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3 Skills Every Business Leader Needs Amid The Covid-19 Crisis

Lingering uncertainty surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic has unnerved many people, especially business owners.

Photo: Victor Xok, Unsplash

Photo: Kellee Marlow, founder and Host of Spark | Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Kellee Marlow, founder and Host of Spark | Source: Courtesy Photo

Lingering uncertainty surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic has unnerved many people, especially business owners. Entrepreneurs are used to taking risks, but the events of this year have made it difficult for many business owners to plan for the foreseeable future. Enduring volatility and unpredictability can make it difficult to move forward.

However, there are ways to keep moving forward, gain traction, and accomplish goals. More than ever before, relationship skills are at the forefront of business and can help you thrive.

 

1. Be of service

As the situation around the coronavirus continues to evolve, we are living life differently and learning as we go. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause additional stress. From personal finances to mental health struggles, people are facing a host of new challenges.

When you create a culture of service, you build trust with your team, customers, and vendors throughout the supply chain. To be of service is not synonymous with possessing poor boundaries. Boundaries are critical for relationships to thrive with healthy mutual respect.

What do clear boundaries look like while you focus on being of service? Consider a supplier who can’t fulfill an order on time:

“I know you’re doing the best you can. How about if you take some time to get your inventory in place, and I can lean on a different vendor until you are ready?”

Do you need to speak with a team member who is consistently late on their projects? Consider this approach:

“Allison, you’re talented, bright, and one of the best designers we have on the team. I know things are difficult right now, which has led to multiple projects being late. At this point, I want to brainstorm ideas about how we can support you so that you can meet deadlines. Your projects are important, and when they run late, it impacts the entire team. So let’s talk about ways that we can improve your workflow to get things in on time.”

To be of service does not mean you encourage poor behavior or unacceptable infringements of boundaries. It is a way to create trust and discover solutions that serve the business at large while being supportive of everyone involved.

Ask yourself, “How can I create a culture of service in my organization and leadership style?”

 

2. Open the lines of communication

As a leader and business owner, it is helpful to cultivate a communication style that focuses on what is going on with your team, both personally and professionally. This “ear to the ground” approach equips you to identify potential landmines before accidental detonation.

The process can include deep listening without judgment, collaborative discussions on solutions without competition, and offering an open door for ideas without encouraging venting. All of these examples can help you stay connected with your team and boost morale and confidence. A collaborative communication culture empowers everyone to focus on effectively solving problems together.

 

3. Take a team approach

Team members and customers need to feel like you’re all in this together when seismic uncertainty strikes. Their lives are already disrupted, so reinforcing the feeling that the stakeholders in your business are part of a team gives them more emotional security because they don’t have to face the situation alone. You need to iterate that everyone is in this challenge together and we’ve got this.

When your team feels that they are part of a bigger purpose, which is to push through this challenge together, they will focus on how to generate solutions in a collaborative and impactful partnership.

 

Kellee Marlow is an Impact Entrepreneur, Business Strategist, and Motivational Speaker. She built her career by embracing disruption and identifying innovative concepts and technologies that challenged people to think differently. Kellee created a science-proven catalyst mindset, focused on empowerment, innovation, and inspiration that guides people to realize their goals. As the founder and host of Spark, on KXSF.FM and 8+ global online platforms, Kellee pinpoints and shares the underlying value of the expertise from change-makers in psychology, wellness, business, and innovation with her audience. Kellee’s expertise has been published in media outlets including MSN.com, Yahoo Lifestyle, Redbook, and more. 

Photo: Victor Xok, Unsplash
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3 Ways To Stay Positive and Productive While Working from Home

It's time to train your brain to adapt to changing times, create a stable work environment, and crush your professional goals.

Photo: Drobot Dean, Adobe Stock

Photo: Monica Eaton-Cardone | Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Monica Eaton-Cardone | Source: Courtesy Photo

If the COVID-19 pandemic, now a global health emergency, has taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change in an instant. It only takes scrolling through social media, talking to a friend, or turning on the news to see the countless lives being affected by the virus.

As the country prepares for the worst, many companies have proactively sent their employees home to work remotely. With the right business continuity procedures in place, this can be a smooth transition from a leadership standpoint. What about individual employees, though?

For some, the transition from the office to home is easy, stress free, and even welcomed. But for others, as the novelty of being home wears off, concerns grow about how long the situation will last. As the days stretch into weeks, the prospect of being home can quickly turn to drudgery.

If you find yourself counting down the minutes until your workday ends, being easily distracted, or are nervous about making the transition to remote work, this article is for you. These three tips will train your brain to adapt to changing times, provide a stable work environment, and help you crush your professional goals.

 

1. Designate a workspace

We’re programmed to think of our home as a place of relaxation, where we turn off our brain after a hard workday, recharge, and rest. Perhaps the biggest challenge of beginning remote work is that you are forced to switch your mindset regarding how you view your home. To counteract this, it’s important to set aside a workplace that is designated specifically for work.

Of course, the most ideal situation would be a separate room where you can shut the door to all distractions. Otherwise a desk or dining room table will suffice. Avoid sitting in your bed or on the couch, as these are objects associated with comfort and homelife. The main reason of having a designated workspace is to train your brain to switch into work mode, even when you’re at home.

Once you’ve established a workspace, make sure to set boundaries. Be intentional about entering “work mode”. If you have roommates, children, or a spouse, let them know when you are starting work, and turn off the TV and put away your phone. Be intentional about telling your brain that you’ve left home and are now at work. Essentially, you want to recreate as much as possible the feeling of going into the office as you would on a regular day.

A designated workspace and consistent boundaries help you change your internal mindset and get over the initial distraction that can result from working at home.

 

2. Keep a detailed schedule

Good organizational skills go a long way in training yourself to adapt to a new work environment. Begin each morning like you normally would by getting up at a set time, eating breakfast, getting changed, and going through the motions of getting ready for the day.

Photo: Drobot Dean, Adobe Stock
Photo: Drobot Dean, YFS Magazine

When you begin work, keeping to a detailed schedule will help you optimize your time. Setting goals for yourself, no matter how small, also give you motivation and help you keep track of what you need to get done. For many people, working from home is difficult because you no longer have the accountability of your coworkers or boss standing nearby. It can also become easy to slip into bad work habits, especially when no one else is watching. This is where keeping to a strict schedule can help.

It’s equally important to designate time in your day for breaks. While many people have trouble staying on task, there are also those who will struggle knowing when to relax and take a break without the usual rhythm of office life to guide them. If you find yourself in this category, make sure that you schedule breaks into your day. You can take a quick walk outside, get a snack, or step away from your computer screen for ten minutes to give your eyes a break. You may find it easy to ignore the fact you’ve been sitting for five hours straight when no one else is around to remind you that time is passing.

When you’re starting out, be as strict and detailed as possible with your schedule. Until you slip into a regular workflow, the consistency of a schedule teaches you to adapt to a new situation. It’s important to make sure you’re focused and working hard during designated times, and then reward yourself with a chance to breathe and relax before moving on to the next task.

 

3. Daily communication

When working from home for the first time, the silence and absence of your coworkers alone can become a distraction, and it can also take a toll on your mental health. It’s easy to feel disconnected the longer you’re away from your familiar work environment.

Make it a point to check in with your manager and coworkers, whether it’s a quick social call or a more in-depth conference call to discuss any goals and tasks that you have for the day. Sharing daily conversations with your team reminds you that you’re not alone. It also provides an accountability factor to help you stay on track. Social connection will help foster the idea that you’re part of a team and are still contributing to the success of the company.

During a stressful and frustrating time of social distancing and isolation, creating a space where you can interact with others, even virtually, can greatly boost your mental health and help you stay motivated. From a professional standpoint, staying connected during a time like this is also important as guidelines and work procedures change by the day.

When you take the time to check-in with your team and manager, you’ll provide yourself the security and peace of mind to know that you have all the information you need to succeed.

 

Time to Get to Work

Now that you’ve designated a workspace, set boundaries, and made a detailed and goal-oriented schedule, it’s time to go to work.

It’s going to take practice. These are helpful suggestions to self-motivate and get the most out of your day, but the truth is everyone is different and will respond differently to being home. Part of the struggle is finding out what works for you. If you find another way to optimize your remote work experience, then go forth and use it.

However you choose to structure your day, it will be an adjustment from working in the office. Inevitably you will face different distractions at home, especially if you have children out of school, or a spouse who is also working from home. Remember to be gentle with yourself and those around you during this transition. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all trying to figure it out as we go along.

The most important thing is that you just get moving and continue to structure your days as you would in the office. Stay consistent and make sure that you surround yourself with the support you need from your manager and team. It won’t always be easy, but it is possible to train your brain to adjust to a new work environment, and to continue to produce excellent work from home.

 

Monica Eaton-Cardone is an international entrepreneur, speaker, and author. She possesses more than two decades of experience in the eCommerce space as both a merchant and service provider, and is one of the world’s leading experts on payments and consumer disputes. Monica is the Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911®, a global risk mitigation firm helping online merchants optimize their profitability through chargeback management. Chargebacks911 has more than 350 employees globally, with offices in North America and Europe. 

Photo: Drobot Dean, Adobe Stock
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5 Reasons To Give Your Brand A Refresh During COVID-19 Closures

Millions of companies around the nation are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many things business owners could do during this time.

Photo: Anna Shvets, Pexels

Millions of companies around the nation are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many things business owners could do during this time, outside of pivoting their business models, focusing on revenue-generating activities, and strategically planning for the months ahead.

One worthwhile idea to consider is how to make your business better than ever, while public health measures are in force to support the gradual rollback of social distancing regulations. Now is a good time to consider company branding and your brand image. Take steps to ensure your business emerges with a fresh appeal that helps it stand out from the rest.

“Many businesses have no choice but to close right now, but they absolutely should use that time to make business improvements,” explains Nicholas Ingram, a professional creative consultant, and owner of Black Mansion Design Studio, a full-service branding and creative design company. “Most need to improve their branding and creative efforts, but never have the time. Well, now they have the time, and by doing it will emerge stronger than ever.”

Here are five reasons why Ingram says now is the perfect time for businesses to give their company a new creative look:

 

1. Clarify your direction

Many business owners are not sure what will happen when they reopen. Rather than waiting to see what happens, creating a branding plan can help you gain more control of the outcome. Creating a fresh new image and will provide you with direction when you get the green light to reopen your doors.

Photo: Anastasia Shuraeva, Pexels
Photo: Anastasia Shuraeva, YFS Magazine

 

2. Stand out from the crowd

Every business that wants to be successful must have a way to stand out and differentiate themselves from the competition. The best way to do that is through their branding.

 

3. Build trust

People do business with companies that they trust. When you take the time now to hone your brand image, you will help to re-establish trust when you open back up. Brand trust is essential in uncertain economic times.

“If consumers trust a brand they also exhibit behaviors that demonstrate loyalty. Some 8 in 10 US consumers (82%) and three-quarters (75%) of global respondents say they will continue to buy a brand they trust, even if another brand suddenly becomes hot and trendy,” according to MarketingCharts. “They’ll also advocate on the brand’s behalf, with a large majority (76% globally, 78% US) saying they always recommend the brand if someone asks.”

 

4. Motivate buyers

Given the nature of the current COVID-19 public health crisis, it’s wise to assume a majority of consumers will be a little hesitant. One way to motivate your audience to engage with your brand is to prove that you are fresh, confident, and focused on societal and consumer concerns.

For instance, a MarketingCharts survey found “Close to 7 in 10 consumers surveyed (69% globally, 67% in the US) listed societal-focused concerns as to why trusting a brand they buy is important.” A branding overhaul and branding goals can help in this area.

 

5. Turn lemons into lemonade

A change in company-wide practices and temporarily closing your doors to help #flattenthecurve of a global pandemic with community-level implications is the equivalent of being handed lemons.

But that doesn’t mean you have to fold your arms and frown with a sour face. You can turn the lemons into lemonade and create something wonderful. By using the downtime to make business improvements, you will increase your chances of success once the doors are back open.

“Business leaders can either use this downtime to do nothing to help their business grow, or they can use it to hone their creative image,” added Ingram. “Taking a proactive approach to revamping your creative image right now can go a long way in paying dividends when you open your doors once again.”

Photo: Anna Shvets, Pexels
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COVID-19 Confessions: The Entrepreneurs Are Not All Right

Even though I'm practicing social distancing, I'm not alone. I believe we will get through this. I also believe that it is okay to not be okay.

Photo: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels

Photo: Ren Lenhof, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based photographer and blogger | Courtesy Photo

Well, the ‘C’ virus (a.k.a. COVID-19) is on my mind again. Even though the conventional five stages of grief are considered to be rubbish by many psychologists, the first stage of grief –– denial –– rung true for me.

Like many, I was in denial.

A 24-hour news cycle inundates us with terrifying headlines. It can also be difficult to parse out what to take seriously and what to, more or less, ignore.

I was busy. I was happy with the direction of my business and personal projects. And I had exciting plans for the Spring and Summer. Upending my entire life because of a global pandemic was the last thing on my mind.

I just didn’t want to believe it.

It was easier to ignore it –– until I couldn’t.

I felt the anxiety and tightness in my chest, starting to brew. As days passed, reality set in, and I started to panic. It wasn’t long before denial was simply no longer an option.

Photo: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels
Photo: Vlada Karpovich, YFS Magazine

Businesses sent workers home. School districts closed. Restaurants stopped serving dine-in customers, and some even revamped their entire business model. Grocery store shelves started to empty. The price of gas continued to fall, and the stock market started to fall even more rapidly than during the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

All of my social media news feeds were flooded with articles, posts from friends, family, and other small businesses, about COVID-19. It became abundantly clear that I had to realize that this was indeed going to affect everyone and everything I hold close to my heart.

Amid the frenzy, I knew I had to do my part and take action. After the initial denial and panic, I took action. Despite my anxieties, I had to act.

 

Look for the helpers

I knew I needed to serve my family, friends, myself, and my clients differently than ever before. So, I allowed my fear to motivate me –– I made plans.

I contacted clients. I prepared my business for the uncertainty ahead. As the owner of a photography studio, promoting family sessions and other photography just doesn’t seem right at this time.

Photo: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels
Photo: Vlada Karpovich, YFS Magazine

Inspired by other U.S.-based photographers, I recently started my Sidewalk Sessions Project. I’ve been driving around South Eastern Wisconsin and collecting donations for the Hunger Task Force –– in trade for snapping a family photo from a safe distance. In just three days, I’ve collected $1,044 in donations.

 

Acknowledge the silent pain

I knew I had to stay strong for the long-term well-being of my business, relationships, and sanity. I was able to acknowledge that, even though it was terrifying. Amidst the silence of social distancing, sorrow and fear washed over me.

The world has slowed down, and almost everyone is at home –– shut away from the outside world. For better or worse, this leaves us alone with our thoughts. It’s been in this quiet that my emotions have come to the forefront.

Photo: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels
Photo: Vlada Karpovich, YFS Magazine

I can’t help but openly cry. My eyes have been glossier than a new coat of nail polish as of late.

I cry because I’m both sad and afraid. I fear for the business I’ve worked so hard to build. I fear for my family (particularly those who are older or have preexisting health problems), friends, and their families. I weep for people all over the world who’ve lost loved ones and those who may still lose them before this crisis is complete.

I’ve recognized that it’s okay to feel big emotions.

 

The uncertainties of our journey are palpable

Even though I’m practicing social distancing, I’m not alone. I believe in humanity. I believe in empathy. I believe we will get through this. I also believe that it is okay to not be okay.

While we’re on an uncertain journey, it’s okay to feel everything. I’m working (to whatever extent possible) to keep my businesses organized and afloat. I know I can do it, and I hope to inspire others in my situation to do the same.

There is great strength in vulnerability. These are scary, unprecedented times. It’s only natural that I cry, beg for kisses from my doggies, or hug my husband a bit tighter.

 

Ren Lenhof is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based photographer and blogger who has been featured on Martha Stewart, Huffington Post, West Elm, Pepsi, and more! Check out her lifestyle blog and photography at housefur.com.

Photo: Vlada Karpovich, Pexels
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COVID-19 Edition: The Ultimate Work From Home Survival Guide

Working from home is the new normal for the foreseeable future. The days ahead are filled with uncertainties, yet it’s possible to live and work above the fray.

Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock

The YFS Magazine Work From Home Survival Guide to navigating the coronavirus crisis is presented by Dell Technologies. At Dell Technologies, more than 65% of their global team members work in a flexible capacity, so you know you can rely on their expertise to empower your productivity wherever you are.

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus (a.k.a. Covid-19) outbreak a global health emergency. In an instant, life and business as we knew it would change for millions across the globe. As we adapt to this public health crisis, remote working initiatives have expanded as communities comply with shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders to fight an accelerating pandemic and #flattenthecurve.

 

Pandemic shift: Working from home is the new normal

Where do we go from here? For many of us, working from home is the new normal for the foreseeable future. The days ahead are filled with uncertainties, yet it’s possible to live and work above the fray. Whether you are a small business owner, employee, or student in pursuit of higher learning, there are practical tips that can make working from home less stressful, and more empowering.

In partnership with Dell Technologies, we’ll tackle four key areas designed to empower you as you work from home. Whether you’re in the thick of it or trying to find your bearings, these mindset, workspace, technology, and productivity tips will ease your anxiety and help you stay connected and inspired wherever you are.

 

Table of Contents

 

Mindset


Living amid a pandemic threat can make us feel sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, stressed out, unfocused, and even disrupt our sleep. As Covid-19 spreads through our communities, widespread social distancing is thought to be one of our best weapons against widespread transmission.

Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock
Photo: Merfin, YFS Magazine

We collectively avoid office spaces, cafes, and gatherings, while increased social isolation among millions of Americans harbors rising mental health concerns. As we consider the tight link between social isolation and depression, working on our mindset can minimize the onset of situational depression –– the short-term, stress-related type of depression associated with this traumatic event.

While we work from home, we cannot ignore the unintended consequences of social distancing and the impact on our mental health. Cultivating the right mindset––one of clarity, focus, and peace can make working from home more enjoyable, productive, and less frantic. Here’s a look at four solid ways to renew your mind daily.

 

Disconnect from stressors

What’s stressing you out? Perhaps it’s high consumption of social media along with your morning coffee? Maybe it’s a blaring TV, more daily meal prep, hyperactive pets, homeschooling duties, confinement, or a general sense of uncertainty. Environmental stressors can wreak havoc on your mindset. Identify what triggers stress and minimize your exposure. This could include powering down your phone, monitoring social media intake, watching less news, investing in Bluetooth headphones (for family members who watch a lot of TV), or simply sitting on your patio to pause, reflect, and breathe.

 

Breathe like a Navy SEAL

Take a deep, physical breath. Slow down and create some form of space, both physically and in your mind.  Use mindful breathing techniques when you find yourself in the throes of an anxious state. Box breathing, a breathing exercise used by Navy SEALs to remain calm in stressful situations, is a game changer. Give it a try!

 

Journal and reflect ­

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread as it rattles financial markets, upends local economies and will result in thousands of deaths worldwide. This would make any normal person anxious. Now is the time to practice radical self-compassion. This moment calls on us to not only care for others but to also be gentle with ourselves. Journaling is a proven way to clear your mind. Write down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. This provides an opportunity for constructive self-talk and can help you pinpoint negative thoughts and behaviors. Keeping a journal helps to create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos.

 

Connect, connect, connect

Working in solitude or from the same space can start to feel a little claustrophobic after a few weeks. It can get lonely. Be ready for that, and schedule a FaceTime lunch date, a video chat with a friend, or an online exercise class. Use WhatsApp and Google Hangouts — all means possible — to stay connected to what you enjoy and anyone who matters to you. Especially those who induce a sense of calm rather than chaos. People need to hear your voice — and vice versa.

 

Workspace


We’ve had to reinvent the way we work, as new challenges and environmental factors arise. Not everyone has a designated home office, but it’s critical to have a private, quiet space to run your business, complete daily tasks, or concentrate on your online courses. Here’s how to get started.

Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock
Photo: Merfin, YFS Magazine

Set up a functional, creative and clean workspace

First, create a functional space. If you can, separate your work area from your personal spaces and use it just for work, not for other activities. Utilize a spare room or invest in a partition or modular room divider.

The goal is to create a private workspace that is not monotonous and encourages creativity and interaction. To cultivate creativity, hang a whiteboard to brainstorm your next big idea, reduce clutter (a direct contributor to stress). Then, add touches of inspiration, a poster with your favorite quote, new art, or a gallery wall of achievements or future travel plans on a vision board. Optimizing for creativity is a process that removes structures and restrictions. Nothing—not even a global pandemic—can stop human creativity. We just have to adapt.

“Nothing—not even a global pandemic—can stop human creativity. We just have to adapt.”

Lastly, create a green zone that keeps viruses and anxiety at bay. Keep disinfectant wipes on-hand, consider purchasing a humidifier to keep germs from spreading, and open windows to keep the fresh air flowing. Also, add a few new plants to your space. Greenery is shown to increase happiness and boost productivity by a whopping 15%. That is, in addition to providing valuable extra oxygen and overall cleaner indoor air.

 

Get the internet speed you need

As millions of people spend much more time online, internet usage is on the rise. The need for quality high-speed internet is essential. A majority of work activities will be carried out online, and your home internet service may not be up to snuff.

If you have kids, their FaceTiming and Xbox habits may slow your connection and download speeds. Perhaps your partners’ Netflix streaming has tripled in recent weeks. Upgrading your Wi-Fi router can provide an instant fix, or you can consider upgrading your plan for the time being.

  

Technology


When you’re working from home, you need the right technology to stay connected along with seamless solutions to keep your productivity at its peak. At Dell Technologies, more than 65% of their global team members work in a flexible capacity, so we know you can rely on their expertise in empowering your productivity wherever you are.

Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock
Photo: Merfin, YFS Magazine

From mobile adaptors to laptop bundles and more, here’s a look at our top tech picks to help you stay connected, conduct smarter meetings, and work from home with more agility.

Vostro 15” 5590 Laptop Bundle

Shop now

Dell Pro Stereo Headset USB

Promo Code: EXTA17 for 17% off

Shop now

Dell USB-C Mobile Adapter

Shop now

Dell S-Pro 27” Monitor

Shop now

Logitech Personal Video Collaboration Kit

(Headset & Webcam)

Shop now

Pro Tip

Excelerate America members can access these work from home solutions at additional savings with a 5% stackable coupon. Visit Dell.com/ExcelerateAmerica to access these savings. For any questions around the best remote solution for you and your business, call our Small Business Advisors at 800-757-8442.

 

Steps for Saving

  1. Visit Dell.com/ExcelerateAmerica
  2. Click ‘Save Now’
  3. Receive Coupon in Email & Apply in Cart
  4. Shop Work From Home Bundle Specials here

Save an extra 5% on XPS & Inspiron, Latitude, Precision, OptiPlex, Vostro, Dell Branded Accessories, and PowerEdge Servers.

 

Productivity


As we strive for increased efficiency, let’s also seek simplicity: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest. Here’s a look at three ways to embrace productive simplicity.

Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock
Photo: Merfin, YFS Magazine

Create a distraction-free zone

Distractions don’t look like distractions until they finish distracting you. If you have a barking dog or a jack-hammering neighbor next door, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones.

Next, manage your apps and notifications to reduce distractions. Pausing apps and customizing when and how you get notifications can help you stay focused. For the pro’s, it’s time to create device-free zones and times. Designate times of your day or spaces in your home to be device-free. This small step can reduce the urge to check emails and notifications.

 

Improve time management

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found again.” So how can we reclaim our time and manage it better? First, create small daily goals and prioritize them using your favorite desktop planner or task management app. Consider breaking down goals, even the big ones, into smaller tasks that can be accomplished more effortlessly. As a result, each task requires focus for a shorter period.

Next, support your small steps with the right apps. For example, download Be Focused, an unobtrusive task planner with a built-in timer. Not only will it help you stay focused on the task at hand, but it also lets you track your progress and gain new insights about your workflow.

 

Unplug and play

Unplugging can seem counterproductive, but non-work and ditch-the-screen activities can help free your brain up to focus on your next task. For at least 30 minutes a day, get in a daily workout, go for a run or bike ride, play with your pet, do puzzles with your family or keep your mind sharp with a game of chess. A brief 15-minute walk is also a great way to foster a free flow of ideas. Physical activity is a natural mood lifter. It relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and anger –– and right now, you’ve probably experienced all of the above.

 

We’ll get through this

Living through a pandemic is a shock to the system, and it’s awkward right now, so we need to take some time to get used to it. But when this is over, how we work, collaborate, and connect will have shifted. Use this time to work on your mindset, improve your workspace, access the best technology, and discover your productivity zone.

In the face of uncertainty and unpredictability, there is still room for a bit of optimism, plans, and hope for a future –– better days ahead.

No matter where your work takes you, Dell Technologies is here with seamless solutions to keep your productivity at its peak. Wherever work takes you, we’ll be there.

Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock
Photo: Merfin, YFS Magazine
Photo: Merfin, Adobe Stock
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Covid-19 SMB Recovery: What To Expect From Entertainment And Beyond

As industries grapple with the weight of a pandemic, the return to business as usual will be easier for some and much harder for others.

Photo: Rawpixel.com, YFS Magazine

To say the world has collectively been through the wringer in 2020 is an understatement. The beginning of a new decade has brought a fresh start, opportunities, and the weight of an unprecedented public health crisis, a major cause of individual stress and societal disruption.

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a global health emergency. In an instant, life and business as we knew it would change for millions across the globe. Since then we have witnessed a tremendous level of suffering and growth during these challenging times in the face of sudden and long-term changes.

 

Pandemic SMB recovery will be easier for some, harder for others

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world in many ways. Practically every aspect of life, in respective industries, has been impacted by the global health crisis and its ripple effect. As we seek a new path toward restored normalcy, in new forms, we will certainly return to our lives and businesses, fundamentally changed.

As industries grapple with the long-standing weight of a pandemic and the resulting impact, the return to business as usual will be easier for some and much harder for others.

It should come as no surprise that some industries will take years to get back to their pre-pandemic normal. Many in those industries are small businesses, and their recovery may take even longer, if at all.

 

Source: McKinsey & Company

 

The pandemic impact on media an entertainment

The entertainment industry spans the globe, thus the impact of a global pandemic has been brutal. No element of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry was left unscathed, from the shutdown of a casino, to film/TV production sets, postponed music festivals, and theaters around the globe.

“The recovery phase will likely require M&E [media and entertainment] companies to have the determination to confidently move forward. But to thrive, companies may need to break old models and build new ones that support a return to growth,” according to Deloitte analysis.

 

What to expect moving forward

How can companies and leaders can reset for growth beyond coronavirus? This is the million-dollar question for many SMBs. While strategies will be unique, with everything disrupted, going back to the same old thing is a losing strategy. The strongest companies across industries are reinventing themselves. Industries

As countries prepare now for the largest simultaneous global public-health initiative ever undertaken with the distribution of a vaccine, industries (especially retail and entertainment) will undoubtedly welcome the possibilities for a less socially distanced future.

Our most beloved industries were hit hard, but like the human spirit, they too will persevere. It will take a collaborative effort and support as we pave the way toward a Covid-free future.

 

Craig Lebrau is the CMO of Media Insider, a Wyoming-based PR company that aims to disrupt the way companies communicate their brand in the digital era.

Photo: Rawpixel.com, YFS Magazine
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COVID-19: How To Make Working From Home Smarter, Not Harder

Not used to working remotely? Here's how to increase productivity while we work from home and face the realities of COVID-19.

Photo: StockRocket, Adobe Stock

Photo: Hank Stout, co-founder of Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm | Courtesy Photo

We are living through a global pandemic. There’s no escaping this reality. Communities across the world have ground to a standstill. Businesses have closed their doors (some indefinitely). Daily commutes now consist of movement from the bed to a home office or workspace. Every industry has felt the impact of this global health emergency in one way or another.

It’s an abrupt and necessary transition.

The days ahead can seem confusing as we shift our work mindset from offices to home, manage daily distractions, and juggle new obligations. As many of us get used to working remotely, we must stay on top of our daily responsibilities. Here’s a look at five ways to increase productivity while we work remotely and face the realities of COVID-19.

 

1. Set up a workstation

Prolonged remote working requires an in-home workstation. Since most of us will be in quarantine, or under some type of shelter in place order, it’s beneficial to set up a workspace that is 100% dedicated to working.

For starters, invest in the right equipment. An ergonomic office chair and a desk at an appropriate height are great home office additions. You could also invest in a standing desk if sitting isn’t ideal for your back. If you aren’t able to invest in new office furniture, improvise with what you have at home. Create a dedicated workstation that fits your unique needs.

 

2. Establish a routine

Working from home can be exciting at first, but after a while, a lack of routine can be a tremendous productivity killer. This is why establishing a routine is necessary.

We easily develop a routine when we commute to an office: we drive to work, work at our desks, eat lunch, go back to our desks, and then go home. But as we navigate working from home, that daily routine can easily slip away.

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© Jacob Lund, YFS Magazine

Establishing a schedule and sticking to it is a habit that will increase your productivity. Without it, relaxation and work become intertwined, and it’s hard to differentiate the two. Treat every day as if you’re going to the office. Instead of going outside, your office is your kitchen table, patio, or home office.

 

3. Prioritize self-care

Productivity is important, and so is self-care. Remote working is easy and a lot can be done, but it can also take a toll on your mental health. As the world grapples with COVID-19, it’s especially important we take care of ourselves as we each do our part to #FlattenTheCurve.

Social distancing can affect our minds profoundly. During this time, take breaks. Remind yourself this won’t last forever. If it becomes too much, take a walk outside, call a friend, or get some exercise. A little break every now and then is healthy and it can even increase your work energy.

 

4. Minimize distractions

When we are at home, there are distractions. There may be pets running around, kids playing in the next room, or a TV blaring in the background. Without the office culture surrounding you, it’s easy to be distracted in your own house while working.

If you notice yourself becoming distracted, here are some ways you can refocus:

  • Turn on white noise
  • Put on headphones and listen to things that help put you in the working zone
  • Take a coffee or tea break
  • Go to an isolated room
  • Set productivity timers

All of these actions are a great start to get you back on track.

 

5. Establish boundaries

Last but not least, establishing boundaries is another way to increase productivity. Once you proactively address distractions, create a routine, and create a workstation, it’s time to address them.

Boundaries can include working from a different room in your house or apartment, hanging a do not disturb notice on your door, activating Airplane mode on your phone, or simply telling your family your work hours are essential and you need to be alone at specific times. This will help your work-from-home mentality and get you on track for more focused and productive days ahead.

 

Hank Stout co-founded Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm, to protect and pursue the rights of people who were harmed by the carelessness of others. Mr. Stout is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial lawyer who has been actively trying cases for over fifteen years. In recognition of his accomplishments and results, he has been selected by Thompson Reuters as a Super Lawyer since 2014 (a distinction given to less than 1% of the lawyers in the state of Texas) and has been selected as Lead Counsel.

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Five Ways To Grow B2B Sales In A Digital World

The COVID-19 pandemic is a launch pad for B2B sales teams to become digital and agile — at lightning-fast speed.

Photo: Mariia Korneeva, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock

Don Lee, Partner & CMO at Chief Outsiders | Courtesy Photo
Don Lee, Partner & CMO at Chief Outsiders | Courtesy Photo

Most CEOs would nod that the digital revolution is underway, but plenty haven’t fully understood what this means for their sales efforts. Here are five guidelines to ensure that your business is the “disruptor,” not the “disrupted.”

COVID is accelerating the transition online—even for B2B enterprises—which means that CEOs need to ensure their sales teams have the digital skills and the tools of engagement to win buyers, all without straying from the timeless principles that still apply.

It’s been a while since anyone argued that “dialing for dollars” is still the best way to boost sales, but there are some holdovers that think while digital has its place, the real work is still grounded in “boozing and schmoozing.” But over the past year, COVID-19 sped up the migration towards a digital approach, with more people working remote and relying exclusively on online methods to make buying decisions.

For some, it’s a whole new world, but that doesn’t have to be a threat. There are amazing tools available for those willing to learn a better way to apply what they already know. The future looks bright given what technology offers today, provided, of course, that CEOs, Chief Sales Officers (CSOs), and their staff embrace this new platform along with its new rules.

 

1. Lean into the digital transformation

Even before the pandemic shoved everyone on to one never-ending Zoom call, it was evermore clearer buyers were doing their initial research online, not just for B2C companies, but B2B as well. For example, one popular Google report claims 63% of shopping occasions begin online.

This means that a great website isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. Although, it’s been the new first impression for some time now. In fact, businesses should test sample home pages with real customers to discern the best version- that’s how important it is.

But COVID is accelerating B2B’s merging with B2C standards, as few people are eager to build relationships face to face at the moment. And if anyone is concerned that this is a momentary shift, they should know that many of their peers aren’t treating it as such.

Forrester report predicts that in 2021, B2B sellers and sales leaders will continue to evolve their methods and strategies in the face of pandemic-related challenges: 40 percent of B2B reps plan to modify their tactics to adapt to remote selling activities, and 57 percent of B2B sales leaders plan to make deeper investments in tools with Al and automation.

“40 percent of B2B reps plan to modify their tactics to adapt to remote selling activities, and 57 percent of B2B sales leaders plan to make deeper investments in tools with Al and automation.”Forrester

B2B enterprises might feel as if website chatbots and calls to action are pushy, but that’s precisely the engagement buyers expect. They want third party validation and a message that is comprehensive and compelling. The soft sell tactics that might be smart in person, will only get drowned out online, where the struggle is to be seen and most importantly, comprehended. Digital has been the tip of the spear for some time, and the pandemic made this fact impossible to ignore.

In fact, a recent Gartner study claims that over the next five years, an even greater rise in digital interactions between buyers and suppliers will break traditional sales models. They predict that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.

 

2. Create a digital customer experience

Plenty of companies use CRM tools as a data repository, but that’s not the kind of technology we’re talking about here. Gartner defined three key areas of technology no sales professional should ignore: hyper-automation, digital scalability, and AI.

“Hyper-automation” refers to the effective combination of complementary sets of tools that can integrate functional and process silos to automate and assist business processes. In short, this is moving more customer interactions online, into a digital channel. Chatbots have proven quite effective and customers are growing fonder of these instant, if automated, exchanges early in their buying process.

“Digital scalability” is the concept of using technology to cope with the increasing volume of customer interactions and sales work. The demands for swift and accurate targeting and contact are only growing, but there’s technology out there today to help. If hyper-automation helps with tasks, digital scalability is the application of that automation to speed up the entire process, across the entire sales operation.

“Chatbots have proven quite effective and customers are growing fonder of these instant, if automated, exchanges early in their buying process.”

Gartner admits that “AI” is only a concise, catch-all term that denotes the shift from highly analog decision making to automated, algorithm-based decision making. This means that decisions that might once have been based solely on hard-won experience are grounded in data and analytics. In fact, salespeople can use engagement tools that target the best day and time to call someone in each industry. That kind of intelligence might have been almost impossible to get without weeks (or even years) of trial and error.

But for all the promise of these technologies, it still requires an investment of time and resources, along with a willingness for staff to build these digital skills. This isn’t simply about knowing a piece of software, but a fundamental shift in the approach, one that centers the process on the digital experience, tapping social influencers for third party validation, sharing articles of interest, etc. It’s about building these connections digitally now.

 

3. Reinvent sales and marketing

Marketing professionals have long understood that they need to be omnichannel, but now companies need an omnichannel salesforce as well. Sales and marketing need to work hand in hand, becoming a single discipline, known in some circles as “Smarketing.” Marketing is integral in helping the salespeople pick the right part of the pond to fish, the right bait, and even the right gadget to help track the fish one can’t see.

Marketers have long understood the power of data and analytics and already revolutionized their discipline because of them. Now salespeople have new tech to revolutionize their craft as well. There are systems to track calls, and automate a playbook for following up on leads, and real time visibility in the sales pipe.

“Marketers have long understood the power of data and analytics and already revolutionized their discipline because of them. Now salespeople have new tech to revolutionize their craft as well.”

There’s even conversational analytics that can vet a sales call that was recorded and determine its effectiveness. That salesperson veered off script too much, or didn’t let the customer speak, or a recording of a leading salesperson could be a model for others to follow.

What this tech does is add the same layer of rigor that’s been the standard for marketers for years, and it allows the entire marketing-to-sales process to be closely monitored and refined at every step along the way.

 

4. Develop a strategy before execution

That is not to say that these great new tools replace what marketers do. A company can have all this tech, but if the branding, messaging, and positioning hasn’t been properly developed, all they do is get the company to that next “no” faster. Initially, businesses need to focus on branding, on the value proposition, on making sure that it’s all supported by robust market insight.

Number one is still knowing what the customer’s pain points are, and then, communicating the value to the end user. Then it’s time to build a great website with a call to action and continue to build content out, such as eBooks, and third-party validation. All technology does is add speed, rigor, and visibility to the process, which allows businesses to get smarter because it becomes a virtuous feedback loop.

 

5. Stay close to your principles

In some ways, this revolution is nothing more but a new way to do what salespeople have done since the first man convinced the guy in the cave next door that he could use a wheel too. Building trust, nurturing relationships, delivering value, communicating a value proposition that resonates, these are still happening with a chatbot, a Twitter feed, digital ads, or emails. And as much as these tools speed up a process, that still means a salesperson needs to be pushing that process along, day in and day out. The “hustle” has been transformed, not eradicated.

There are a lot of second and third generation companies that don’t appreciate what it takes to build the top of the funnel. There might be more smarts, or better technology, but there isn’t the momentum that created the founder’s exponential growth.

One company was debating whether to invest $10,000 on an industry conference, and while some junior folks were planning several meetings to discuss the ROI, the 74-year-old founder decided to do it after a single afternoon’s consideration. It was a risk, but that veteran was willing to take it. And then they used all the data analytics available to make the most of that conference.

That’s the best approach of all, to keep the old school values of decisiveness, ambition, and a little intuition, and apply them with the most innovative technology available. Get that additional speed, rigor, and visibility, without ever forgetting the goal is a business that performs so well, it’s still around for that next revolution.

 

Bottom-line

Over the past year, COVID-19 sped up the migration towards a digital approach, with more people working remote and relying exclusively on online methods to make buying decisions. Most CEOs would nod that the digital revolution is underway, but plenty haven’t fully understood what this means for their sales and marketing efforts.

For some, it’s a whole new world, but that doesn’t have to be a threat. There are amazing tools available for those who are willing to learn a modern way to apply what they already know. If executives embrace this new platform and ensure their teams have the digital skills to win online buyers, then the future will be bright.

 

Don Lee is Partner & CMO with Chief Outsiders, the nation’s leading fractional CMO firm focused on mid-size company growth. He Works with CEOs to accelerate growth by developing and implementing marketing strategies aligned with the organization.

Photo: Mariia Korneeva, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
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Health Is Wealth: Boost Your Wellness With Smart Probiotics

Covid-19 attacks your immune system, so you should take every opportunity to fortify your health –– especially when it comes to gut health.

Photo: Jacob Lund, Adobe Stock

When it comes to controlling the spread of Covid-19, many countries have proven there is a chance to make things better before things get much, much worse. However, others appear to be squandering the opportunity. As nations around the world grapple with the pandemic, nothing could be more comforting than knowing you have every opportunity to improve your health and wellness.

Given the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for Covid-19, attacks your immune system, you should take every opportunity to fortify your health and ensure no resource goes underutilized –– especially when it comes to gut health.

 

A healthy gut is a strong defense

The Covid-19 virus attacks like no other ‘respiratory’ infection, wielding such a diversity of outcomes on so many different organs. Its ability to wreak havoc from head to toe came as a surprise to the medical community. Patients with severe Covid-19 “suffer a runaway inflammatory response and, often, clot formation,” while some patients, “had to have their gut removed,” according to Stat News.

New and overwhelming evidence confirms “the virus also attacks platelet-producing cells, which produce extensive clotting in the veins and other small blood vessels of patients’ hearts, kidneys, liver, and lungs.” The extreme inflammatory response results in” patients with severe Covid-19 illustrating a high incidence of cardiac arrests and arrhythmias,” scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found.

It’s estimated that 80% of our immune cells exist in the gut. “The link between gut microbiota and human health is well-recognized and described,” in numerous studies over the years that “explain the mutual dependence between humans and their gut bacteria.”

Notably, “the coronavirus infects cells that line the inside of the large and small intestine, called gut enterocytes. That likely accounts for the diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain that about one-third of Covid-19 patients experience, said MD Anderson’s Maitra: “The GI symptoms reflect physiological [dysfunction] of cells of the lower GI tract.”

These findings can be added to numerous global reports that reveal a multitude of surprising injuries in COVID-19 patients.

 

Why probiotics?

A growing body of research confirms the importance of the gut microbiome, which plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and its overall benefit to the immune system.

Photo: Jacob Lund, Adobe Stock
Photo: Jacob Lund, YFS Magazine

As a result, innovation and progress abound to provide therapeutic solutions for many of the health issues that affect us today. One important area of focus is the use of probiotics to aid in nutrition as an adjunct therapy.

Probiotics, live microorganisms that restore gut flora, offer a good form of therapy to keep our gut microorganisms in check. They also aid digestion by aiding in nutrient absorption. The biggest takeaway, however, is that probiotics overwhelmingly contribute to immune function.

When considering how to optimize wellness, personalized probiotics can improve immune responses to ultimately mitigate the frequency and severity of inflammation. Functionally targeted probiotics are designed to counter chronic illnesses that affect approximately 45%, or 133 million Americans (even before the global spread of COVID-19).

 

Creating optimal health and wellness

Probiotics are considered “good” bacteria and is found naturally in foods and some supplements. If you prefer a natural means to functionally target the root cause of chronic ailments, they can help you feel your best.

Bacteria were once thought to be unwelcome invaders, yet, not all bacteria are harmful. “In fact, our bodies are home to an estimated 100 trillion good bacteria, many of which reside in our gut. Not only do we live in harmony with these beneficial bacteria, but they are actually essential to our survival.” Scientific research continues to show a symbiotic relationship between our bodies and microbes living within us.

Before adding probiotic supplements to your wellness routine, it’s good to know if and how they are beneficial to your body. Start with a proper analysis of your gut bacteria. Next, seek out a probiotic brand that offers microbiome analysis in an ISO certified laboratory. And verify the authenticity of the brand.

The goal is to optimize your wellness with functionally targeted probiotics, which means you should take a personalized approach. For instance, your demographic and psychographic information can be used to arrive at a personalized probiotic solution designed for your specific health and wellness needs.

Meanwhile, ensure your privacy is taken into account, including data confidentiality and results. Your service provider must be able to separate your personally identifiable information (PII) from protected health information (PHI). The use of multiple layers of encryption and access protection is a necessity.

 

Trust your gut

Every individual has a unique set of gut microbes, and data is vital if you want to effectively optimize your wellness. The microbial composition of your body revolves around factors that are individual to you: such as diet, age, lifestyle, ethnicity, and overall health, among other determinants.

A great deal of research has been performed on probiotics, but much remains to be learned to reap the full and inherent benefits. However, there is ample in-market proof that functionally targeted probiotics can help many people on their path to optimal wellness.

 

Hazel Hargreaves is a content writer on a mission to help entrepreneurs and small business owners build a strong online presence with high quality and shareable content.

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How COVID-19 Is Disrupting The Disruptors

Industries have taken a hard hit in recent months. Here’s how COVID-19 is disrupting the disruptors and how they’re reacting to the pandemic among us.

Photo: Vova Krasilnikov, Pexels

Simon Crompton, freelance Journalist and entrepreneur; Source: Courtesy Photo

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (a.k.a. COVID-19) a global health emergency on January 30, 2019. Since then, it has radically reshaped our world. Massive changes have been encouraged within society as previously beloved cultural and economic institutions were compelled to temporarily shutter amid a highly infectious and stealth contagion.

While many eagerly follow the news for the latest findings, few pay close attention to how COVID-19 is disrupting the disruptors themselves. Industries have taken a hard hit in recent months. Here’s a look at how COVID-19 is disrupting the disruptors and how they’re reacting to the pandemic among us.

 

Startup accelerators are concerned

Startups and the accelerators designed to help them grow and go-to-market are generally not poised to endure sizable losses and downturns over a long period. Many startups simply lack the capital and established consumer base to endure lengthy pandemic-induced slow-to-no-sales periods. They’re the first to close up shop when the economy constricts. Meanwhile, accelerators find themselves deprived of revenue once startups feel the burn.

Accelerators like Y Combinator, a U.S.-based seed money startup accelerator, are finding it necessary to pivot in ways that may diminish short-term benefits such as access to mentors, other founders, and potential investors. “As outbreaks of Covid-19 force schools and businesses to temporarily shut down, YC is grappling with the possibility that it may have to run its summer batch entirely online,” according to Wired.

This means that highly coveted YC connections are likely to be few and far between in the coming months. The loss of networking opportunities will be profound as entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors who would usually rub shoulders with one another are now socially distanced.

 

Supply chains are destined for restructuring

No industry is immune from the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 –– especially those which are labor-intensive. A quick review of the most vulnerable industries reveals how warehouse and transit companies have had to reshape operations in the face of growing digitization and are now forced to evolve yet again.

As employees and local communities succumb to the disease, supply chains (especially those with connections to China) will continue to bear a large brunt of the pandemic. As a result, many companies have adopted operational measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees. These new standards directly impact transportation, logistics, and consumers. The shift is felt among customers as companies experience operational delays in terms of order processing, shipping, increased call center volume and extended wait times.

Alternative manufacturing hubs like South Korea were not immune to the impact of COVID-19, though their mitigation strategies have garnered international recognition for efforts to #flattenthecurve.

 

Coworking is in turmoil

The coworking model hasn’t been around to witness an economic shock quite like this one. Many coworking spaces have closed their doors to members and working from home is the new normal for many. Coworking operations were simply unprepared for this seismic shift in work culture.

“To weather this uncertain storm, coworking operators are under pressure to reevaluate their operations and come up with new business models, sanitation practices, and flexible solutions for their members as quickly as possible.” Meanwhile, the need for social distancing practices in the foreseeable future is a wakeup call to coworking companies that have experienced immense strain on financial resources.

 

Companies like WeWork brace for a seismic work culture shift

For example, there is now widespread speculation about whether COVID-19 will be the end of WeWork as it adds to the stress of a struggling company formerly beleaguered with negative press and poor employee relations.

To add to a list of growing issues, WeWork skirted a New York State mandate in late march for all non-essential businesses to shut their doors, by claiming it is an essential business. The decision to remain open despite the widespread outbreak has drawn member and public scrutiny.

“I am just really shocked and offended and worried for people that WeWork is refusing to close,” said Jill Raney of consulting firm Practice Makes Progress. Their decision to remain open is “not in line with fundamental public health requirements,” Raney said. “If WeWork cared about the businesses and well-being of its members, it would close.”

Photo: Bruno Cervera, Pexels
Photo: Bruno Cervera, YFS Magazine

WeWork has required members to continue paying membership fees, “even as guidelines from public health officials discourage working in communal settings and” nonessential workers are urged to stay at home. The company does allow members to terminate their contracts early, but it requires a 30-day notice.

WeWork once lauded as a welcome disruptive force to work culture, may find themselves in even hotter water amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rise of coworking may have prevented an increase in London office prices and rents those across the globe, but as COVID-19 hits commercial real estate and companies fall behind on rent, the future is uncertain.

 

AI is inherently disruptive and built for the challenge

Not all disruptive industries are upended by the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, some novel advancements have aided the pandemic response in a meaningful way.

Consider the role of the big data and AI in COVID-19 response and you’ll witness how disruptors are best equipped to manage disruption. Some of the world’s leading scientists are tapping into the power of AI to better track the spread of COVID-19, according to The New York Times.

Companies like C3.ai, an artificial intelligence company in Redwood City, Calif., said their public-private consortium, C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, a new research consortium comprised of top universities and companies, “would spend $367 million in its initial five years, aiming its first awards at finding ways to slow the new coronavirus that is sweeping the globe.”

Artificial intelligence will be deployed in a number of ways to speed up the development of treatment options and help epidemiologists track new outbreaks in real-time.

 

The widespread impact of a global pandemic requires innovators to grapple with disruptions that upend existing practices. Along the way, they will ignite new ideas and consumer movements. Some disruptors are rising to the call as they navigate the new normal and show the world rapid innovation and leadership, while others may find COVID-19 brings about the end of an empire.

 

Simon Crompton is a freelance journalist and entrepreneur, who spends the majority of his time blogging about business startups and consulting on web development. He has launched multiple online companies. He is also a dedicated follower of fashion, and has written for the Financial Times and GQ.

Photo: Vova Krasilnikov, Pexels
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How Freight Companies Can Avoid Unnecessary Risks During COVID-19

Many industries have been forced to reexamine the way they do business and refocus on worker and client safety. The freighting industry is no exception.

Photo: Mike, Pexels

The rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned many people’s worlds topsy-turvy. With social distancing, working from home and donning PPE in public now commonplace, daily life looks very different than it did just a few short months ago.

While it’s true that nearly every action a person takes involves some level of risk in the best of times, exercising caution is particularly important during this unprecedented period in history. Safety should be a particularly high priority for freight operators and their employers. Being proactive about driver safety can help prevent the freighting industry’s most valuable resources from falling ill and infecting others. Freight companies looking to avoid unnecessary risks would be wise to heed the following pointers.

 

Utilize Dependable Monitoring Solutions

Knowing where your operators are at all times is now more important than ever. If a driver falls ill or incurs a serious injury in the middle of a delivery, knowing their exact location will enable you to get them the necessary assistance in a timely and stress-free manner.

Given how debilitating serious cases of COVID-19 can be, prompt assistance can be particularly helpful to any operators who are unexpectedly infected while on the road. In addition to fleet management solutions designed to keep drivers safe, you can help preserve the well-being of your cargo by investing in state-of-the-art impact recorders.

 

Don’t Allow Symptomatic Drivers to Come to Work

Drivers who exhibit symptoms of the novel coronavirus should be required to remain at home until being cleared to return to work by a medical professional. Even an operator seems to have a mild case of COVID-19 and isn’t particularly concerned about their own health, they stand to spread the virus to countless individuals while performing their job duties while in the throes of illness.

Photo: Marcin Jozwiak, Pexels
Photo: Marcin Jozwiak, YFS Magazine

Furthermore, just because a driver is experiencing a mild case of the novel coronavirus doesn’t mean the people they spread it to will experience equally minor cases. So, if an operator isn’t keen on the idea of staying home to protect their own health, they should do so for the sake of others.

 

Use Electronic Invoicing

Given COVID-19’s highly infectious nature, it’s best to limit in-person interactions whenever possible. So, if you typically depend on your operators to present clients with invoices upon arrival, there’s no time like the present to make the switch to electronic invoicing. While it may strike you as impersonal, electronic invoicing is fast, convenient and conducive to the elimination of unnecessary risks. Additionally, ask that drivers avoid directly interacting with clients unless absolutely necessary and require them to don PPE when doing so.

Since cash and coinage are swimming with germs, drivers should be encouraged to utilize digital forms of payment throughout their journeys. Every piece of money a driver touches represents a potential source of infection, so if your operators frequently stop at motels, restaurants or fueling stations, digital payment apps can help reduce their risk of coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.

 

Encourage Social Distancing Measures on the Road

In instances where in-person interactions can’t be avoided, operators should be encouraged to practice social distancing. In addition to remaining at least six feet away from other people, drivers should be required to wear face-masks and gloves when interacting with others on the road.

Operators should also be discouraged from eating at dine-in restaurants and seek out establishments that offer drive-through service and/or curbside pickup. Alternatively, this risk can be eliminated altogether by packing one’s own meals before hitting the road. Companies interested in helping operators in this regard should consider providing them with some extra food money, as well as food storage solutions.

 

In all likelihood, COVID-19 will remain a persistent threat for the foreseeable future. With a workable vaccine at least 12 to 18 months away, many industries have been forced to reexamine the way they do business and place a strong focus on worker and client safety. Needless to say, the freighting industry is no exception. Since freight operators don’t have the luxury of working from home, it’s important for them to exercise an abundance of caution to avoid infection and help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Photo: Mike, Pexels
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How To Create Connections, Deliver Smiles, And Inspire Your Community

Creating a community outreach effort during difficult times can provide precisely the invaluable payback your business needs.

Photo: © Fizkes, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock

Dr. Charles Sutera, FAGD
Photo: Pictured Left Dr. Charles Sutera, FAGD, founder of Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction | Courtesy Photo

Amid a significant health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, going the extra mile can seem overwhelming. Yet, now more than ever, our communities need comradery. Creating a community outreach effort during difficult times can provide precisely the invaluable payback your business needs.

In times of crisis, most businesses incessantly worry about their bottom line. It’s all about dollars and cents for some businesses during the pandemic–and rightfully so. However, the businesses that not only succeeded but grew during previous crises were the ones who thought long term.

Success is all about confidence in a long-term mindset. It’s paradoxical to consider giving back during a time of crisis, but that may be the strategy that helps to pull your business and its community through. It’s thinking toward the future, it creates goodwill, and it’s a return of investment that you simply can’t afford to ignore.

 

Creating an Outreach Program: Delivering Smiles, Fostering Community

As the founder of an aesthetic dental practice, I had to ask myself what our team could do during times like these to foster an increased sense of community, even while pandemic best practices dictate continued social distancing and other protective measures.

The goal was to create a program that was engaging and supportive of the community while building and maintaining a practitioner’s high profile in the minds and hearts of existing and potential patients. From a personal standpoint, I wanted to honor the everyday essential heroes making my community safe. This kicked off the #SmilesForBostonHeroes campaign, which resulted in us honoring not one, but two local heroes who have served our community in an amazing way.

Our selected winners were Naomi Flaherty, an emergency room and rehabilitation nurse who is also studying to be a family practitioner nurse. She is on the frontlines in the emergency room and also there to help people get back to their best, healthy lives. Naomi won a $20,000 smile makeover from our dental practice. “A positive outlook paired with ambition can get you anywhere you want to go,” said #SmilesForBostonHeroes winner Naomie. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

We originally planned for only one winner, but like all things in life, our program evolved. We couldn’t resist creating a second prize for another deserving nominee, Kanella Christopulos, a speech pathologist who has helped Covid-19 patients restore health to their virus-damaged lungs and deliver speech therapy to patient recovering from intubation. Kanella was awarded a $1,500 prize to use towards furthering her career.

“When you walk into a rehab patient’s hospital room for the first time, you are about to meet a person that is likely going through the hardest obstacle they’ve ever had to face. We bring with us discouraging and inevitable news that we don’t have a magic pill to fix it all,” said Kanella. “At these times, I’ve found having a smile in your ‘toolbox’ never fails. It’s simple and intuitive; a smile provides a sense of compassion, positivity, and hope. And in that moment, it might be just what the doctor ordered.”

The takeaway from recognizing the vital contributions Naomi and Kanella are making to the community? Greater exposure and community relationship-building for our practice brand and the intangible, powerful feeling that comes from doing something worthwhile – smile-worthy, indeed!

 

The Community Engagement Road Map

The #SmilesforBostonHeroes campaign was the first community giveback program we ran since closing down for three months during the Covid-19 crisis. The program had a simple blueprint. It is my hope for other businesses to use the example to create more of these kinds of programs. Here’s the road map we used:

We launched the program through Instagram in a newly established account, hoping to inspire people and make them smile through the pandemic. Instagram was selected because it’s a social channel with more than 120 million users in the U.S. and 37% of U.S. adults. Every day, 63% of Americans use Instagram. A powerful choice for community connection.

Here’s what it allowed for our business to do:

  • Showcase: The new Instagram account would serve as a way to showcase the excellent work of our practice while highlighting the community involvement program.
  • Engagement: As a highly interactive social channel, Instagram allowed us to invite participation on a dedicated page that we could also share among partner sites.
  • Awareness: Instagram is a great site to introduce yourself and your practice on both a local and national level. According to Instagram, 90% of users follow a business account.
  • Target: While 23% of 50 to 64 year-olds use Instagram, it’s most popular among our target age for smile makeovers: 57% of 18 to 29 year-olds use the site.
  • Results: 900% Engagement Boost and Smiles

 

Inspire Your Community and Elevate Your Brand

#SmilesForBostonHeroes launched in July 2020 and ran through the end of August. Program posts had 900% engagement as we shared the truly inspiring stories of all the nominated heroes, including Naomi and Kanella. Local and national media coverage added several hundred thousand viewer impressions, along with an SEO boost for our digital presence.

While social media has multiple uses for entrepreneurs and causes, leveraging the power of connection to elevate your brand while delivering true social good is a bottom-line business decision that also inspires the heart and connects the community.

 

Dr. Charles Sutera, FAGD, is a doctor of dental medicine, TMJ specialist, board-certified in moderate dental anesthesiology, and renowned for high profile cosmetic dental reconstructions. He is a certified Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry and is the founder of his dental practice, Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction.

Photo: © Fizkes, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
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How To Fend Off Tech Fatigue And Still Stay Connected

Spending copious amounts of time on our devices while working from home can make us feel disconnected from society and ourselves.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Photo: Liana Pavane, digital wellness coach and founder of TTYL | Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Liana Pavane, digital wellness coach and founder of TTYL | Source: Courtesy Photo

Let’s get one thing straight: working from home does not mean your pursuit of work-life balance is canceled. Work-life balance is more important now than ever as we navigate dividing work and leisure in the same space within our homes.

The problem lies within spending copious amounts of time on our devices—simply moving from computers for work to TVs for leisure. Not only are these developing habits making us feel disconnected from society, but they can also make us feel disconnected from ourselves.

As a result, we’re all on the verge of, or already, feeling tech fatigue. Fatigue is defined as “weariness from bodily or mental exertion.” When we are fatigued, our bodies reach a point of exhaustion from too much exertion (i.e., too much exercise or emotional stress). Tech fatigue, on the other hand, is a result of spending too much time on screens and results in an adverse reaction that affects our physical and mental health.

 

Fending off tech fatigue

In 2001, columnist John Dvorak coined the term “TFS” (a.k.a. Tech Fatigue Syndrome). TFS is another way of saying, “you’re just getting tired of it.” Technology draws us in because it’s designed to do so.

Instagram’s UI designers knew what they were doing with the infinite scroll (research has shown that the infinite scroll is addictive). Netflix knew what it was doing with autoplay (some people find the feature useful, while others –– not so much).

While many communities are under some form of lockdown (i.e., shelter in place orders), many of us don’t have access to our normal dopamine-based activities like group exercise and social interaction. We turn to technology for connection because it’s easy (and right at our fingertips). So, how can we overcome tech fatigue in a quest to stay connected?

 

Create mindful routines

While you’re working from home, following a Monday to Friday schedule will help your circadian rhythm (your 24-hour sleep/wake cycle).

Make an effort to wake up at the same time every day and eliminate technology for the first half-hour upon waking. This will allow your body and mind to awaken naturally and increase productivity for the rest of the day.

Start your morning by doing an activity to fill the time slot of your normal commute. Maybe that entails listening to a podcast or reading a book. Then create a flexible office schedule that allows for maximum productivity (which doesn’t have to include sitting at a desk for eight hours). Take mindful and creative breaks away from your screen (e.g., stretching, a brisk walk, or cook a healthy meal).

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, YFS Magazine

In the evenings, practice creating boundaries with technology. Log out of your work email client and consider if you have the bandwidth for social connection. If so, reach out to friends and family, skip the Zoom chat, and try a regular phone call instead. Treat yourself to a virtual event occasionally to make a regular evening feel extra special. On the days you don’t feel like connecting, skip it! Head to bed early, but make sure to put your phone out of reach at least an hour before bedtime to allow your body to release melatonin naturally.

 

Get enough sleep

As we adapt to changing obligations and stay-at-home orders, many of us find ourselves sleeping very little or sleeping too much. Technology impacts sleep quality in many ways and can keep your brain alert—preventing you from getting a restful night’s sleep. According to Sleep.org, one harmful side effect of technology is the blue light emitted from screens that suppress melatonin levels (the hormone our bodies release hours before bedtime).

Locke Hughes, a certified health coach, explains why some of us are sleeping a lot more (or less) right now. “Your body is releasing stress hormones in the same way as if you were doing some sort of strenuous physical activity.”

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, YFS Magazine

Our bodies and minds are used to a particular routine. When that routine is thrown off, it throws off our circadian rhythm. Thus, our waking and sleeping habits are not only struggling due to the stressful situation, but we harm our cycle even more by throwing technology into the equation more than usual. The takeaway? Prioritize your sleep routine.

 

Practice mood-boosting activities

There are plenty of ways to release dopamine without binging on technology. For instance, long walks are a great way for your body to get some Vitamin D and fresh air. If you’re staying indoors, many fitness studios offer online classes, and there are free fitness apps like Peloton and Fitonn –– while using technology, you’re moving mindfully.

Spend time on creative activities, a better return on your investment than scrolling through Instagram. Working on a puzzle each day releases tiny amounts of dopamine as you connect the pieces. As you get closer and closer to completing the bigger picture, adrenaline increases, and your body releases endorphins. Coloring books follow the same principles, as does reading a book or playing an instrument. Any activity that will allow you to reach a level of accomplishment creates a significant dopamine effect on your brain.

 

Mindful resets

Consistent routines, prioritizing sleep, and creative adrenaline-boosting activities are the trifecta for staying connected and overcoming tech fatigue.

Ultimately, be gentle with yourself. Everybody has a different experience, and it’s not always easy to create this kind of balance in life. There’s nothing wrong with a little scrolling or TV watching—some days that’s the best that we can do. Just know that a mindful reset isn’t limited to your phone.

 

Liana Pavane is a digital wellness coach and founder of TTYL—a tech-free community dedicated to human connection. Liana founded TTYL in 2018 to help people have a healthier relationship with technology and social media. Since launching, she has been featured on Thrillist, TimeOut, Thrive Global, NY1, The Mind’s Journal, Darling Magazine, and more for her work in digital wellness. As a professional community builder, Liana believes in the power of unplugging and living in the present moment. Her tech-free events have been hosted at prominent spaces such as Athleta, Showfields, The Assemblage, Freehold, The Flower Shop, and Tijuana Picnic. When she’s not hosting TTYL events, Liana is coaching clients on how to put down their phones and pick up their lives. As a born and raised New Yorker, Liana grew up in the city and studied theatre at Ithaca College. In her free time, you can find Liana networking with like-minded people or finding joy away from her phone.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
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How To Manage Your Online Presence During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The last few weeks, and especially the last few days have been downright scary. I've felt all of the emotions and feelings humanly possible.

Photo: Undrey, Adobe Stock

Photo: Ren Lenhof, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based photographer and blogger | Courtesy Photo

The last few weeks, and especially the last few days have been downright scary. I’ve felt all of the emotions and feelings humanly possible. I’ve had good nights, sweaty nights, restful nights, and restless nights.

But, the one thing I keep repeating in my head to bring me back to a good headspace is: “There are things I cannot control, but what I can control is how I respond.”

This is a lesson my Dad taught me when I was struggling a few years ago with a difficult family member. It’s a mindset my Mom reminded me of again in 2018 as I dealt with a not-so-pleasant client experience. And, then once again, this morning via FaceTime, whilst talking through my fears of income, savings, and a retirement fund.

 

Plant seeds for future success

This week has made me realize more than ever that I have the right to be scared. I also I can be resilient, resourceful, and level-headed no matter what life throws at me. Continuing to keep my business afloat during Covid-19 is just one more challenge I am up for.

“It’s okay to be scared. Legitimizing fear is one of the keys to helping people avoid or overcome denial. And a crucial part of legitimizing fear is expecting people to be able to bear it, act sensibly in spite of it, and come out the other end of the adjustment reaction into the New Normal.”Peter Sandman

Right now is the time to start planting seeds for future success. That way, by the time we come out on the other side of this pandemic, we will be ready to take control and know we will thrive and prosper in the months and years ahead.

 

Maximize your online presence as more people shelter in place

As a business owner, one way to ensure success is to solidify and maximize your online presence. Millions of people will be sheltering in place.

Photo: Undrey, Adobe Stock
Photo: Undrey, YFS Magazine

The exponential growth and global spread of Covid-19 has “prompted cities and areas everywhere to take action, ordering quarantines and lockdowns in an effort to keep people indoors and curb the spread of the coronavirus.” As a result, the way consumers engage with your business will shift for the forseeable future –– much of that shift will take place online.

Here’s a look at four ideas to help manage your online presence as more people stay connected online during the Coronavirus outbreak, a global health emergency.

 

1. Social media: Get creative with Instagram stories

At this stage, a good majority of your customers and general audience are cooped up at home (or will be soon). Without a doubt, pretty much everyone is increasing their social media screentime.

Full transparency, my screen time was up by 10% just in this past weekend! While browsing through Instagram Stories isn’t necessarily the same as visiting your online or brick and mortar store, Stories still provide a great opportunity for you to connect.

From polls to Q and As and online flash sales, you can engage people while they shelter in place. Stories are ideal because they don’t overwhelm followers the way frequent posts to your feed will overtime. They allow you to post anything you want without disrupting your main feed. Now is a great time to experiment and have some fun!

 

2. Collaboration: Uplift businesses near you in solidarity

Unless you own a business that produces artisan hand sanitizer, like many small businesses, you are struggling amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

While this is stressful, it simultaneously opens up space for collaboration and solidarity among other small business owners. For example, I’ve been reaching out to other businesses in my community and talking through their immediate needs and goals.

I’ve made plans to cross-promote with other local busineses on social media and I am already seeing others follow my lead. This simple action has connected and re-connected me with fellow business owners. It reminds me that we are all in this together!

 

3. Email Marketing: Communicate with hope and compassion

It’s a good idea to send out a reassuring, compassionate email to your mailing list. Our inboxes have all been inundated with emails about COVID-19 cancellations and concerns from tons of companies and organizations. I choose to set myself apart from the rest, by sending out supportive and uplifting email messages.

If needed, by all means, send out an email with comprehensive information about your plan of action, but be human, be candid, and if you’re able, consider using a tone of tasteful, on-brand humor.

Reassure customers that you’re not going anywhere and that you will find creative solutions to move forward in the midst of chaos.

 

4. Communication: Don’t leave your audience and customers hanging.

Carefully consider your communications amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Your customer base will remember how you respond during this unprecedented time in history.

This probably goes without saying, but when a customer reaches out, reply promptly and comprehensively. Provide compassionate, informative answers to their questions. At the end of the day, even if your products or services change in response to this global health emergency, you want your audience to know you’re not going anywhere and that you’re stable enough to weather the storm. The relationships with your clients and customers are now more important than ever.

 

Ren Lenhof is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based serial entrepreneur, owner of Studio 29 Photography and the House Fur lifestyle blog. She takes photos that make people ‘feel something.’ Her blog shows readers the best ways to live with the happiest houseplants and spoil their ‘good’ dog. Her work has been featured on Martha Stewart, Huff Post, Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, and more.

Photo: Undrey, Adobe Stock
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HR Experts Share Three Steps To Organizational Success In 2021

What can be done immediately to make sure that entering 2021 is a meaningful turning of the corner, not just a flipping of the calendar?

Photo: Jacob Lund, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock

Jason Walker, HR LEAD at Thrive HR | Source: Courtesy Photo

There are many ways to discuss the year 2020. Some of them involve profanity. The entire world has endured the anxiety and pain of COVID-19. Here in the U.S., we recently endured what may be the most fractious presidential election in decades — and possibly ever.

From Wall Street to Main Street, the economic gap has never been wider, and those of us with kids stuck in distance learning have a new, visceral appreciation for what happens to children, both educationally and emotionally, when kept too far away from their peers.

And workers are not immune. Business trips and industry events vanished. Our co-worker collaborations now filter through the lag-filled Hollywood Squares world of Zoom. Forced work-from-home is changing our professional conduct and not always for the better. A paper published by the Harvard Business School, “Collaborating During Coronavirus: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work, ” found some not-too-surprising results from a study of more than 3 million worldwide workers. During COVID-19 lockdowns, on average:

  • Employees sent 5.2% more emails daily
  • Workers sent 8.3% more emails after business hours
  • People attended 13% more meetings
  • The workday ran 8.2% longer

Somehow, we’re compensating for our seclusion by working longer and creating more interactions. We feel an impulse to connect more, but we’re doing so in ways that may be increasing stress and undermining actual productivity.

More than any year in our memory, 2020 has been the year of division and isolation. Nor are we in the clear. As USA Today just reported, the vaccine rollout will be likely “bumpy” and require at least six months for distribution through the majority of the population. Nevertheless, organizations and workers need help now.

What can be done immediately to make sure that entering 2021 is a meaningful turning of the corner, not just a flipping of the calendar?

 

Step 1: Understand Social Capital

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes social capital as “the links, shared values and understandings in society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and so work together.” Social capital is the glue that binds our social networks together.

That sounds a bit academic and intangible, so let us offer a real-world example with a slightly different angle. Here at Thrive HR, we (Jason and Rey) have been working together since we were in human resources at Cisco two decades ago. We began as colleagues, became friends, and have taken care to stay in contact across the years. You might think of all that interaction as a mutually accrued currency — the social capital between us. We had so much social capital that we founded Thrive HR Consulting together.

Isolation and division erode social capital. Ever wonder why people fly into offended rages so easily on social media? It’s because most of those relationships have no social capital, no accrued currency, to draw down. While socially distanced during lockdown, we (and countless other close friends and colleagues) have a large enough capital buffer to withstand 12 or even 24 months of separation, if needed. What you might call “thin” relationships do not.

Human resources leaders need to understand that all relationships involve some amount of social capital. The challenge, especially with a work-from-home labor force, is to promote interactions that, if not build, at least maintain existing social capital levels. The erosion must stop. It undermines morale, saps productivity, and will drain the lifeblood from organizations already under unusual strain.

 

Step 2: Promote Unity

We’re not going to tell you which is which, but here’s a fun fact: We (Jason and Rey) are complete political opposites. In the recent election, one campaigned and phoned tirelessly for party X while the other is the state’s vice chairman of the opposing party Y.

So, in a year when we’ve seen friendships and even family bonds incinerate in the so-called dumpster fire of 2020 politics, it’s immensely gratifying that we continue to prize each other’s respective strengths. We love one another like brothers and share so many things in common. We keep working together to make things better for our business and even our country.

Said differently, we exhibit unity. Unity, when applied as a guiding principle across an organization, can be massively, positively transformative. You might describe unity as a state of oneness or harmony. When a workforce moves in unison and everyone focuses on a common goal, that group can accomplish anything.

The number-one enemy of organizational unity is ego. You know that one person who sucks up all the oxygen in a group meeting? The one who pushes their own ideas or agenda to the exclusion of everyone else? Nothing gets done. Factions form. Resentment builds. That one person works desperately toward an individual goal because his/her ego can’t bear the thought of being wrong or even out of the spotlight, and it can destabilize the entire organization.

To be clear, unity does not mean unity only in a certain group. That exacerbates us-versus-them thinking. Unity means everyone.

HR leaders and management can build and promote unity through devotion to open communications, transparency, and clarity of both goals and roles. This builds trust in the organization from top to bottom. Unity doesn’t happen overnight, but it will come with practice, consistency, and commitment to rewarding those who help build unity and removing those who get in its way.

 

Step 3: Yes, Team-Building Exercises — Still

One of the biggest ways to promote social capital in organizations, which in turn smooths progress toward unity, is through team building. Sharing experiences is our mutual currency. And since it’s so hard to share anything when remote, managers need to work extra hard to create positive experience opportunities for their employees.

True, you’re probably not going zip lining together in the immediate future, but this is the heyday of online group gaming. Not everything has to be stiff and stodgy. Consider a few rounds of Among Us (four to 10 players) or laugh your way through Scribbl.io (up to 12 players). Maybe work through some brain teasers at brainden.com.

Or revive the ghost of middle school past. Instead of “truth or dare,” you might have “think or drink,” wherein everyone has to suggest a solution, no matter how strange or comical, to a company product or workflow problem. No answer in 20 seconds? Drink! (Let your corporate culture guide the beverage selections.)

Sponsor a contest or two. Have your group study the same cooking video and show off their culinary victory or tragic Pinterest fail. You get the idea. Start people doing things together, even though they’re separated, and get them interested in one another as human beings, not only faces in small squares on a screen.

 

Come Together and Soar Higher in 2021

Social capital. Unity. Team building. These are three sides of a single pyramid. Put them together and you can pull your enterprise out of the 2020 morass. Get your people reinvigorated and reinterested in each other.

Even though we’re going to remain socially distant for a while longer, we can weather the rest of this storm in better shape physically, fiscally, and mentally. Companies that do will find themselves with less ground to make up when we return to the workplace and in a far better position to capitalize on the coming recovery.

 

Thrive HR Consulting is a Silicon Valley, Austin, TX and Denver, CO-based, minority-owned HR Advisory that provides fractional CHRO Support and value-based HR support. Thrive supports your HR needs virtually or in person. Our team’s specialties include Mergers and Acquisitions, C-Suite executive coaching, employee relations, diversity, inclusion and belonging millennial consulting, performance management, employee engagement, talent acquisitions and digital HR transformation, and the ability to improve overall HR performance for your organization.

Photo: Jacob Lund, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock
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In The COVID-19 Era, Digital Technology Will Call The Shots

Large economic potential is linked to digitization—and much of it yet to be captured.

Photo: Fizkes, Adobe Stock

We are living in exceedingly uncertain times. This much is certain. The COVID-19 pandemic, a global health emergency, has upended life as we know it in nearly every possible way. As a result, it has become increasingly apparent that business, as usual, is no longer the gold standard, and change is the only constant to everyday life. COVID-19 (i.e., the coronavirus disease) has unleashed an unprecedented level of transformation that is unfamiliar to our generation.

Industrial and economic activity is grinding to a halt as governments around the globe extend shutdowns due to its swift spread. As a result, many aspects of how we live, work, and play must be reimagined.

Given the nature of infectious disease transmission, and conventional wisdom that leads many to expect a COVID-19 vaccine is roughly 18 months out, (that in itself may be a wildly optimistic timeline) many are realizing there are few short-term answers.

Since normalcy, whatever that may look like, seems to be in our distant future, it begs the question: How can we preserve our economy and lessen the impact and aftermath of COVID-19 in the weeks and months ahead?

 

As consumer behavior shifts, digitalization rises

Perhaps the answer lies in technological progress. It has become increasingly evident that digital technologies have become a force to be reckoned with for quite some time, and this shift has never been more valid than it is right now.

As social distancing orders are gradually extended, the exceedingly prominent role of digital technologies grows more prominent.

So, how can digital technology preserve the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

Digital technology has a bright future amid a steep pandemic learning curve

First and foremost, digital technologies and subsequent consumer behavior shifts (for example, internet usage stats) are more or less aimed at making life more convenient.

The economy is under intense attack on multiple fronts, and the weight of social distancing regulations is ushering in a digital future. From remote working and online learning to e-commerce, blockchain, contactless payments, and more –– digital business models enable the economy to proceed forward, as best as it can, amid a steep pandemic learning curve.

Ultimately, a temporary shift in economic order will prove convenient and likely become permanent in many aspects.

 

Digital natives will call the shots

There’s no escaping the notion that digital technology can be more efficient during challenging times (when implemented correctly).

As the global health crisis ensues, we are actively and consistently (perhaps even subconsciously) rethinking life in terms of increased efficiency.

We know a few things to be self-evident concerning digital transformation. As McKinsey Global Institute suggests, “Large economic potential is linked to digitization—and much of it yet to be captured, digital natives are calling the shots, digital changes everything—even industry boundaries, and agile is the new way to compete.”

Digital technologies have been a driving economic force and will likely experience rapid acceleration in the days ahead as more people go online. In this respect, the best is yet to come.

 

Craig Lebrau is the CMO of Media Insider, a Wyoming-based PR company that aims to disrupt the way companies communicate their brand in the digital era.

Photo: Fizkes, Adobe Stock
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Pandemic: How To Lead During Incredibly Difficult Times

For leaders, the question is not if you will face times of worry, stress, and setbacks, it is how will you lead during these times.

Photo: Sirichai, Adobe Stock

Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo

On January 30, 2019, The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus (a.k.a. #COVID–19) a global health emergency. The acknowledgement of the risk the virus posed to countries beyond its origin in China and of the need for a more coordinated international response to the outbreak has become increasingly clear. Meanwhile, the resulting market downturn has reminded all leaders of the value of life and how quickly things can change.

Although many companies can survive serious circumstances, such as a global pandemic, any downturn in the market and anxiety amongst your team will have a lasting impact on business.

In the weeks and months ahead, every leader will engage with employees, partners, and customers that will deal with mounting worry, anxiety, and confusion. I often work with CEOs and companies that deal with unexpected changes, sudden layoffs, and/or an unexpected employee exits that impact the organization.

In difficult times a critical question becomes apparent: “What is a leaders’ role during an unexpected crisis?

 

Leading your team in the face of unexpected change

 

1. Show up!

In his book, Leadership, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani wrote about a core principle he practiced during the tragic period after 9/11.

He wrote about the importance of a leader’s presence during difficult times and asserted that “Weddings are discretionary; funerals are mandatory.” He continued, “(Weddings are) important; a leader ought to join with people in enjoying those rewards for hard work and sacrifice. But when the chips are down––when someone you care about is struggling for answers or burying a loved one––that’s when the measure of a leader is taken.”

The lesson is clear: Leaders need to understand that their presence is needed most when there are times of grief and sorrow. Unexpected changes and difficult times present opportunities to relate to your team and walk together through difficult moments in life and business. A leader that shows up at funerals, or at the hospital, or a persons’ home during crises builds morale and loyalty.

Experience Question: How can you show you are committed to being there for your people in difficult times?

 

2. Remain empathetic and steady

It’s time to reset expectations and directions. A team that is experiencing excess stress, uncertainty, sorrow, and/or grief cannot move at the same speed as a fully functioning team. Leaders need to understand the impact of the situation and reset expectations.

Why Companies Hire Consultants
© Jacob Lund, YFS Magazine

Be a steady hand in a difficult time to guide (and not demand) during turbulent times. A leader that drives a team member harshly during a difficult time (at an individual, household, and national level) will provoke resentment and anger. Being a good leader is knowing when to challenge, encourage, and when to sit with your people.

Experience Question: Do your people know you have reasonable expectations during challenging times?

 

3. Be thoughtful

Remember the significance of the situation at hand. One of the best leadership practices a mentor taught me was to remember the significant events in people’s lives.

It is a powerful thing when a leader shows up during the time of difficulty in someones’ life. It is a defining moment when a leader sends a note to the person telling them they are thinking about that person and understand the significance of their trouble and pain. A leaders’ calendar should be filled with important dates in the lives of their team. These dates could include the loss of someone significant, the date they received a bad health diagnosis or a divorce.

Experience Question: Could you mark your calendar or ask an assistant to create a process to remember the significant dates in the lives of your team?

 

4. Show resolve

Be more committed than ever to moving forward. In times of worry and change, people look to their leader for direction. During hard times in the life of the company, people need to see leaders that will lead their people to a better place.

“It is during these difficult times that real leaders emerge forged by the fire and battle-ready to meet the future ahead.”Ken Gosnell

It is during these difficult times that real leaders emerge forged by the fire and battle-ready to meet the future ahead.

Leaders who move their organization forward during times of worry and looming defeat will work diligently to develop an attitude of resiliency. These leaders inspire teams to act even when paralyzed by fear. These leaders understand that even in the worst of times, some businesses and organizations make progress, develop profits, and find new solutions for the problems that people face.

Resilient leaders are determined to turn the difficulty into a defining moment of breakthrough. These leaders work tirelessly to sow seeds in the storm so that they can reap a harvest for years to come. How a leader leads during difficult times will establish how quickly the company and team move forward after being set back.

Experience Question: Do you have a plan that tackles how to lead forward in a time of a setback?

 

Lead well

Leaders have to lead during times of difficulty and hardship. The question is not if you will face times of worry, stress, and setbacks, it is how will you lead during these times.

Leaders have an important role during uncertain times. And when you lead correctly during this time, everyone benefits. In truth, your people, your team, and your organization will all become better if you lead better during hard and difficult times.

 

Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience). He serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations that enable to go further faster. He has worked with hundreds of CEOs and leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. Ken is the creator and facilitator of the Christian CEO Linkedin Group and creator of the CEO Experience Impact Assessment. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. Connect with @ken_gosnell on Twitter.

Photo: Sirichai, Adobe Stock
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PPP Funding Fail: 80 Percent Of Applicants Are Still Waiting For Assistance

As corporations drained the Payment Protection Program (PPP) dry, many small businesses who desperately needed funding are left behind.

Photo: Cottonbro, Pexels

Disaster. Fiasco. Debacle. “That’s how the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) was widely described,” USA Today reports. “PPP is the loan program aimed at helping small businesses and the self-employed keep their employees paid through the coronavirus crisis, with loans that can be ‘forgiven’ – in other words, turned into a grant. But frankly, it’s just a mess.”

As corporations drained the PPP dry, many small businesses who desperately needed funding are left behind. Thirteen days after its launch, the $349 billion PPP fund — part of a broader $2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package — ran out of money.

“The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was supposed to infuse small businesses, which typically have less access to quick cash and credit, with $349 billion in emergency loans that could help keep workers on the job and bills paid on time,” the Associated Press reports.

“The Senate wanted these funds to go through banks instead of the Treasury Department or the SBA. This was supposed to get money to businesses faster. Instead, it created mass confusion and frustration.

Photo: Cottonbro, Pexels
Photo: Cottonbro, YFS Magazine

Instead, “Companies with thousands of employees, past penalties from government investigations and risks of financial failure even before the coronavirus walloped the economy were among those receiving millions of dollars from a relief fund that Congress created to help small businesses through the crisis.”

Nationwide chains and companies recently revealed they received funds from the program designed for businesses with fewer than 500 employees before the $349 billion in funding ran out last week.

 

80 percent of PPP applicants are still waiting

The NFIB Research Center released a survey today on the small business loan programs. Small business owners were asked about the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan on April 17, the day after the programs ran out of money.

About 20% of submitted applications have been fully processed with funds deposited in the borrower’s account, but 80% of respondents said they are still waiting, and many do not know where they are in the application process.

Most small business owners believe it will take beyond 2020 to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, with only one-third of small business owners believing their community will get back to a normal level of economic activity by the end of the year. A quarter of owners believe it will not be until 2022 or later before the economy returns to normal.

“Small businesses were prepared and ready to apply for these programs, the only financial support options for most, and it is very frustrating that the majority of these true small businesses haven’t received their loan yet,” said Holly Wade, NFIB Director of Research & Policy Analysis. “Small businesses make up nearly half of the economy, and it’s crucial that their doors stay open.”

State-specific data isn’t available, but NFIB State Director Annie Spilman said, “Small businesses employ 5 million people in Texas. Unless Congress acts quickly to provide financial assistance, a lot of small businesses will be forced to close permanently, putting a lot of people out of work.”

 

Fast Facts: Many small business owners feel they’ve been left behind

 

About three-quarters of small business owners (almost all employer businesses) have submitted an application for a PPP loan as of April 17.

  • About one-in-five (20%) of submitted applications have been fully processed with funds deposited in the borrower’s account.
  • Nearly 80% are still waiting, many not knowing where they are in the process.

 

About 40% of small business owners successfully submitted an application for an EIDL through the SBA website.

  • Among those who submitted an application, most (77%) requested the emergency grant of up to $10,000.
  • Of those who requested the EIDL emergency grant, about 10% have received the funds.
  • Essentially, all of the EIDL applicants (99%) have yet to receive the loan.

 

Most small business owners believe it will take beyond 2020 and into the years following to get back to normal economic activity.

  • About one-third of small business owners believe their community will be back to a normal level of economic activity by the end of the year.
  • Just under 40% believe more normal levels of economic activity will return in 2021.
  • A quarter of owners believe it will not be until 2022 or later before the economy returns to normal.

The full survey is available here.

 

For more than 75 years, NFIB has been advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven. Since our founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses, and remains so today. For more information, please visit nfib.com.

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Self-Care: Why It’s Not Working For You

The answers to your breakthrough starts here. Making our own path sounds familiar, right? If there’s anyone who can figure this out –– we can.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Photo: Emily Chalk Battaglia, Founder and Senior Managing Partner of East of Ellie | Source: Courtesy Photo

Life as we know it has become –– different, hasn’t it? Yep, we’re talking about the widespread impact of COVID-19. It seems as though everyone’s normal routine has been swept up in a tornado and we’re all doing our best to organize the pieces, but boy does it take a toll.

Many entrepreneurs already embrace the WFH (a.k.a., work from home) lifestyle, so that may be less of an adjustment for some. Yet, many of us are now dealing with new challenges (because as entrepreneurs, we didn’t have enough to figure out).

These challenges may include spouses in our home office space, babies who need full-time care, and/or children who need homeschooling, or to the contrary, the stress of isolation can cause a full-body shutdown.

Regardless of your scenario, the stress and anxiety of financial planning and adjusting strategic plans is overwhelming. As a result, it can seem impossible to focus on business growth with your hands tied behind your back.

To cope with downtime, we often find ourselves reaching for what is advertised as “self-care” products and services. We may end up searching for anything that claims to hit that refresh button on our mental health (e.g., those glam facemasks, meditation apps, and at-home workouts).

These certainly help and force you to carve out “me time,” which is a good thing since our hobbies and free time are usually work-related projects. Yet, overall, why is it that a warm bath causes a lingering sense of overwhelm, and the Zumba videos do absolutely nothing but make you feel like a bad dancer?

 

Because entrepreneurs are wired differently

We thrive by using our brains to solve problems, building our business around our passions in life, and the yearning to create is woven into our DNA. Utilizing these skills, in a way, is our self-care. It’s what makes us feel more like us. We thrive on deadlines and client collaboration, which, for some of us, simply doesn’t exist right now. This global pandemic has robbed us of our ability to activate our businesses in the ways we had planned. Reality check –– it is mentally troubling to us.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, YFS Magazine

The recurring message by which to solve this stress is to focus on self-care. But first, you need to be self-aware of what you truly need to find balance. Only then, can you identify what you need to achieve meaningful self-care habits.

For starters, consider these questions as prompts to discover what’s missing.

 

Which areas of my business bring me the most happiness?

Prioritize accordingly and work on the elements of your business that inspire you to get you out of bed in the morning. Client projects may not be active, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t countless ways to grow your business right now.

Build the social media presence you’ve dreamed of. Revamp pitch decks and other marketing materials. Connect with competitors, partners, and make plans for the future, or even for right now. Consider the positive things you can do to embrace this time in your life.

 

How can I embrace creativity outside of my business?

We all have a creative side that yearns to be unleashed. Whether it’s artistic or developing creative solutions to problems, we need to fulfill that desire. This is where dedicating time for hobbies, cooking meals you’d never tackle before, finishing home renovation projects, and getting crafty with your kids can contribute to your mental well-being.

 

Do I need to contribute to something bigger to feel fulfilled?

Even if you operate outside of the non-profit space, as a business owner, you contribute to a bigger picture. You may not even realize it, but that larger picture means a lot to you. Countless volunteer options can help you employ the skills that others don’t have, even if it’s not an obvious alignment.

For example, event planners are helping pop-up organizations get organized, people of all skills are virtually reading books to children, and musical talent can be broadcasted to bring smiles to faces. You don’t have to physically create masks for hospital workers or donate funds to contribute and make a difference in the world.

 

How much time do I need to spend on my business daily to feel accomplished?

Some days it can feel like you give 10 minutes to your business, 10 minutes to social media, 15 minutes to distractions at home –– and repeat. The result? You feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, YFS Magazine

Realistically, you may not be able to give your business eight hours a day right now. So, what is the number of hours that will make you feel accomplished given other commitments you cannot influence? Carve out that amount of focus time and get it done. Setting realistic expectations for yourself is key to feeling good about the work you’re doing.

 

How do I stay motivated?

After all is said and done, none of these tips are helpful if you are not motivated. Podcasts, books, checking in with other business owners, and consulting a business coach are great ways to get that fire back. The possibilities are endless to discovering what motivates you to keep going. You simply have to be open to making small habits a part of your daily life.

 

Self-care is more than a buzzword

The answers to your breakthrough rests in creating your opportunities amid this socially distant reality. Making our own path sounds familiar, right? If there’s anyone who can figure this out –– we can.

Self-care shouldn’t be merely a buzzword. Instead, it’s a holistic approach based on all of the things in your life that make you happy and fulfilled. It takes work to identify these for yourself, but when you do, you can wake up daily knowing that you’re killing. it.

 

As Founder and Senior Managing Partner of East of Ellie, an events co., Emily Chalk Battaglia spearheads the creative direction for all agency events. For the last 10 years, Emily has worked alongside her legendary clients to brainstorm new ideas and set the direction and tone for innovative event themes and concepts focused on the guest experience. East of Ellie’s clients include Shiseido Americas, bareMinerals, Adobe, and more. Emily and her team were awarded the 2019 Gold Stevie Award for Women Run Workplace of the Year – 10 or Less Employees.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
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The Response To COVID-19 Should Be More Kindness

Researchers found that being kind to ourselves or to anyone else — yes, even a stranger — or actively observing kindness around us boosted happiness.

Photo: Anna Shvets, Pexels

Photo: Ren Lenhof, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based photographer and blogger | Courtesy Photo

I have noticed my friends and I now more than ever, participating in charity events, donating, and showing random acts of kindness during this pandemic. Random acts of kindness are exponentially taking place, they are necessary, now more than ever, and there are simple ways you can spread joy during these unprecedented times.

When we eventually come out on the other side of this pandemic, acts of kindness help you just as much as those on the receiving end.

 

Spread joy during uncertain times

Now is as good a time as any to reach out to those who may have had a brief, albeit powerful impact on the way we live our lives. Spreading joy and saying thank you is so important, especially as many of us shelter-in-place and limit social interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a time of uncertainty and isolation, reaching out to loved ones, family, friends, and acquaintances can mean more than you will ever know. When someone has an impact on your life, a simple ‘thank you’ can be extraordinary. This time can inspire you to reach out to others and let them know how they have been influential in your life and that they are not alone.

Spread some joy to make others smile and brighten their day with random acts of kindness.

Photo: Mish Vizesi, Pexels
Photo: Mish Vizesi, YFS Magazine

 

Random acts of kindness boost happiness

Being kind pays off. “Research shows that acts of kindness make us feel better and healthier.” Here’s a look at a few ideas to get started.

  • Send a friend a gift card for their favorite local coffee shop.
  • Send a “just because” card to thank them for being in your life and impacting who you are today.
  • Send fresh flowers to brighten their home.
  • Order their favorite snack, meal, or dessert for delivery to their door. If you live close by, drop it off on their porch. This is a win-win since you can get out of the house for some fresh air (safely) and surprise your loved one.
  • Pick up the phone and say hello. Phone calls seem to be a thing of the past. However, videoconferencing apps like FaceTime, Zoom, and voice calls have experienced a recent uptick in demand due to shelter in place orders and extended social distancing measures. We need interaction, so leverage technology to connect with those close to you.

According to Harvard Health, a study reported “on how people felt after performing or observing kind acts every day for seven days. Participants were randomly assigned to carry out at least one more kind act than usual for someone close to them, an acquaintance or stranger, or themselves, or to try to actively observe kind acts. Happiness was measured before and after the seven days of kindness. The researchers found that being kind to ourselves or to anyone else — yes, even a stranger — or actively observing kindness around us boosted happiness.”

 

During a public health crisis, kindness is desperately needed all around the world. We are sheltering in place and have little to no contact with others around us. Performing random acts of kindness can help someone to see the good in the world. As you spread joy and happiness, you will help others experience the good during difficult times.

 

Ren Lenhof is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based photographer and blogger who has been featured on Martha Stewart, Huffington Post, West Elm, Pepsi, and more! Check out her lifestyle blog and photography at housefur.com.

Photo: Anna Shvets, Pexels
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