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Boost productivity with these 3 office tweaks

Regardless of where you work or what you do, you know how easy it is to get off task every once in a while. While there is no way to totally eliminate distractions, there are several small things you can do to improve productivity overall.

Keep a clean office

Clutter and disorganization can easily distract people from the things they should be focusing on. Cleaning the office and encouraging your employees to keep their workspaces clean can quickly get rid of one of the biggest distractions out there.

Increase the temperature

A few degrees can make a big difference in productivity. In fact, in one study, increasing the temperature from 68 to 77 degrees decreased typos by 44% and increased typing output by 150% – those figures are nothing to sneeze at. Even though your heating bill will increase, it might be worth the expense.

Lighten up

In one study, a brighter office was shown to help employees be more productive. Daylight, specifically, makes the biggest difference in productivity. People who work in offices with windows are likely to spend 15% more time staying on task than those without windows.

Not only does this change help to improve productivity, it also can help you save money on your electricity bill by lighting up the office naturally. Because it’s so easy to do, it’s definitely in your best interest to open blinds and move employees into offices with windows whenever possible.

These office tweaks are all quite basic and can make quite a big difference when it comes to employee productivity. There is truly no reason not to try them out, as they each require minimal effort on your part.

For a few more simple tips on boosting productivity, take a look at this article.

5 gifts that are perfect for the techie mom

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and many of us are still clueless as to what to get. If you’re one of those people, you’re in luck. We have five tech-inspired gift ideas that are sure to please any mom.

Digital picture frame

If your mom is like most, she almost certainly loves reliving family memories through old photos. With a digital picture frame, your mom can relive those memories whenever she wants. If she needs help, you can help her by pre-loading all of her pictures onto the frame and she can start enjoying it right away.

Tech time

Many of our moms love technology but are entirely clueless when it comes to using it. If that’s the case in your family, a coupon for some tech TLC may be the perfect gift. You can fix or set up gadgets for your mom, or show her how to use them so she becomes more tech-confident.

Digital magazine or Netflix subscription

Chances are, your mom has either a magazine or a TV show that she’s hooked on. Getting her a subscription to a digital magazine will give Mom the chance to read the magazine she adores without all the clutter.

A Netflix subscription gives your mom the chance to catch up on her favorite TV show. If she’s more of the movie type, she can watch that movie her friends have been talking about for months. Either way, this gift is guaranteed to be a hit.

Tablet

A tablet, such as the iPad or Xoom, is great for Mom due to its portability and ease of use. Once your mom becomes accustomed to it, she should have no problem enjoying all of the games and apps it has to offer.

If the iPad is a little too pricey for you consider getting her the Nook Color. It still performs many of the functions that tablets can perform and is more affordable. Your mom is bound to love either one.

Quality time

Most moms feel like they don’t get to see their kids enough. If this is the case in your family, try giving your mom a coupon for video chat sessions with you and your family. This will undoubtedly be a standout gift.

We all know our moms will appreciate whatever gift we get for them. These gifts, however, will show you care and you put thought into it. Try surprising your mom this year with a great gift that she can really use.

For even more Mother’s Day gift ideas, take a look at this Unplggd article.

Check out Prezi – the online presentation tool

If you’re big on presentations, you might have heard of Prezi, one of the most revered online presentation tools. Prezi is an easy-to-use application that makes presentations more fun. You might ask yourself what makes Prezi better than other presentation apps – here it is:

Flash-based

Prezi is a flash-based tool, which makes it easier to produce non-linear presentations. Most presentation tools require you to go slide-by-slide and don’t leave much room for creativity aside from clipart. With Prezi, your presentation is more like a thought map than anything else, which makes it flow much more naturally.

You are able to zoom in and out of the images and words as you travel from point-to-point. This feature eliminates the need for identical slides and backtracking when you need to reference a past slide.

Intuitive

Once you have become accustomed to Prezi’s interface, it is really quite intuitive. Because many people are non-linear thinkers, the thought-map method, where you can see everything at once, can be incredibly useful.

If you find yourself having trouble getting accustomed to Prezi’s interface, simply take a look at one of their tutorials.

Prezi is web-based but it permits you to download your presentations once they have been created so you don’t need Internet access to actually present. There is a free model available, but for $59/year you can purchase Prezi for more storage and better privacy.

Everybody may not be looking to move away from the linear model of PowerPoint and tools like it. If you are, however, Prezi is a great alternative.

Stay safe online with these tips

The recent Playstation security breach has opened many Internet users’ eyes to the importance of online security. If the wrong person gets their hands on your information, there is a possibility that the result could be harmful. Luckily, there are a number of easy steps you can take to better protect your online identity.

Use an encrypted connection

Using an encrypted connection is an extremely simple way to achieve greater online security. Many websites, including most social networking sites, have recently adopted more secure connections, although you sometimes have to change the settings to get the extra level of security.

In order to see whether or not your connection is safe, check the URL. A secure connection will have a URL that begins with “https” instead of simply “http.” Unfortunately, all sites don’t use encrypted connections, so this is not always a possibility.

Use strong passwords

Strong passwords are usually one of the best ways to keep your information protected. By using spaces, symbols, numbers and a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, one can easily attain a strong password. Even if you don’t utilize all of these tips, be sure to use something that can’t be easily guessed by hackers.

Also, be sure to use a unique password for each site. If one site is hacked into, your password to that site may become vulnerable. Having the same password for multiple other sites will make the information stored on those sites vulnerable as well.

Look out for phishing

Phishing is basically when a hacker poses as a trustworthy company, like a bank, in order to obtain sensitive information from people. It is fairly common due to its relative ease, since all the hackers need is your name and email address.

The recent data breach suffered by Epsilon is a great example of how phishing can come about. The people that hacked Epsilon’s network immediately gained access to thousands of email addresses and therefore had the opportunity to get sensitive, personal information from people.

These three tips are unbelievably easy to follow through with and instantly increase your online security. If you’d like more information on protecting your online identity, check out this article.

Doing work from the road can be tricky – simplify it with these suggestions

Many people travel frequently for business. Unfortunately, many business travelers don’t know how to be most productive while they’re on the road. We have put together a list of tools and tips that can help you to be more productive and keep your work and devices safe while you’re on the go.

Tools for easier travel

There are virtually countless options when it comes to tools that make traveling easier. The options range from luggage to apps, and everything in between.

One tool that can take a lot of stress out of traveling is TripIt. It is an app that organizes all of your travel information for you. You can email your itinerary to TripIt and it keeps track of your flight times, hotel information, and frequent flier numbers, all in one spot.

Luggage that is conducive to business travel is critical as well. These are some of the key luggage features that can make traveling a breeze:

  • Laptop compartment – It’s best to have a separate compartment for your laptop so that finding it at security, or even once you get to your destination, is a breeze. Nobody enjoys being the person who’s holding up the security line.
  • A wire pouch – Having a specific spot to place all of your chargers and other wires is great for anyone with lots of gadgets. You no longer have to wonder where you placed everything, as there is a designated pocket for it.
  • Convertibility – A convertible bag is ideal for someone who goes on a variety of business trips. If you need to carry everything through the airport one day and carry only your laptop the next, finding a bag that can serve both purposes is beneficial.

Security tools

Many of us travel with our most valued possessions, which just adds to our stress for fear of losing them. Because of that, it’s smart to bring a personal safe and a notebook lock that can keep some of the most valuable items secure when you can’t keep an eye on them.

In general, it’s best to err on the side of caution when you’re traveling with valuable items. If it’s something you can’t afford to lose, keep it somewhere safe, or bring it with you. This article offers a number of great security devices that can help protect your gadgets on the go.

Boosting productivity

Productivity can certainly wane while you’re working from a hotel room or coffee shop on the road. General unfamiliarity with your surroundings can slow down certain processes that are usually quick and painless.

For most jobs, it’s necessary to have Internet access, particularly when you are away from your coworkers. Some hotels do not have access to the Internet, and if that is the case you should consider bringing a wireless card or mobile Wi-Fi device that would let you easily access the Internet and your email.

Finally, consider bringing a back pillow. Hotel desk chairs are typically not ergonomic and can be seriously painful for your back if you sit in them for too long. Back pillows generally aren’t too bulky and can make all the difference when you’re working in an unfamiliar chair.

There are many things that can make working from the road easier and more productive. These tools and tips can be incredibly helpful and help you learn how to be at your best while you’re on the go.

Green your office with these ideas

Being green is a great way to help the environment as well as save some money. Fortunately, turning your office into a green one is not very hard to do. Here are some simple tips for making your office greener.

1.    Use double-sided printing whenever possible

Set your printer or copier’s default setting to double-sided printing to instantly cut down on paper use. This is a simple step and if anyone needs single-sided printing they can easily change the settings.

2.    Use a water delivery service

Bottled water is incredibly wasteful, and unfortunately is prevalent in most offices. Using a water delivery service gives your employees the chance to drink clean water without wasting all that plastic and suffering from the potential health effects of bottled water.

3.    Turn lights and machines off when they’re not being used

Although this may seem like an obvious way to be greener, many people overlook its necessity. Some people think that it’s more efficient to leave computers and other machines on overnight, but it’s far more wasteful than anything else. If you can afford to install motion sensors, they are always a great option as well.

4.    Use recycled and recyclable products when you can

Virtually any paper product can be found in recycled versions at major office supply retailers. While they’re much better for the environment, they are typically comparable in price to non-recycled versions.

Also, if you must use disposable plates and cups, try to find recyclable or compostable options. It’s not enough to simply buy recyclable products, it’s important to have an easy-to-follow recycling program. Stress to your employees the importance of recycling those products, otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll end up in the trash.

5.    Cut down on commuting

If you have a company full of commuters, it can be very helpful to implement some sort of carpool matching service that links employees who live near one another. Offering parking incentives or other bonuses to people who carpool is a great way to generate interest in the program.

All of these options are incredibly simple and do not take much to implement. If you’re looking for even more ways to make your business greener, check out this article.

How to clean your keyboard

You’ve likely heard that your keyboard could be dirtier than a toilet seat – but are the rumors true? Levels of germs on a keyboard vary, but are typically quite high. Some keyboards that have been tested have, in fact, shown levels of germs five times higher than germs found on a toilet.

If that isn’t enough to encourage you to clean your keyboard, consider the fact that you touch it every day, when you’re sick and when you’re eating. If you don’t clean it often enough, those germs can rapidly accumulate and spread to other items on your desk. Here are some tips that can help you clean your keyboard quickly and effectively.

Detach the keyboard

No matter what cleaning method you are using, it’s always critical to disconnect the keyboard from your computer prior to cleaning. This ensures that you won’t inadvertently perform any actions on the computer, as well as keeps your machine safe.

For a quick fix

A can of compressed air can easily get rid of the majority of loose dirt and debris. The dust and dirt that accumulates beneath those keys can get thick pretty quickly. This clears that right up.

Turn the keyboard upside down and spray the compressed air onto the keys. Then tap the keyboard on a flat surface a couple of times to get rid of everything that came loose. Follow that up by swiping the edges of the keys with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to get rid of most of the germs.

For a more thorough cleaning

If simply getting rid of loose dirt is not enough for you, try removing the keys for a deeper clean. They can be taken off by gently prying them up with a screwdriver or a similar tool.

Once the keys are off, you should use the can of compressed air to remove all of the loose dirt. Then wipe the entire keyboard with a damp cloth. Finally, clean all of the keys with isopropyl alcohol to get a more substantial clean.

After a spill

If you only need to know what to do after you’ve spilled on your keyboard, it’s simple. Immediately unplug the keyboard, turn it upside down and use a cloth to soak up all of the excess liquid. Then leave the keyboard upside down for as long as possible to make sure it is completely dry.

If you’d like more keyboard cleaning tips, take a look at this how-to guide.

How to conduct a virtual meeting

While many prefer face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings are a popular part of today’s business environment. It is essential, however, to remember certain things when you’re conducting these meetings.

Etiquette is essential during virtual meetings and should be taken into consideration, as it would be in any face-to-face meeting. This may seem apparent, but many people think of virtual meetings as more relaxed and laid-back than face-to-face ones, which is not always the case.

Here are a few additional tips that can help you carry out more efficient and professional virtual meetings.

1. Be prepared

Preparedness is vital for any meeting, virtual or not. When you’re conducting a virtual meeting, it can be easy to forget who your audience is. You want to ensure that the information you’re presenting is appropriate for each participant.

You also want to be sure that you have given everyone the information they need to access the meeting, such as passwords, URLs or call-in numbers. You certainly do not want to be left with no attendees because people could not access the meeting.

2. Engage participants

Virtual meetings can quickly become very stiff if you don’t have a relationship with the person on the other end of the meeting. Rather than just leaping right into the task at hand, try going around and allowing all of the meeting’s participants to introduce themselves.

Although it might feel like freshman orientation all over again, having everyone go around and share the highlight of his or her weekend or some other little tidbit, can serve as a huge icebreaker.

3. No side conversations

Side conversations can be extremely distracting to all participants, even if you’re not on screen at the moment. Not only can side conversations grab the concentration of the presenter, it can distract other attendees and deter from the point of the meeting.

Virtual meetings are excellent assets and there are many ways to ensure that you are conducting them in a professional and interesting manner. If you’d like to take a look at more suggestions for conducting virtual meetings, check out this Inc. article.

Is an e-reader best for you?

E-readers are a convenient technology that users often swear by. They are convenient and easy to travel with, causing them to be perfect for many bookworms. The technology isn’t for everyone however, so it’s important to take the features into consideration when deciding if it’s right for you.

What are the options?

E-readers are primarily devices that display e-books, although some have additional capabilities, such as Internet connectivity. The most well-known choices are the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Tablets can also function as e-readers, although they have many functions aside from displaying e-books.

Pros

  • E-readers are extremely portable, which is great for any person who likes to read during vacation or a business trip
  • An additional travel perk – if you are in a foreign country, you may still download an e-book in the language you choose, instead of seeking out an accommodating bookstore.
  • Books are frequently cheaper than you will find in standard bookstores.
  • Privacy – you probably don’t want everyone to know if you’re reading a self-help book. If you’re using an e-reader, they won’t be able to tell.
  • All of your books are located in a single place.

Cons

  • Depending on the style of e-reader or tablet, you might not be able to read in direct sunlight because of screen glare.
  • Cost – although you may pay less for books than you normally would, e-readers commonly cost upwards of $140.
  • If you’re accustomed to shopping in used bookstores, these books will cost much more than you’re used to spending.
  • Lending books isn’t always a choice.
  • All of your books are in a single location – if you lose your e-reader, you’re losing all of your books until you buy a replacement.

Overall, when you’re figuring out whether or not an e-reader suits you, it’s all about personal preference. Some prefer the convenience of having all of their books in one convenient device. Others like the weight and feel of a book and like to show off the books they’ve read on a bookshelf somewhere.

If you’re contemplating purchasing an e-reader, take a look at this article on the advantages of the technology, and where it may be headed.

4 strategies for sustaining employee motivation

Employee motivation can often be hard to maintain, particularly when you’re running a small business with limited funds. Incentives are really critical when it comes to inspiring your employees, however, so finding simple and inexpensive alternatives is necessary.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep employee morale high without breaking the bank. Here are a few creative and easy ideas:

1. Ask for input

By encouraging input from employees you are letting them know that their opinions are valued. This goes a long way in making them feel like a part of the team, which then encourages them to work hard for the good of the team.

2. Change it up

Sometimes repetition can lead to a lack of motivation. When this happens, it’s crucial to remember the cause for the tapering motivation and mix things up a little. If you know an employee is eager to exercise a certain skill, try giving him or her a project that allows for that.

3. Focus on a great company culture

People enjoy working for companies that they feel are different from the rest. Setting your company apart by incorporating unique ideas into the company culture can help you find and retain great, motivated employees. Things like complimentary professional massages once a month can go a long way in building a unique company culture.

4. Recognize people for a job well done

One of the biggest de-motivators can be toiling away on something and feeling like nobody is even aware of your hard work. Because of this, it’s vital to let employees know that you recognize their hard work and appreciate it.

Something as simple as a company-wide email showcasing their accomplishments can re-ignite motivation and make employees want to continue working hard. Although the attention may embarrass some, most people like to know that others recognize their effort.

All of these ideas are great, affordable options for motivating employees when you don’t have a lot of resources. Testing out a few of these ideas could do wonders for employee motivation and keep morale high.

For more examples of inexpensive employee motivators, check out this article.