plans you can access analytics reports, user management, and administrative controls, along with this, you also get cloud space to record and save your meetings
  • Fun Fact: Say good riddance to dull backgrounds and uplift your look with a face filter called “Touch Up My Appearance” along with a virtual background

Cons

  • Meeting feed will cut off at 40 minutes since the start of it with the free version
  • In the news for privacy concerns which the company is currently addressing
  • Multiple hosts and add-ons become expensive on the paid version

Zoom has become one of the most popular platforms for various businesses due to its various offering in the free version. However, choosing a paid version will cost you per host, so be mindful of who can have access to undertake a video meeting.

2. Google Hangouts Meet

Not to be outdone by others, Google for a long time had come up with their own version of video call feature with your Google account called Hangouts. It’s free for personal Gmail users, supports up to 10 participants in its unpaid and G Suite Basic, and 25 people with the Business or Education accounts. Furthermore, Google’s paid video conferencing is Google Hangouts Meet which can allow up to 250 participants. Google Hangouts Meet is part of the G Suite features, pricing starts at $6 per user, per month.

Pros

  • Suitable to those already inducted with G Suite, as meetings can be integrated with Google Calendar
  • Easy access, participants can join from any device through browser link or app

Cons

  • Compulsory sign up with G Suite to use Hangouts Meet

In this COVID-19 pandemic, Google has opened up its Hangout Meets access to schedule a meet for free, without having to sign-up to G Suite. However, this may not last for long and you will need to arrange for an account with Google.

3. Microsoft Teams

At the outset, Microsoft Teams does not provide any free version, but this software is more than a simple video hosting platform. As part of Office 365 Business Essentials, it allows for collaborative tools and full-access meeting service. Compared to other services in MS Office’s tools, this is a cost-effective tool starting at $5 per user, per month.

Pros

  • Easy integration with other Office 365 apps such as Powerpoint and Excel
  • Participants can access a meeting without having to install or create an account with Microsoft Teams

Cons

  • Unless proven as an educational institution, there is no free version
  • Linked with Microsoft, so if you’re an Apple or Mac user, a training session will be required

The video hosting tool is one part of Microsoft Teams. Unless you or your organisation already have an overall MS Office set up, the meeting service can be a bit costly for just hosting meetings and video calls with your team or clients, as there are other services for this purpose.

4. Cisco Webex

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, currently the unpaid version allows up to 100 participants with no time limit. Webex provides three plans to choose from, depending on your needs. Small business owners or team might better be suited for the starter plan of $13.50 per host, per month. The other two plans are more focused on midsize and large businesses.

Pros

  • Free plan is quite generous just by itself

Cons

  • Every host is considered as a “license,” thus, every time someone sets up a meeting, it can become expensive

Overall, Cisco Webex is the best video platform for business training, online learning, and webinars. The free service has also become a great choice for smaller teams and businesses for video conferences.

5. join.me

Under the free version, only three participants are allowed for a video call, while the paid versions, ‘join.me Pro’ and ‘join.me Business’, allows up to 10 participants.

Pros

  • Personalized and branded URL for meetings
  • Easy screen-sharing option

Cons

  • Video conferencing tool seems ad-hoc and not a strong suit
  • Limited access: one can only join a meeting with an iOS mobile device or Google Chrome.

Join.me plays on vanity psychology with its circle-shaped video bubbles and personalised URL. Access is limited along with small participant limit. If you wish to host a meeting with over 10 people, this may not be the best bet.

6. GoToMeeting

Starting at $12 per month, per organizer, GoToMeeting can host up to 150 participants. The other feature is the business plan for $16 per month, for hosting up to 250 people. This platform also has advanced features like drawing tools and meeting transcripts. The annual subscription plan is more cost-effective for businesses of any type.

Pros

  • Easy to join meetings with a single click from any device
  • Personalized “meeting room”

Cons

  • No free plan

Belonging to the same parent company as join.me, GoToMeeting is the better product of the two.

7. Skype

Skype has often been the go-to platform for making video calls as it allows free video calls for up to 50 people from any device – mobile, tablet, or computer. The only paid service is for making international calls via the Skype platform.

Pros

  • Every participant can screen-share, not just the host
  • Portrait mode, blurring the background and camera focus on you

Cons

  • Limit of only 50 people for a video call

Skype has been around for a while and many are familiar with it and remain a strong choice for the occasional video meetings. However, it may not be a suitable choice to host a video conference involving a larger group of over 50 people.

8. BlueJeans

Similar to Skype, BlueJeans can host up to 50 participants. While prices are quite cheap, starting at $9.99 per host, per month, it can record up to five hours of meeting. You can upgrade to the $13.99 monthly plan which can host up to 75 people and provides more advanced tools such as analytics and integration with other business tools. Custom plans are also available for Enterprise levels.

Pros

  • Cool features such as real-time chat, raise hands during meetings, and intelligent meeting recaps
  • Powerful Dolby voice audio and background noise cancellation
  • No downloads or installation needed

Cons

  • Lacks a free plan
  • Paid plan has member limit of 50 and 75 participants

BlueJeans caters to the professional aspect of video conferencing, brand agnostic and can easily integrate with Microsoft, Google, or Apple, for a seamless experience. However, there are other better resources available for both free and paid service to hosting a video conference.

9. Cyberlink U

It comes with a basic plan for free, hosting up to 25 participants with a 30-minute time limit. The paid plan amounts to $29.99 per month, per host, with a 50-person meeting limit, where to host 100 people, one will need to upgrade to the $49.99 per month, per host, plan. Enterprise plans are also available with advanced meeting analysis however, pricing is undisclosed and accommodates only 100 participants.

Pros

  • Live notes or message during an ongoing meeting
  • Share a specific application, instead of the entire desktop, along with a range of annotation tools and a whiteboard mode
  • No downloads, registrations, or complicated dial-in numbers

Cons

  • Steep pricing of its paid services, compared to other video conferencing platforms

Cyberlink U’s interface has plenty of unique features. For a short meeting with a small number of participants, the free plan is quite suitable. For heavy usage, other platforms are far better than this one.

10. Lifesize

Lifesize’s free plan can host up to 25 participants, with no time limit for a meeting. The standard plan is for $16.95 for one host per month and can host up to 100 participants. For small to medium-sized businesses, the $14.95 per month, per host, plan, allows to host up to 300 meeting participants which can be a suitable choice, however, there is a minimum sign up for a minimum of 15 hosts.

Pros

  • End-to-end encryption for video calls
  • 4K hosting experience for a more professional meeting

Cons

  • Limit of only 25 people on the free plan

A cloud-based videoconferencing and collaboration platform, Lifesize, can work on all devices and platforms. It also offers a free trial to excite interest for a limited time period.

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10 Things to Consider While Furnishing your Office

First impressions matter- whether you like it or not, people often judge your office space on the basis of its appearance. The look and feel of your office space plays a crucial role in not just hiring and retaining employees but also in creating an excellent impression on your clients. According to an HBR study, your office décor determines about 25% of your employee engagement and productivity. As most employees spend at least 9 to 10 hours at work every day, it is the responsibility of the employers to provide them a comfortable and motivating work environment. Furnishing your office space can pose to be a tedious job as it requires considerable planning and investment.

Here are some things you should keep in mind while furnishing your workspace:

1. Plan The Space

Before you commencing purchasing and renovating your office space, make a plan. This should include the changes you wish to make and the estimated cost. Do you hire an interior designer or do it on your own? Does your office space come with a planner who can assist? Arranging your office space can be a time-consuming affair. You will also need to keep in mind the individual requirements of your employees along with keeping your office space accessible to everyone.

2. Make comfort your priority:

Let’s focus on the basics- desks and chairs. Desks and chairs are the most used pieces of furniture in every office, as everyone spends most of their time sitting on them. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, it is imperative to ensure that the desks and chairs you choose are comfortable and convenient. While choosing a desk, ensure that they are big enough to hold files, laptops, and stationery. The desks should be of a uniform and standard height to accommodate the nature of work and the person working on it. Choosing desks with drawers and lockers can be very convenient for employees as it helps them keep their personal belongings. However, while choosing a chair ensure that they are properly cushioned and comes with an armrest and a backrest.

3. Quality over price

Just as in your business, you work to deliver quality work for your clients, a similar expectation remains amongst your employee when it comes to their office space. A Good quality furnished office will last long even if it falls expensive in the short term. Think of purchasing quality furniture as an investment than an expense. A shoddy, poor quality desk, chair, or file cabinet will start falling apart within a short time of use. Office furniture is meant to withstand heavy-duty usage. If budget is an issue, consider purchasing second-hand yet quality furniture. The comfort of your employees should be of paramount importance.

4. Add a personal touch

A stylish office can send a strong and positive message to your employees and clients. But a truly captivating and stylish office goes about in visualising the company’s mission statement with its furnishings. Let your office reflect your personality. Allow your office space to reflect your values and vision with décor that accentuates on your philosophies. Bright, vibrant wall painting can be a welcoming presence. Portraits of people you admire, displaying artifacts and curios, personalised space for your employees gives a unique blend to the mundane office space that communicates the dynamic values of you and your business.

5. Strive to create a serene environment

An office is a hectic space brimming with energy and ideas. It can also be an overwhelming space for some of your team members. As an employer, it is your responsibility to create a calm environment. The office ambiance plays a very crucial impact on your employees. A cluttered, noisy space with bad lighting, bare walls, and no windows can be not only unproductive but also dull. Part of your office furnishing designs and it should include space to allow natural light, ventilation, a zone where your employees can de-stress. Keeping plants can also have a productive impact as it allows a sense of tranquillity along with beautifying the space.

6. Invest to keep things fun

Gone are the days when an office was all work and no play. Today, employees check out the office culture too before making a final call to work for your business. We are creatures of habit yet become easily bored with the mundane and monotonous work. Creating a space within your office where your employees can de-stress will enhance their productivity. Investing in ping-pong and pool tables, massage chairs, the gym can improve the motivation of your team.

7. Get tech support

As you’re improving the furnishings around your office, set up a meeting with your IT and engineering team to configure the plug points and jacks for your employees to maximise the utility of your office space. Consider where you will set up your office printer, wifi routers, projectors, and screens which can be accessed easily but at the same time not coming in anybody’s way.

8. Employee feedback

According to HBR, a workplace that included employees in the decision making of setting up their individual workspace reported having higher job satisfaction. Allowing your employees to set up their space with the type of furniture they want to create a shared floor space can have added benefit for your business with improved productivity and realising your brand culture.

9. Create open space

When creating your office space, keep in mind to leave some room to move. Use décor that enhances your office space. For instance, if you have a small office space, but wish to create rooms, use glass partitions instead of opaque curtains as it will create a visual breathing space. Also depending on your space, creating an outdoor open and green space goes a long way to de-stress your employees.

10. Space to grow

You will want your business to grow, and therefore, when furnishing your office space keep in mind about the future when you may have to increase your team size. Your office space might remain the same but you will need to create an environment that will allow you to add more furniture and furnishing with a growing business and employees.

Furnishing your office goes beyond buying furniture and filling up space. It is about creating an elegant and vibrant ambiance. The manner in which you furnish your office can embody your principles and personality. Keep it consistent, warm, and welcoming.

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10 Benefits of Coworking Spaces

The rise of coworking spaces is a good sign. It means many are opting to work from a professional space but avoid the overheads, are more willing to network and collaborate and many enterprises are now choosing to work from agile coworking space as it offers business space for rent which is cost-effective than holding an actual office space. Coworking space not only offers a place to work but also provides additional benefits which is exclusive for the members of that space. However, before renting office space from a coworking environment, figure out what exactly you are looking for. Distractions will be present but choosing the right set up will ease the journey and not affect the business environment.

Here are the top 10 benefits of coworking spaces:

Networking

Coworking space increases the chances of meeting like-minded people is a great incentive for your business development. You get to interact with people from various industries and sectors. It only fosters a sense of community, but interacting with high-performing individuals will also boost your own self-confidence along with opening doors for enhancing your service.

Professional Address

Coworking spaces are centrally located within a city, close enough to public transport and restaurants, and also convenient for members to work from. As a business owner, working from home or café might not send the right message to your prospective clients, thus, coworking space offers not only a professional space but also dedicated meeting rooms, cafeteria and coffee zones to help you network better.

Finding Your Spot

A shared space allows a person to move around the workspace to find the best areas for yourself. At different times of the day, your mood might be different and changing spots might improve your productivity. Experimenting with different corners at work, you will find the best spots for yourself. Coworking space is great for people who like to move around while working.

Great Offers and Discounts

Working from a shared office space has a variety of benefits. Such coworking spaces offer a lot of discounts to members. Stay updated with the latest offers make the best use of it. Such offers and discounts are provided to make a member’s life in the coworking space convenient and enhance the work-life balance.

Attend Events

A lot of coworking spaces go to great lengths by conducting events. Be an active participant to such events. It not only helps you learn new things but also provides the opportunity to meet and interact with new people. Events at co-sharing space is a great way to socialise and interact with fellow members which allow for future collaborations. This goes to the first point of networking; attending events opens networking channels and a window of opportunity for new ideas and new clients.

Improve Productivity

Around 68% of people find they can focus better while working in a coworking space. If you prefer to work out of office but yet in a professional zone, renting a business space from a coworking site will improve your focus level. Plus the additional benefits a coworking space provides will always outweigh the cost.

Flexibility

Coworking is about being flexible. Choose the day and time of your work and get there, it’s that simple! Renting office space from an agile workplace offers you the chance to take charge of your own day without the hassle of owning an office. It’s basically, one less key to worry about!

Reduce Operational Costs

For small business owners, having a dedicated private office space might seem costly but working within a coworking space, the benefit of using shared amenities outweighs the cost. Business owners can work within these spaces without having to worry about the overheads such as the internet, electricity, maintaining office equipments, replenishing cups, tea, and coffee to name a few.

Place To Learn

The working environments in a coworking office space allow for interactions with people with a different mindset, skills, and knowledge. This can improve a person’s outlook and provides a learning opportunity to either upskill themselves or improve their own productivity.

Mental Wellbeing

Working in a shared office space is a way to meet new people and increase your own network. This helps in avoiding loneliness, improving interpersonal skills, and many coworking spaces also offer various self-improving workshops which can help in boosting your productivity.

With all the benefits of using shared office space, many businesses are now turning to utilise such spaces. The hassle-free transaction of utilising such office space makes it a worthy investment for small to medium business owners. Other benefits such as open office space, networking with like-minded people, business opportunities are some factors that make this a worthy place to work out from.

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