Bridging Minds: Navigating Mental Health in a Digitally Evolved Workplace

The Interplay of Mental Health, Public Speaking Fears, and New Work Dynamics in the Post-Pandemic Era

In March of 2020, the entire world was put on pause. Something unprecedented happened, and we were all forced to move into our homes 24/7 due to a worldwide health emergency. It was a source of great anxiety due to job uncertainty, anticipatory grief, and increased depressive episodes. Even before the pandemic hit, at least 500,000 Canadians were missing work due to mental illness each week, and it was the leading cause of disability in the country. 

The prevalence of the two most common mental health issues (anxiety and depression) continues as of 2023. Specific populations felt the sting more, such as those experiencing job loss, who reported symptoms of anxiety/depression at a 53% increase. An unpredictable future brought on a new wave of mental health issues, for both adults and children alike. The COVID-19 sickness and accompanying strains also gave people psychological symptoms, such as brain fog, anxiety, and depression, and are on rare occasions, seizures and suicidal behaviour. This also goes for long-term health complications from COVID-19 (long COVID) and post-traumatic symptoms of dealing with COVID-19 in hospital settings. 

With mental health issues having steadily risen since 2020, the workforce continues to be altered and affected we are left with one crucial question: what now? And what kind of impact will these mental health issues have on the workplace?

It is vital now to realize that when it comes to the workplace and mental health during the pandemic, everyone carries a heavy burden of personal memories associated with it. It is an aspect of a worker’s life that can no longer be ignored. All organizations must approach a mental health policy with empathy, flexibility, and support. New mental health challenges compounded by the turmoil of COVID-19 have “rewritten the rules about how, where, and when we work” writes Christina McCarthy, executive director at One Mind at Work in a recent Medium article. “There can be no “back to normal” that disregards employee mental health.”

What that will look like for each industry and organization depends upon many factors. Experts encourage companies, whether remote, entirely in the office, or a hybrid of the two, to embrace the challenges that life after COVID will present. Start with mental health initiatives and open a dialogue with your workers, allowing them to feel more comfortable expressing themselves when anxiety and depression arise.

And, all of these post-pandemic anxiety and mental health issues will connect to one of the most common fears worldwide: the fear of public speaking. 

Many jobs will ask you to present information and/or findings, whether it be in person or over Zoom. For many people, being the sole person speaking and presenting ideas is a massive source of anxiety. A study posted in September of 2023 in fact, stated that around 15 million people deal with glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. 75% of the population of the United States has some kind of fear of public speaking, which means that nearly 200 million people in the US feel nervous when speaking in front of others.  And those with social anxiety, which is 89.4$ of the population, report some kind of fear of public speaking. 

These numbers are relatively high, and it is safe to hypothesize that one of the most common fears in the world increased due to the pandemic. Not only do most workers have new expectations about remote vs. in-person work and have adopted a different work-life balance, but they have also experienced acute mental and behavioural problems. Employers simply have no choice but to respond with empathy, thus altering decades of stigma.

Before 2020, public speaking skills were largely centered around the physical elements of delivery–maintaining eye contact with your audience, taking up space on the stage, and adapting your content in accordance with the response of the listeners. The physical space became, quite literally, virtually stolen away from us once the pandemic hit.  We could no longer physically reply to the cues of those listening to us. We were forced to adapt to a world of meetings that were virtual; the entire landscape of public speaking changed right before our eyes. 

Now, three years later, we find ourselves having to do presentations physically once again, or, continuing to adjust to a more hybrid working lifestyle, where presentations are continuously done through Zoom or other online platforms. Having to return to work in person has caused an increase in social anxiety for many people, some of whom had the disorder before the pandemic, and many of whom did not. 

Let’s talk about the difference between in-person presentations and Zoom presentations. As we have stated, and you likely know personally yourself, being able to present information from the comfort of your own home, versus needing to do it in front of people in person is vastly different. Let’s explore the ways that each can manifest in presentation anxiety.

 

Zoom Performance Anxiety: A Modern Anxiety Problem

According to Eleni Kelakos, who wrote an article about the growing commonality of Zoom Performance Anxiety (ZPA), several presentations and executive presence leadership coaching clients, old and new, confessed to the off-putting fear of speaking while using online platforms like Zoom. Most clients will say that they experience ZPA when they are given virtual training and featured as the main speaker. They also say that they are hit with anxiety like a ton of bricks when they are asked to unmute themselves to answer a question. All eyes, virtually, are on them; they tend to freeze in the face of it; shutting down emotionally and physically.

All of this makes sense, because Zoom, and communicating virtually, isn’t very natural. Think about it, remember it—most of us have had an experience where technology goes awry while adjusting to communication through a screen or felt strange about speaking to a collection of thumbnail faces, all silent in their responses and challenging to read, any body language. We typically sit at our desks, kitchen tables, and beds, shoo away our children or pets, and try to interact with people who aren’t in the room. That can sound off-putting, even to the most confident person you have ever known. 

So, if you are someone who works from home, or occasionally works from home and still has to do presentations via Zoom, here are five ways you can beat your Zoom Performance Anxiety: 

  1. Get Loose: It’s easy to get self-conscious when the camera is on us. And our bodies are more likely to freeze up once we become aware of ourselves being looked at in a way, that as we said before, isn’t natural. It takes work to communicate in a body that is shut down, so you must ensure your body is relaxed before you even begin. Try playing music, dancing around, doing yoga, or stretching. Shake your arms and hands, roll your head around your neck, and tense and release your feet, hands, and hips. Once this is finished, commit to staying loose through the session—some things you can do that are out of the camera frame are tensing and releasing your feet, and gently rotating your hips.
  2. Use your Breath to Stay Centered: Your breath is the primary tool to keep your mind from worrying. Mindfulness is one of the best ways to keep yourself centered, through the simple act of breathing. You can start before the Zoom call, after loosening up your body, by closing your eyes and watching (mentally) your belly rise and fall. Mentally, or even aloud, say, ‘breathe in, breathe out.’ Do this until you feel settled. You can also do this during the Zoom call, by pausing and taking a deep breath. 
  3. The Camera is Your Friend: We feel that whatever we say or do is being overly analyzed when we speak into a camera, in a very robotic way. To counter this, practice when you aren’t on a call, and look into the camera; not at the screen where you can see yourself, but at the camera itself. Talking to it, like it is your best friend. If you talk to the camera as if it is one person, the entire audience will feel intimate, and at home with your presentation. The more you practice, the more comfortable you are going to become.
  4. Invite Active Interaction: This may feel counterproductive, but try it out for one session. Encourage people to stay unmuted and visible. That makes it feel more like an in-person conversation. Break down the fourth wall of the screen by keeping people talking, so you don’t feel like you’re talking to yourself the whole time. 
  5. Let go Of the Need to Be Perfect: Many anxious people think they must be perfect, especially when presenting. It is nearly an impossible task to be utterly flawless in every single thing that we do. So, if you want less performance anxiety, know it will be easier to let go of trying to be perfect. It is always going to be a little strange. It feels different, because it is, different. The more authentic you are, the more people are likely to listen.

 

Now, let’s talk about improving your public speaking in person after years of doing it over Zoom. It is an extreme change, so give yourself some wiggle room. Employers will likely know about your fears, as most, if not all, will feel it as they adjust to an in-person setting (or a hybrid version of it). Stay open and honest with them about it, and you will surely start to feel better about your new reality:

  1. Shift your Mindset: The way that we think is going to affect how we feel. That is a proven, scientific fact. Thoughts about how terrible you feel about the presentation, and how uncomfortable you are, will only snowball the anxious feeling. Try to replace these thoughts with more positive affirmations, like “I know what I’m talking about,” “I’m more capable than I think,” etc. Physical power poses in conjunction with this self-talk have proven effects as well.  (A power pose is a certain stance that athletes and professional presenters take that changes one’s body chemistry, inhibits cortisol, the stress hormone, and releases testosterone, which increases confidence.) 
  2. Practice Positive Visualization: Visualization is a mindfulness method of seeing the entire presentation going well from start to finish. See yourself entering the room with confidence, taking some time to pause before you start speaking, greeting your audience with firm handshakes, warm eyes, and smiles, and speaking with articulation and passion. When you visualize how things should go in your mind, you are setting up a neural network in your brain that will trigger the moment you step into the situation physically. Practice settling your nerves with deep breathing as you imagine the situation. Then, you can easily apply it when you have to do the real thing. 
  3. Take up Space: Get your body feeling confident if you feel small and subdued. There’s a part of your brain called Broca’s area that helps formulate speech and lights up when you use gestures. So start freeing your body, and you will encourage your brain to think of the right words. You can try holding your hands at the start near your navel, rather than by your sides; this will allow the gestures to flow more freely and naturally from the outset. 
  4. Read the Room: Reading the room is easier in person than over Zoom. You can see people’s body language when you are in the room, and it can help build rapport. Apply active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and responding with enthusiasm and curiosity. This will show that you care, and if you show you care, they will show they care about you.
  5. Record Yourself Speaking: Practicing for a speech will help you get into the rhythm easier than if you don’t practice. Practice aloud, and stick to a timeframe. Watch yourself back if you can, so you can see the reality of how you look, rather than how you perceive how you look. This may mean slowing down, moving around more, or taking more pauses when you need to. 

 

The bottom line is that mental health needs are at an all-time high, and there are good reasons for that. Don’t feel alone in your suffering or anxiety about presentations; make it known, and expect more from your employers. Your mental health deserves it!


At The Professional Centre (TPC), we prioritize creating an environment where mental health is acknowledged and nurtured. Our facilities are equipped with serene mindfulness zones and state-of-the-art digital communication tools to ease the anxiety around public speaking and foster mental well-being.

Nestled in the bustling downtown Toronto core, TPC offers a sanctuary for professionals to tackle the challenges posed by the digital evolution of the workplace. With the provision to avail tax deductions on rental fees, we provide a financially viable solution for companies and self-employed professionals alike.

Is the digital anxiety of the modern workplace affecting you or your team? Explore our holistic workspace solutions designed to navigate the interplay of mental health and new work dynamics, offering a sanctuary for growth, connection, and overcoming public speaking fears in this digitally evolved era.

Discover our flexibly designed and fully managed workspace solutions.


References: 

https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/public-speaking-statistics#:~:text=75%25%20of%20the%20population%20has,it%20comes%20to%20public%20speaking.

https://covid19.nih.gov/covid-19-topics/mental-health#:~:text=In%20a%202021%20study%2C%20nearly,the%20beginning%20of%20the%20pandemic.

https://theelenigroup.com/2020/06/5-ways-to-beat-zoom-performance-anxiety-zpa/#:~:text=It’s%20near%20to%20impossible%20to,up%20and%20then%20release%20them.

https://blog.londonspeechworkshop.com/power-poses-the-body-language-of-winners

https://blog.londonspeechworkshop.com/how-to-manage-post-pandemic-public-speaking-anxiety

Hybrid Horizons – Exploring Fluid Work Dynamics

Merging the Conventional Office Sphere with Remote Work

The presence of COVID has in one way or another changed everyone’s lives. The concept of the traditional work environment was flipped on its head, exchanged for a delicate balance between what became colloquially known as the hybrid work model. This means that there aren’t many big enterprises that apply a single model anymore. While some companies continue to thrive under complete remote work after migrating there during the pandemic, you will have difficulty finding an organization that once worked exclusively under an office setting pre-COVID that has fully returned as of 2023. 

The monthly online Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes reported that less than 5% of days were worked at home before the pandemic, rising to a high watermark on May 1, 2020, with fully 61.5% of full-paid working days worked at home, then a decline to 37% by the end of the year and 29.5% by August 2022, holding steady since. There have been changes to work dynamics and culture ever since COVID hit, making both employers and employees reconsider the financial climate around keeping workers remote, moving back to the office, or finding a way to fuse both in harmony. 

The only option left really, is the blending of the two. A workforce where some higher-ups come onto campus a certain amount of days a week, others fewer days a week, while some stay completely remote, means that both a virtual and in-person approach must be applied. Businesses have to adapt to the concept of the physical space as well, which will sometimes host a certain amount of workers, and will sometimes host more for weekly, even monthly meetings. These spaces have to be fluid, adaptable, and cost-effective.

If you are wondering what kind of hybrid options would best suit your operating scheme for your business, you are in the right place. According to Tango Analytics, Let’s review the various forms of the most popular and trending workspace models.


Hybrid

First, all hybrid workplaces will have virtual and in-person options. But there are various ways in which your business can structure that. You may want greater control over how your space gets used to optimize use and/or flexibility to maintain employee satisfaction. That again, depends upon your company, the number of people you have employed, and your work-from-home policy. Make sure you always have enough support of space whether the demand is one single number or it flutters throughout time. All of these differences are defined within the boundaries of either a fixed or flexible hybrid mode:

 

Fixed

A fixed model of the hybrid model is where you decide who works remotely and when. Your virtual employees may have a schedule for when they work remotely, and when they may need to come into an office setting. There also may be workers who are always on-site. This is more common for companies where roles aren’t able to be delegated to a work-from-home setting, or the workforce is more evenly distributed.


Flexible

A flexible hybrid work environment gives employees more control over their own setting. They may have a number of days to work remotely each week or month, or they have complete freedom to decide what days they come in. It is possible too that they don’t come in at all, due to their own choices. Workers can also set their own hours. This level of work involves quite an amount of variance, as each day will be different in relation to the number of people present in the office.

So now since you know what model you are personally working with it is time to see what options are available as a flexible office workspace. We will dive deep into the various definitions and the physical aesthetics of said workplace, to allow you to explore the options that will be best suited for a free-flowing and conducive environment for productive working.

 

Flexible Workspace Options and Definitions

You have encountered various words and definitions if you have researched flexible office spaces. Some may sound confusing at first, and oddly similar, but we are here to lay them out for you. First of all, there are three general definitions of the flexible off spaces that each set of aesthetically defined areas will fall under: 

  1. Coworking Office Centre: This option offers a creative and collaborative atmosphere. It usually has an open workspace with well-distributed desks, where each desk or group of desks is rented to its own business. Flex work centers can also offer a lounge area and access to meeting rooms and private office spaces, giving employees privacy and autonomy.
  2. Serviced Office Centre: This space has open-plan workstations and break areas, but most of the space is usually used as individual offices, meeting rooms, and boardrooms. A serviced office also includes a reception team, support services, and IT, which makes it attractive to companies looking for seamless workplace management without having to commit to renting a permanent space.
  3. The Shared Office: This space offers a shared arrangement, where one company rents out its spare desks and offices to other companies, who will benefit from the optics of having a commercial office address. This is the most affordable office center because you only pay a portion of the rent. It is also ideal for businesses needing space to set up and work in a professional-looking environment.

 

Now, here are the specific individual workstations that fall under the umbrella of the previously explored workspaces:

—Dedicated Desk: This is a workspace that is just for you. If it is an open area, you will share the common areas with other members, but the desk and chair are exclusively for you. It will also usually come with a lockable cabinet you can use throughout the day and the amount of time dedicated to that specific workspace. This will make the desk a bit more expensive than a hot desk.

—Hot Desk: A hot desk is similar to a fixed desk, except you don’t have an assigned workstation. When you rent one of these or a group of desks in an open space, that space can change daily. You will always have a space to sit and do your work, continuing to use the on-site amenities like the meeting rooms, the kitchen, and break areas. Your area will change daily, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

—Private Office: This office is exactly the opposite of the one described above. A private office can range from a single room/office to an entire floor of multiple offices, depending on your needs. It is lockable, and only you as the renter can access it. Private office space is great for confidentiality and security. You can include additional services like mail handling, phone answering, and other administrative support should it be a requirement for your organization.

—Virtual Office: A virtual office provides business support and a reputable address without needing a physical office space. These are great for small businesses needing an address at a cost-effective price. They also work for businesses expanding into new markets, as the address can help build trust with locals.

Now that you know the difference between the definitions of various workspaces, let’s talk about the physical elements of each area and how/who it would benefit most without your company. 

 

Flexible Workspace Designs

Shared Resources: Shared resources have the greatest impact on satisfaction within these office spaces. The resources may include fully stocked cafes, comfortable lounges, and open areas where employees can stretch and move around. Regardless of who works where, everyone must be able to have access to them. 

—Breakout Spaces: The collaborative nature of these flexible offices is intentional, but despite that, employees still need the ability to work in smaller groups or work alone. For company morale and mental health, they also need to be able to take a break, away from generally noisy, fast-paced, agile environments. Quiet zones are necessary, allowing privacy for focused thinking and rest.

—Mobility Support: Your employees should be able to work from anywhere, not just their desks. Make sure there is reliable wireless connectivity throughout the building you are using. It would be a bonus if the chairs the workers are using have a power source or a power source nearby so they can charge their devices.

—Activity-Based Workstations: The most effective office spaces are designed to meet the varying desires and physical needs of their employees. Everyone is different.Some may need a simple desk and ergonomic chair with back support, while others like to stand and improve circulation, avoiding sedentary work.

—Flexible Furniture: Furniture that is flexible and movable greatly encourages collaborations. They are more likely to collaborate and brainstorm if they can quickly move their chairs and tables. Look for modular sofas, stools, and a large table that can be used for games during lunch breaks.

—Open Plan Layouts: Flexible workspaces usually feature a basic open connect. On the other hand, long tables with people packed in close is not ideal, especially after the pandemic. Noise pollution leads to work not being done and employees getting distracted more easily. That will ultimately cost your company money. Look for open-space offices with workstations for two to four people, depending on how many employees you have.

 

The Future of Work Report Findings: Preferences and Challenges

Tango Analytics dug into what matters to the modern office worker in a report published in early 2023. Workplaces worldwide have embraced the remote worker due to a global emergency, which continues today when most of the pandemic restrictions have gone. Productivity increased while work-life balance was of the utmost importance. This concept filled an ongoing conversation about the relevance of the physical workspace and how much it really contributes to workflow.

Here is a summary of the most common preferences and challenges that come from applying a seamless hybrid model of working in 2023:

Preferences: The conflict between employee and employer preferences was explored in a study that Tango overlooked. They asked about how appealing remote work was to entirely in-person employees, how appealing access to company office space was to remote and hybrid employees, and how often employees would ideally like on-site working. Here are the results in summary: 

—All three groups wanted their employer to provide access to an office

—Most employees claimed hybrid work is their ideal model

Challenges: An office is optimized for work, whereas a home or office isn’t. So, a common thread against the argument for office space is that working remotely would only amplify common workplace challenges. Tango asked fully remote and entirely in-person employees to rate common workplace challenges on a scale of one to seven, with one indicating that it was not at all challenging and seven indicating that it was very challenging. Here are the results in summary:

—In-person employees reported having more interruptions and less privacy than remote workers.

—Remote workers reported having a (slightly) easier time connecting with coworkers.

—Remote workers found other workplace challenges less difficult than entirely in-person workers.

It is clear that whether they are shared or private office spaces there is a benefit to the hybrid model of work structure. It is the way of the future and is not going away anytime soon. So, embrace and tailor it to your workers, mission mandate, and industry standards. 


At The Professional Centre (TPC), we are committed to aligning with the evolving hybrid work dynamics. Our spaces are meticulously designed to offer both the structure of a traditional office and the freedom of remote work. From high-speed WiFi to a variety of private suite and open floor designs, we ensure a seamless transition between different work modalities.

Located in the heart of Toronto’s downtown financial district, TPC provides a conducive work environment and opens the gateway for networking with like-minded professionals. Take advantage of our location to lower your operational costs while enjoying the vibrancy of a community that thrives on innovation and collaboration.

Is your organization ready to explore the hybrid work horizon? Embark on a journey of discovery with our tailored workspace solutions that bridge the conventional and the remote, enabling a fluid work dynamic that propels you toward success.Discover our flexibly designed and fully managed workspace solutions.


References:

https://www.yarooms.com/blog/what-is-flexible-office-space-6-flexible-workspace-design-ideas

https://tangoanalytics.com/landing/future-of-work-report-2023/ 

 

Work From Home Tax Credit: Everything You Need To Know To Save

How’s that saying go again? Nothing Is certain except for death and taxes? Well as it seems Canadians are no exception to this rule, which is probably why you are here reading this. While the COVID Pandemic brought a lot of negatives there were some positives, one of the notable ones being the shift to a work from home culture that hundreds of thousands of businesses have adopted. This cultural shift has inspired change from a policy standpoint, encouraging the government to implement tax credits and breaks tailored to the modern day work from home professional. So if you are a professional working from your home, whether it may be part or full time, keep reading this article to learn about all the opportunities you have at your disposal.

Home Office Expenses Claim

Over the pandemic the government of Canada released a Home Office Expenses for Employees option for those who work from home. This is a 500$ tax deduction for work from home employees. Below are the requirements and how to claim this deduction.

To claim home office expenses, the following criteria must be met:

  • Worked from home during 2020, 2021, or 2022 due to the pandemic (if employer provided choice to work from home, CRA will consider individual to have worked from home)
  • Worked more than 50% of the time from home for a continuous period of at least four weeks in the year (2020, 2021, 2022)
  • Only claiming home office expenses and not any other employment expenses on line 22900
  • Employer did not fully reimburse individual for home office expenses (partial reimbursement still allows use of method if eligibility criteria are met)

 

Flat Rate Method

To claim the deduction for home office expenses, one must take note of the following steps:

Firstly, the total number of days worked from home in the year due to the pandemic must be calculated and multiplied by $2 per day. Any additional days worked at home during the year due to lockdowns can also be claimed.

It is important to keep in mind that the maximum amount that can be claimed is $400 per individual in 2020 and $500 per individual in 2021 and 2022.

The temporary flat rate method, specifically “Option 1 – Temporary flat rate method” on Form T777S, must be used to enter these amounts, which must then be attached to the income tax return for the year.

Afterwards, the deduction can be claimed by entering the amount from line 9939 on Form T777S to line 22900 “Other employment expenses” on the income tax return.

Lastly, a detailed guide on how to claim the deduction through the temporary flat rate method can be found on the government of Canada’s website.

 

Detailed Method

If your eligible home office expenses exceed $500, you have the option to claim them using the CRA’s ‘detailed method.’ The detailed method enables you to claim various office supplies, phone service plans, work-related long distance phone charges, and a portion of many of your household bills, based on the percentage of space of your home that is used for your office. The CRA website provides guidance on calculating the percentage of your home being used for your home office.

A portion of your household expenses that can be claimed as an office expense includes electricity, heat, water, home internet, maintenance and minor repairs, and rent paid for your home. Commission employees may also claim home insurance, property taxes, and lease of cell phones and laptops that reasonably relate to earning commission income. However, you cannot claim any of these expenses on your tax return if your employer reimbursed you for them.

Note that you cannot claim mortgage interest and principal payments, internet connection fees, furniture, or capital expenses such as new windows, flooring, or a furnace. If you choose to use the detailed method to claim your home office expenses, you will need to obtain Form T2200S or T2200 from your employer and complete Form T777S or T777 in your T1 personal income tax return.

Using the detailed method requires you to track all eligible expenses, retain documentation, and keep original receipts (credit card receipts are not accepted) for three years.

For more information visit the Canada website.

 

Can I Write Off The Professional Centre Expenses?

As per Helena Swyter, a seasoned CPA at Sweeter CPA, a firm specializing in accounting services for creative professionals, the answer is a resounding “yes” – you can indeed deduct a coworking membership when it comes to your tax obligations. This renders the rent-based approach of coworking spaces financially advantageous in two distinct manners. Firstly, members have the benefit of cost savings by only paying for the duration they actively utilize the coworking space. Secondly, they can subsequently claim deductions during the tax season.

While numerous expenses incurred at a coworking space are eligible for deductions, such as renting conference rooms, printing costs, or networking event fees, it is crucial to note that the IRS explicitly excludes commuting and parking expenses from deductible items. Therefore, the routine commute from your residence to the coworking space, as well as parking fees incurred at the coworking facility, do not qualify as business expenses and cannot be deducted. However, exceptions exist, as is the case with various tax deductions. If you do not regularly rent space at a coworking office, you may be eligible to deduct the commuting costs from your regular or home office.

Navigating tax deductions requires careful consideration and expertise, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified professional to ensure accurate and compliant reporting. With Sweeter CPA’s specialized assistance, you can confidently optimize your coworking-related deductions while adhering to IRS guidelines, ultimately maximizing your fiscal benefits.

At The Professional Centre, we are dedicated to providing our self-employed and entrepreneurial members with the necessary resources for success. Our offerings include top-notch amenities like high-speed WiFi, keyless access, and 24/7 video surveillance, carefully curated to foster comprehensive growth opportunities.

The Professional Centre, situated in Toronto, Ontario, offers the added advantage of allowing members to claim their rental fees as deductible expenses. This strategic move not only reduces your tax liability but also ensures a more favorable financial position.

To note: This is not professional financial or accounting advice. Please consult a registered professional for any of your accounting needs.


Rethinking your organization’s meeting space or workspace? Discover our flexibly designed and fully managed workspace solutions.

6 Tips For Presenting That Will Help You Crush Your Next Meeting

Presenting comes with the territory of business. It’s something we’ve been forced into since our early school days and as we graduate into the professional world we see that it isn’t one of those things that just “goes away”. So whether you excel while presenting or dread it, we have a few tips that can make that big showing you have coming up go off without a hitch. Quarterly presentations are just around the corner and we  want to make sure you have some extra tools in your arsenal to crush it.

Strategize Your Presentation Delivery

Once you have established a solid framework, it is crucial to turn your attention towards the delivery of your presentation.

  • When delivering a presentation, there are three main approaches to consider: reading from a script or teleprompter, using bullet points to guide your speech, or memorizing the entire talk.
  • Reading directly from a script or relying on a teleprompter should be avoided, as it creates a noticeable distance between you and the audience, diminishing the intimate connection and making the talk feel more formal.
  • TED generally discourages reading approaches during presentations, as it hampers the overall reception. An exception was made for a speaker who used a monitor discreetly positioned at the back of the auditorium, but the ratings suffered due to the perceived detachment.
  • Many successful TED Talks have been memorized word for word, which requires significant time investment in rehearsals. Jill Bolte Taylor, a renowned speaker, memorized her talk after crafting her story, practicing extensively, and delivering it multiple times in front of audiences.
  • Memorizing a talk follows a predictable learning curve, often accompanied by a “valley of awkwardness” where the speaker has not fully internalized the content. If delivered in this stage, the audience can sense the detachment and discomfort, resulting in a weakened connection.
  • Overcoming the “valley of awkwardness” entails diligent rehearsal until the words flow naturally. Once achieved, the focus can shift to delivering the talk with genuine meaning and authenticity.
  • It is important to recognize that not every presentation warrants the extensive time investment required for memorization. Assess the significance of the talk and allocate rehearsal time accordingly, keeping in mind the desired level of mastery.
  • At times we don’t have time to pass through the awkward valley of memorization, it is advisable to utilize bullet points on note cards instead. Direct your attention to remembering the smooth transitions between each bullet point, maintaining a cohesive flow throughout your speech.

 

Establishing a Strong Start

Craft an engaging and straightforward introduction to captivate your audience’s attention towards your content.

Contemplate incorporating a brief icebreaker activity.
A well-placed, tasteful touch of humor, relevant to the subject matter, can prove impactful.

Convey the purpose of your presentation concisely, utilizing clear language devoid of industry-specific jargon, while emphasizing the benefits participants will acquire.

Commence with a natural pace, striking a balance between not rushing and not dragging, to forge a compelling and positive impression. Conclude with a resolute statement that reinforces the presentation’s objectives.

Crafting An Engaging Presentation

When your audience derives enjoyment from and retains your presentation, it is a testament to your ability to deliver it in a dynamic and captivating manner.

  • Engage in a conversation with your audience rather than delivering a monologue.
  • Effortlessly convey your enthusiasm for the topic, avoiding a sermon-like tone. Remember that the majority of communication occurs through nonverbal cues, so pay careful attention to your appearance and vocal delivery.
  • Structure your material in a well-organized manner, while remaining adaptable to cater to your audience. Inform participants whether you welcome questions during or after the presentation.
  • Adapt your language to match the knowledge level of your audience, ensuring that unfamiliar terms are defined.
  • Select your key points judiciously and reinforce them through compelling examples or anecdotes.
  • Encourage audience members to contribute their experiences, using these examples to illustrate essential points or address inquiries.
  • Leverage natural gestures and vocal inflections to augment the interest and impact of your presentation.
  • Cater to diverse learning styles by employing a variety of instructional methods that appeal to different senses, such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic approaches.
  • Repeat audience questions to ensure that everyone hears and comprehends them.
  • Guide the discussion back on track if it veers away from the intended topic.
  • When faced with unanswered questions, commit to finding the answers and following up with the individuals involved. Alternatively, suggest appropriate resources that can provide the necessary information, or invite suggestions from the audience members themselves.
  • Incorporate demonstrations to enhance understanding and engagement.
  • Articulate your thoughts clearly and modulate your voice appropriately. Steer clear of speaking too rapidly, softly, or loudly, and ensure that your sentences do not trail off.
  • Maintain eye contact with your audience, conveying confidence, transparency, sincerity, and genuine interest. This also allows you to gauge the audience’s response. In larger groups, mentally divide the room into sections and rotate your eye contact among different individuals in each section.
  • Employ natural and graceful hand gestures to emphasize key points, allowing your hands to rest naturally by your side when not gesturing. Avoid fidgeting with clothing, hair, or presentation materials.
  • Occasionally move to different spots while speaking, pausing briefly before continuing. Avoid excessive pacing.

 

Creating a Compelling Narrative

In the realm of presentations, storytelling stands as the cornerstone. Seasoned presenters often advocate beginning with a captivating story even before opening a single slide. This approach not only allows for the development of a robust narrative with the most significant information but also helps avoid the pitfall of overcrowded slides.

  • Daniel Goldberg suggests starting with a brain dump to explore connections and find the storyline. Explaining main points in a simple manner and incorporating metaphors and anecdotes enhances relatability and memorability.
  • Colby Zintl emphasizes the importance of ensuring the presentation can be understood even if someone reads it randomly. It should work as a “leave behind” document that maintains clarity and comprehension over time.
  • Crafting a compelling narrative involves refining the presentation to make it visually impactful and memorable, leveraging the power of stories to leave a lasting impression.

 

Promote Interactivity in Your Presentation

Steer clear of solely delivering lectures to your audience. Instead, actively engage them in meaningful discussions.

  • Encourage interactions and exchanges among audience members, fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Pose an accommodation challenge to the audience, inviting their input on how they would approach the situation.
  • Thoughtfully mirror back individuals’ attitudes, rationalizations, and entrenched patterns of thinking and behavior, while maintaining respect and sensitivity.
  • Allocate ample time for questions, ensuring that all inquiries raised within the presentation are thoroughly addressed or appropriately directed towards relevant resources.
  • Offer practical demonstrations or hands-on experiences with assistive technology, enabling participants to gain first hand exposure to its capabilities.
  • Engage the audience in experiential learning activities, as people tend to retain information better when they actively participate in the learning process.
  • Facilitate group interactions and collaborative problem-solving exercises, fostering collective engagement and shared solutions.

Promote fruitful discussions that enable participants to synthesize key themes and concepts, facilitating a deeper integration of knowledge and understanding.

 

Crafting Easily Digestible Presentations

Delivering a captivating story is essential, but ensuring it is easily digestible by your audience is equally crucial to maintain their engagement. To achieve this, it is imperative to create meaningful and clean slides. A general principle to follow when designing slides is to embrace the notion that less is more. Can your audience readily discern the main point of each slide? If not, it is necessary to reconsider the structure of your story.

According to Frykman, the success of presentations hinges on their ease of digestion by audiences. This entails creating clean, concise, and aesthetically pleasing slides. She offers valuable tips to achieve professional and polished slides, including:

  • Use text sparingly, emphasizing main points through your spoken delivery rather than overwhelming the slide with excessive copy.
  • Incorporate focused and engaging images while ensuring the slide does not become visually cluttered.
  • Adhere to the company’s designated template, avoiding unauthorized modifications that deviate from the established branding guidelines.

 

Final Words

Presenting is just a part of life. For most, it is impossible to get away from. So if you have to present at one point or another it is best to be prepared. Book a meeting room with The Professional Centre to make sure you have a clean and professional space to deliver your presentation. Impress your peers with a space as sharp as you and book yours today!

 


Rethinking your organization’s meeting space or workspace? Discover our flexibly designed and fully managed workspace solutions.

10 Best Productivity Tips to Improve Your Life and Your Work

Let’s not procrastinate this, shall we? You want to be more productive, we’re here to show you how. We’ve got ten productivity tips for you to start using right away. Ready? Go.

Tip 1: Do it. Now.

Did you think that intro was short due to lack of space? No, we’re making a point. 

Maybe you’ve got a lot of stuff on your plate – emails, messages, correspondence, and   a few projects that need your attention. On top of just doing your job, you should focus on reducing the number of things on your plate. If it can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it. Right now. Get the quick things done first, and move on.

Kinda like we just did. There’s a long road ahead, but with a clear plate, you’re in the best position to get things done.

 

Tip 2: Minimize Distractions

Prevention is the best medicine, and if you can reduce the number of things that could distract you in the future, you’ll inevitably end up with fewer distractions in the present.

As you can expect, this has been studied thoroughly. One study looked at the effectiveness of application and website-blocking software, and the results were exactly as you’d expect: “We discovered that with blocking software, participants assessed their productivity significantly higher and could focus significantly longer.” (Mark, 2017).

What’s more interesting, though, is that not all distraction-blocks are the same. According to the study, “People who benefited the most from the software were those who were most distracted by social media.” So, not only is this section of special interest to you if you’re a social media user, but if you’re looking for a few select things to block, you should put social media on the top of your list.

The study also found that, for some, complete distraction removal had the side effect of increasing stress. Stress is already known to reduce productivity, so it’s important to strike a balance that works for you. Breaks of 5-15 minutes should serve as stress-relieving distractions, without eating too much productive time.

Of course, distraction-elimination goes beyond those oh-so-enticing devices and apps. This process is multi-faceted, covering just about everything that exists around you – even job-related things, like email notifications, coworkers, and more. Each of these topics will have unique tactics for distraction-elimination. Perhaps you’ll turn off all notifications, physically distance yourself from distracting workers, or put up a do-not-disturb flag on your desk. 

The important thing is, once you start working, do everything you can to ensure that you keep working, potentially reaching a ‘flow’ state. And once you do, try not to let anything break your focus!

 

Tip 3: The 5 Minute Rule & Finding your Flow

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion, until acted upon by an outside force. It’s true for physics, and as it turns out, it’s also true for productivity. And luckily, we already eliminated those “outside forces” in our last tip!

The hardest part of accomplishing a big task is the beginning. Whether it be lingering instincts towards procrastination holding you back, or difficulty “task switching” into a new mindset, there’s always some hangup making this difficult. While we can’t remove all hurdles, we can make the effort as minimal as possible. 

Can you mentally set aside several hours to complete a task? Maybe not. But how about 5 minutes? Everyone has 5 minutes to spare. You won’t finish the job, obviously, but you’ll at least have gotten something done. This is the 5-minute rule – you can probably guess how it got its name. And, if you were paying attention to that intro, you probably know the trick to this technique. 

If you can dedicate just 5 minutes of time to something, then before you know it, you’ve already overcome your mind’s biggest obstacle: starting the task to begin with. Once you get some momentum going and get into a “flow” state, continuing the task is as easy as maintaining the status-quo.

Tip 4: Make it a Habit

Once you find your groove, keep going. This advice may sound obvious, but there’s a trick to it you may not be aware of. “Keep going” doesn’t mean you should work until you exhaust yourself! Work for a regular amount of time, on a regular amount of projects. Tomorrow, you should match that pace. Keep the streak going day after day, and each one gets a little easier.

Getting something done at regular intervals, even if it’s a small amount, contributes to one of the most powerful psychological forces the mind can use: habit formation. Get familiar with your current workload, and if you want to increase the amount of work you can handle, do it little by little. According to studies, variation in workflow actually has a negative impact on productivity, so sudden spikes/lulls in the amount of work you need to do should be avoided. 

“The results indicate that the key for productivity improvement is not to complete as many tasks as possible or to maximize workload, work output, or work hours without following the work plan. Rather, the key is to focus on maintaining a predictable work flow and thus be able to match the available workload with capacity.” (Liu et all, 2011).

Working long days isn’t good for anyone – neither for you, nor for your work quality. The secret to success here is a long-term plan of discipline and pacing yourself, developing the habits and skills needed to be more productive overall. If “just thirty minutes a day” is all you can manage, that’s excellent. Get it done, and before you know it you’ll have a consistent path to success.

 

Tip 5: Avoid Burnout!

There’s another benefit to pacing yourself, besides assisting habit formation. You should never load up a ton of work at once – that’s a surefire way to create burnout! 

Passion is an extremely powerful motivator, and its loss alone is enough to send productivity down the drain (Dewa et al, 2014). Couple this with a general lack of energy stemming from mental exhaustion, and you create a recipe for disaster. The mental and physical toll just isn’t worth it.

Avoiding burnout for yourself is a good way to keep things running smooth, but this doesn’t have to be a solo job! In fact, one study recommends turning away from that perspective entirely, and viewing burnout more like a collective responsibility. “Faculty stress should not be viewed as a personal problem. Instead, it should be viewed as an organizational issue.” (Bruce, 2009).

Learn how to recognize signs of burnout in others, and help them to ensure they’re not taking on too much work at once. This can involve taking on some of their workload if need be, or talking to project managers about work allocation. ‘Do unto others as you would have done to yourself’, after all. If each person does their part, burnout can be avoided for everyone.

 

Tip 6: The 15 Minute Rule & Improving Problem-Solving Skills

Turns out, there’s more than one minute-based productivity tip!

You are going to hit a roadblock eventually. No matter how hard you prepare or how many resources you think you have, you’re only human. At some point during your job, you’ll run into a problem that you don’t know how to immediately solve.

So, you find yourself at a crossroads. On one path, you dig around your bag of tricks, you examine the problem in more detail, and hopefully, find a solution. The risk here, though, is that this costs a lot of time – and that investment might not pay off. If your instincts tell you that you don’t have an answer to this, they might be right.

On the other path, we have something that seems faster and easier for you, but comes with another downside: getting assistance from someone else. Here, if your instincts are telling you that this route is just wasting someone else’s time, or that you’re forgoing a possible learning opportunity, they may be right.

But if you know the cheat code – the 15 minute rule, you unlock a third path. Here, you have the upsides of both while minimizing the consequences. And it’s incredibly simple: give yourself a time limit of 15 minutes to fix the problem. If that doesn’t work, go find a helping hand.

15 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time. And that’s because it isn’t. But have you ever spent 15 minutes stuck in traffic? Now that’s a long wait. Getting stuck in a task isn’t that different. 15 minutes offers you plenty of time to determine if you’re dealing with a speed bump or a mountain, and with a time limit, there’s no chance of you wasting more time than necessary – you only spend a speedbump’s worth of time either way.

And as an added bonus, you’ll learn a lot about the process of problem solving this way! The first time you invoke this rule, you might not reach your goal in the time limit. But how about the 3rd time? The 10th? Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you won’t need this tip at all – your skills surpassing it completely. And when you do, congrats! You’ve been made way more productive.

Tip 7: Exercise

If you ever find yourself losing focus on any productive day, that’s ok. You can take a quick break. That restlessness you feel – it’s perfectly natural. Your body is telling you what it needs, and it’d benefit you to listen.

Every so often, consider leaving your desk to just walk around. Maybe do some stretches, if you’re so inclined. You can even pair it with a light snack. Your body is an expert on its own needs, and if you spend just a couple minutes listening to it, you’ll be able to return to your work with a revitalized sense of focus. The research is clear: “By performing exercise regularly, users can attain better physiological states and achieve higher work productivity.” (Kwok et al, 2021).

 

Tip 8: Avoid Multitasking

Be warned, this next paragraph might seem incoherent. Trust the process: there’s a reason why it’s structured this way.

A lot of articles like this will tell you that multitasking is impossible. Focus is something we’ve talked about before, as is the need to shut out distractions. Multitasking used to be a major focal point of discussions around productivity, first cropping up when computers were developed that were purpose-built for multitasking. Distractions, or really anything that diverts attention from the current task, is going to negatively impact the thing you’d much rather be doing. Computers are not people – the human mind is just not built for multitasking, it contradicts the way we work on a fundamental level. So, it’s almost always best to finish your current task before starting a new one.

If you had trouble following that first paragraph, then congratulations, you’re part of the 98% of people who cannot effectively multitask. If you want to read it properly, skip every even-numbered sentence, then go back and re-read the lines you skipped as if they were a separate paragraph.

Multitasking isn’t just a way to take perfectly-functional tasks and turn them into unworkable messes, though. It’s also a guaranteed way to stress you out, or worse. If that paragraph frustrated you, then you’ll have felt this process in action. Be grateful it’s not a daily task.

“Multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory.” (Rosen, 2008). The data on this is extremely clear – do not multitask if you can avoid it. It’s just never worth it.

 

Tip 9: “Perfect” is the enemy of “Good”

The desire to get each detail right is understandable; near-mandatory in some jobs. But perfectionism can also be a curse. If it takes you 50% longer to create some product, but that extra time only returns a 25% increase in quality, the gap in output between yourself and your coworkers will rapidly widen over time.

One little trick to working around perfectionism is to reframe how you look at a given task. With this lens, the task is not something that’s just worked on and shipped out. It’s a process of iteration, where you ‘finish’ one thing to test the waters, get some feedback, make the next one better, and repeat. It doesn’t have to be the best possible product the first time, and with the help of feedback, you’ll increase your skills much faster than without. After enough cycles, you may even be able to create that perfect product with minimal time lost! But that takes work, and if you’re a perfectionist, well, you’re no stranger to putting in work for the best possible reward.

That’s exactly what you’ll be doing here, just in a slightly different way than you’re used to.

 

Tip 10: Find Your Centre

This next subject is fairly complicated, and not something we can fully cover in a single subsection of an article. Luckily, we don’t have to – a whole article on this exact topic already exists on this site!

In short, the physical location where you do your work can be as important as the skills and habits you take with you. Not just in terms of minimizing distractions, but also in employing little psychological tricks to put your mind exactly where it needs to be. 

Often, just having a space that’s completely separate from all your other usual duties can work wonders for mental focus. And such a space, if built properly, can accomplish so much more. It can be a place with enough natural light to avoid feeling cramped. It can have the walls painted exactly the right color to center certain emotional states. It can feature other coworkers all working on the same task, offering advice and networking opportunities, among other things.

A space like this is something you can create yourself, or you find a professionally-made space that’s suited to your needs. Each route has its own pros and cons – but if you find a space that resonates with you, stick with it.

Book a meeting room in Toronto

If you want to test out a variety of working spaces, The Professional Centre has plenty of options to fill your exact niche – on top of providing options and technology for meetings, group work, and so much more.

Pick up all the benefits of a centralized workplace, without any of the firm anchors keeping your business rooted in a single method. Whether you need to service a large team or a small meeting, The Professional Centre can supply the exact kind of space you need to enhance your team’s productivity.

 

The 15 Minute Rule & Improving Problem-Solving Skills

You are going to hit a roadblock eventually. No matter how hard you prepare or how many resources you think you have, you’re only human. At some point during your job, you’ll run into a problem that you don’t know how to immediately solve.

So, you find yourself at a crossroads. On one path, you dig around your bag of tricks, you examine the problem in more detail, and hopefully, find a solution. The risk here, though, is that this costs a lot of time – and that investment might not pay off. If your instincts tell you that you don’t have an answer to this, they might be right.

On the other path, we have something that seems faster and easier for you, but comes with another downside: getting assistance from someone else. Here, if your instincts are telling you that this route is just wasting someone else’s time, or that you’re forgoing a possible learning opportunity, they may be right.

But if you know the cheat code – the 15 minute rule, you unlock a third path. Here, you have the upsides of both while minimizing the consequences. And it’s incredibly simple: give yourself a time limit of 15 minutes to fix the problem. If that doesn’t work, go find a helping hand.

15 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time. And that’s because it isn’t. But have you ever spent 15 minutes stuck in traffic? Now that’s a long wait. Getting stuck in a task isn’t that different. 15 minutes offers you plenty of time to determine if you’re dealing with a speed bump or a mountain, and with a time limit, there’s no chance of you wasting more time than necessary – you only spend a speedbump’s worth of time either way.

And as an added bonus, you’ll learn a lot about the process of problem solving this way! The first time you invoke this rule, you might not reach your goal in the time limit. But how about the 3rd time? The 10th? Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you won’t need this tip at all – your skills surpassing it completely. And when you do, congrats! You’ve been made way more productive.


Rethinking your organization’s workspace? Discover our flexibly designed and fully managed enterprise office solutions.


Works Cited:

Bruce, S. P. (2009). Recognizing stress and avoiding burnout. Currents in pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 57-64.

Dewa, C. S., Loong, D., Bonato, S., Thanh, N. X., & Jacobs, P. (2014). How does burnout affect physician productivity? A systematic literature review. BMC health services research, 14(1), 1-10.

Kwok, R. C. W., Leung, A. C. M., Hui, S. S. C., & Wong, C. C. K. (2021). Virtual trainer system: A tool to increase exercise participation and work productivity. Internet Research.

Liu, M., Ballard, G., & Ibbs, W. (2011). Work flow variation and labor productivity: Case study. Journal of management in engineering, 27(4), 236.

Mark, G., Iqbal, S., & Czerwinski, M. (2017, September). How blocking distractions affects workplace focus and productivity. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing and Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers (pp. 928-934).

Rosen, C. (2008). The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis, (20), 105-110.

The Secret Power of the Personal Office

Are workers more productive in a personal office? If they are, how should that office be laid out? Really, what makes a good working environment anyway? All of these questions have answers, sure, but each one leads to yet another cycle of questions.

If you work from home, you’ve no doubt had to face this idea head-on. Because there, you have a lot more freedom over where you get your work done – and that means, you’ll have to optimize it. You look left – should that window be there? Do I keep it open or closed? You look right – there’s a lot of non-work things on your desk. Is it really worth the time investment to clean it all? Or maybe, you should just switch spaces altogether. There’s a lot of questions that need answering – whether you’re an employee working from home, or an employer trying to optimize a space’s layout. And in finding those answers, we will need a map. Something to guide and frame our thinking, so that we can best recognize any answers that come our way.

Now, the idea of a “personal office space” can be read in a couple different ways. First of all, there’s a more easily recognized idea of an individualistic space. Something like a personal room or a cubicle – something that is reserved only for one person and their work, and in some cases, can be customized to the occupant’s liking. The advantages of the space like this are fairly obvious: on top of the ideas of personal agency and independence inherent to the concept, a personal space will inevitably remove any distractions found in a busier space.

The other way of looking at it, though, is the idea of a separated space. And this may require some elaboration. A separated space is a space that is in every sense (geographically, materially, everything), a distinct area that serves no other purpose but productivity. This idea may be obvious or not depending on your history, but in either case the true depth of this idea can be lost on many.

Spaces are not just simple boxes, and the act of building a space does not stop when the construction workers leave the site. Human psychology is a funny thing – we have the power to keep that constructive process going long past the finish date, by marking sites as “special.” And within this process, we can find an unexpected tool towards making a productive space. Something that personal office spaces are uniquely positioned to take advantage of.

This may seem unintuitive to some, but to any religiously-inclined readers out there, you may have already experienced something like this. You already know that a space can be marked as “sacred”, rendering it distinct from anything secular or profane. In a place like that, it’s as though the very air has changed. Stepping inside a worship site changes not just the superficial layer of the space, but impacts what people will and won’t do there. It affects how they view the space on a core, fundamental level – something much more powerful than a sign that says to do/not do something. Signs can, and often are, disobeyed. But here, to disobey the soul of this room becomes an act of sacrilege. It applies a cultural weight that operates within the self, and is far more persuasive than a sign could ever hope to be.

And to anyone looking to pin the blame on theology for this process, dive into any non-theological religion – you’ll find this practice to be universal. It’s not just a “because my God said so” thing, it’s because all people and cultures are capable of this, religious or otherwise. It’s not theological, it’s human – which means it’s something we can use to empower ourselves, should the need arise. And given this article’s topic, that need has indeed arrived.

Bringing things back to a more concrete example, talk to those who often work from home. Do they have a home office already? If they don’t, would they like to have one? Do they leave their house entirely to work at, say, a public library or internet cafe? You’ll likely find a “yes” there, if not multiple.

What would make someone dedicate a whole room of their house just to work, if they’re just as physically capable of that work from a bedroom or kitchen? Why would they walk (or drive) all the way to a library, if one of the main benefits of work-from-home is the lack of a commute?

The answer is easy. Because rooms that are dedicated to a specific goal are powerful, and these powers don’t like to overlap each other. Try getting work done from the comfort of your bed – sure, you’ll get some work done, but you’ll inevitably find yourself drifting towards the things you typically do in that room. You’re in a bedroom, and your brain is going to try and make you do bedroom-esque things – relaxing, leisurely, restful things.

What you need to maximize productivity is a productive space, plain and simple. Not just something that has all the materials to get work done – someplace, somewhere, whose primary existence is facilitating the action, the habit, of work. You’d be in a work space, so just as in your bedroom, your brain will try to get you to do work-esque things. Like working. 

Because to the brain, spaces are special. They’re not done being built until they’re filled with people, and with actions. The room and its materials can define the nouns and verbs of a space, but it is the people who add the adjectives and inflections that skew how a space is perceived. Sure, a space can provide the location and the tools to get work done, but if all its occupants ever do is slack off, then the space is not respected. It becomes a space where slacking off is the norm. But if the space is marked as special, distinct, and sacred, then its goals become the occupant’s goals. Productivity wins.

A common workplace practice serves to reinforce this idea. Workplace humor is not just a temporary distraction from work, it has a transformative effect that alter’s the worker’s perception of the space. It blurs the line between a dry, boring, but productive space into something more intimate and personal (Kim & Woo, 2021), but still fundamentally productive.

Humor can serve a purpose of increasing productivity through the removal of stress. High-pressure, confusing, and isolating environments are all known to cause stress in workers, which in turn can nosedive an employee’s productivity (Petreanu et al, 2013). By fostering a space that actively combats stress in a way that does not contradict productivity, you will end up with a far more efficient workforce. All it takes is a shift in attitude prompted by a special kind of space.

We can contrast this against the increasingly popular work-from-home strategy that many companies (and workers) find appealing. Many will claim that work-from-home actually leads to greater productivity – which is actually true, but not in all cases. For low-skilled labor like call centers, many studies point to increased productivity. But for higher-skilled knowledge work like IT services, the amount of work completed remained the same, despite an increase in hours worked (Galloway, 2022). 

There really is no one-size-fits-all solution to workplace efficiency – it will change between industry, the types of workers you want to hire, local culture, the physical layout of the space, everything. If you aim for perfection, you’ll need to find a model that works for you, or find someone with plenty of options to pick from. But in all cases, a space that facilitates work is mandatory. It must be a place where the act of working is a sacred action, fundamentally linked to the room’s soul. Something built-in and irrevocable. It can’t just be any old space.

Switching gears a bit, there’s one question that still needs to be answered. We can discuss how to optimize a personal office space all we like, but how do we know that this route is even worthwhile – from a worker and an employer’s perspective?

One study’s findings may be of note here: in general, workers in crowded workplaces feel much less appreciated by their employers. The study examined attitudes and behaviors in sparse vs crowded areas – those who worked in the crowded option were far more likely to scan wanted ads during work hours, and those hours were perceived to be longer by those experiencing them. Workers were even more likely to offer a helping hand to a coworker in the sparse setting (Terence, 2001).

And how about that all-important productivity? Sparse workplaces win here too, on that per-worker basis. Not only were the studied workers able to get work done quicker, they were less likely to need to go back and re-complete existing work, following a distraction by a coworker or another’s personal item (Terence, 2001).

What relevance does this have? Sparse-ness and crowded-ness are two metrics inherently tied to this idea of a personal space, which another study reinforces. This next study, aiming to discover key factors in determining how “personal” a “personal space” feels, found that those factors consistently increased a room’s “personal space satisfaction score”. Other factors included having a separated office (instead of an open-plan layout), and having a view outside the office itself (Jicol et al, 2019).

So, if we aim to create an optimal kind of working space, not only does it need to be marked as a working-esque space through that funny quirk of human psychology, the “personal” factor should also be optimized – and to achieve that, we remove clutter and replace it with a feeling of distinct separation.

That separation does not have to be all-encompassing, though, as the presence of others can lead to reductions in stress, and therefore increased productivity.

The workers themselves benefit here too – not just in terms of productivity. Even if they are enjoying themselves and have a productive day, what incentives do they have to actually stick around, financially?

There are many factors, but the main ones are twofold. Workers that actually go to an office setting, to any extent (they can still have a majority work-from-home experience and still get this), can more easily establish personal connections and build career networks with associates. Additionally, workers who are physically seen by their bosses are more likely to get promoted (Galloway, 2022). Physical presence builds relationships and connections, both of which can be leveraged into career success.

So, what have we learned? How valuable is that whole “personal office” thing, really? Turns out that answer is “pretty valuable” if you know what to look for. If you’re more interested in a single-occupant situation – be it in working from home, or if your business model just suits it better – it’s worth doing anything possible to mark that space as a distinct, personal, and productive space. When getting other people involved, there can be great benefits to all parties involved – both the worker and the employer – so long as things don’t get too crowded. Maintain that “personal” feeling in all situations, and according to the data, productivity will surely follow.

 

Book a meeting room in Toronto

If your business works best with a separated work/home space, but doesn’t need it to be a permanent fixture, The Professional Centre has plenty of options to fill your exact niche.

Pick up all the benefits of a centralized workplace, without any of the firm anchors keeping your business model rooted in a single method. Whether you need to service a large team or a small meeting, The Professional Centre can supply the exact kind of space you need to enhance your team’s productivity.

 


Works Cited:

Petreanu, V., Iordache, R., & Seracin, M. (2013). Assessment of work stress influence on work productivity in Romanian companies. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 92, 420–425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.08.695 

Jicol, C., Taulo, G., GOLDIE, C., Esenkaya, T., Hynes, R., Paradise, C., … de Sousa, A. A. (2019, November 2). Exploring the Effects of Environmental Cues on Perceived Personal Space in the Virtual Workplace. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/9jqby

Kim, H., & Woo, SH (2021). Fun Space or workplace? The Role of Humor in Navigating Work-personal Space in South Korean Organizations. The Journal of the Korea Contents Association , 21 (9), 666–683. https://doi.org/10.5392/JKCA.2021.21.09.666

Terence M. Murphy (2001) The Effects of a Crowded Workplace on Morale and Productivity, Journal of Histotechnology, 24:1, 9-15, DOI: 10.1179/his.2001.24.1.9

How to Best Design a Hybrid Work Environment

You must have heard of them by now, these fancy new work environments. In the wake of a global pandemic, people had to come up with all-new ways of gathering and working, and a few of these methods seem to have struck a positive chord. With all this talk of “Work from Home” here, and “Work from Anywhere” there, and how they’re the future of the workplace in a post-covid world.

“It’ll boost productivity!”, they say. “Employees love it! It helps create the best work-life balance!” These statements ring true, generally – though there’s a bit of nuance at play. These successes are not universal, and there are some things that classic work structures are just superior for.

Online workplaces just can’t replicate the feeling of being around people. It’s hard to develop office friendships, meet new people, and forge career-building connections (Bloom, 2021b). And that’s just one example.

So, is there a way to get the best of both worlds? Can we pick up all the productivity benefits of WFH without abandoning the benefits of office work? Turns out: the answer may actually be “yes”. A “Hybrid model” aims to do just that. And with the help of research data, we aim to demonstrate exactly how that works, while giving practical advice on how that data can improve your business.

This article is all about understanding. We’re not just going to give you a few bullet points and call it a day, falsely satisfied in the knowledge that our readers can most definitely, 100% apply this knowledge in the best possible way. We know that’s not true – and any article claiming otherwise will inevitably lack the depth you need to truly see the benefits of a hybrid workplace model. In this industry, there is no one-size-fits all solution. Every business is different, and knowing the hows and whys are the ingredients to creating the best system that fits your business. Take our advice to heart, but don’t feel as though you need to follow each step to the letter. Nobody knows your business like you do, and that means you’re in the best position to know what is and isn’t beneficial. Pick the options that work best for you.

 

Developing an Understanding

So, first things first. What exactly is a “Hybrid model”? We know the things being hybridized – working from home, and working from an office. This isn’t a question of definitions, but of degrees. What is the balance that a hybrid workforce aims for?

The exact numbers tend to vary. Some companies prefer to lean on the WFH direction, only calling employees together for larger meetings, discussions, and so on. Others operate mostly from an office, sometimes encouraging people to work from home on 2 out of the 5 weekdays. Other companies leave that choice up to the worker themselves.

There is a significant amount of variance between how often people actually want to work from home. Some groups prefer to spend as much time as possible at home. The next biggest group of people only want to work at home “rarely or never” (Bloom, 2021a).

Each of these options will vary – both in their effectiveness, and in how much management work it creates for anyone trying to organize staff. We will dive more into that distinction later.

Hybrid work also varies in popularity from generation to generation. The older crowd, as you may expect, prefers to work in the way they’ve always known, and are more resistant to change. Meanwhile, for a group like generation Z, the results are intriguing: 74% have a preference either for working from home, or in a hybrid model (Afshar, 2020). 

But one universally-loved popularity metric is the stat on productivity. It doesn’t apply in literally every case, as employees living with children may face more distractions than others (Toscano et al, 2021), but speaking in very general terms, most workplaces will see a boost. In workplaces that introduce WFH policies, 83% saw productivity increase to some extent (Hunter, 2018).

One study from Stanford University had something really special to say about WFH productivity: that it was equivalent to an entire extra day of work completed each week (Bloom et al, 2013). Do note that this comparison is based on employees working fully from home, as opposed to working fully from an office. The hybrid model will see this boost in a partial sense, but not fully.

Most articles will immediately follow this productivity data up with how popular WFH is among the workforce itself. We already know the generational-based counterexample to that, but in most cases workers do, in fact, prefer a WFH option. 55% of them, in fact.

(Bloom, 2020). 

Another study found that WFH was so valued, that it was worth 6% of an employee’s wage – they’d pay that to get a chance to work where they pleased (Bloom, 2021b). That willingness applies to 42% of the workforce, by the way (Corps, 2018).

With numbers like this, it’s no wonder why businesses are quickly catching on to the trend. 82% of businesses already have, or plan to, introduce some elements of WFH into their structure (Baker, 2020). 

So as businesses make the shift, what is it that they’ll discover? WFH has differing strengths and weaknesses after all, and we just covered the strengths. So, what’s the catch?

As mentioned earlier, employees may struggle to find connections with other workers. Collaboration will be harder. Networking will prove challenging. WFH is really good for structures where everyone breaks off to work on their own thing, and discourages all other forms of work.

It’s possible that meeting productivity may also take a hit. For smaller meetings – say, between 4 workers – the downsides will be negligible. But for larger meetings, where everyone may struggle to fit on the same screen, issues can start to crop up (Bloom, 2021a). Even if everyone is easily audible, there are some messages that can get lost without a visual aid. People communicate using gestures and facial expressions fairly often, without even realizing they’re doing it. Likewise, many people can pick up these subtle details with relative ease, provided they have the information needed to do so. The lack of visual presence in a large digital meeting robs them of that information. As such, communication becomes more difficult.

A common worry that many business owners have is in regards to household distractions. To their credit, there are definitely times where workers can be hindered by the presence of so many attention-grabbing things. We already have data from crowded workplaces vs sparse ones (Terence, 2001), and the results prove our intuition. The difference is, though, that this doesn’t apply to WFH – at least, not always. Since workers are incentivized to maintain some level of productivity (the desire to keep one’s job is a powerful force), they have reason to minimize their own distractions. And since they work from home instead of an office, they now have the authority to do so. At least, they usually do.

Some factors are simply out of a worker’s control, though. Children are an easy example, but countless others exist. And for workers who may face them frequently, productivity may decrease. So while, in general, you can expect a productivity boost from WFH, it’s worth checking in with your workforce before instituting WFH policies, if possible. The productivity boost is not universal, but it is largely predictable.

 

The Best Model for You

Judging by all known sources, a hybrid model offers enough flexibility to maximize the strength of both WFH and traditional office models, while minimizing the weaknesses. But it’s a kind of flexibility that must be used mindfully, it’s not inherent to the process.

WFH has two main strengths: the agency offered to the workers, and the productivity increase for the employers. But it’s weaker in terms of collaboration and interaction between workers. Is it possible to maintain the agency that creates productivity, while maintaining the interpersonal aspects of a traditional office?

And so, we bring things back to our initial question. It’s clear that including some measure of WFH into your workplace model will be worthwhile. But it does come with some downsides. How much of those downsides are you, and your workforce, willing to endure?

The short answer is: it depends. That is why we spent so much time exploring the how and why of WFH – every factor depends on the needs of your business. How often do you need to assign collaborative tasks? How often do you hold large-capacity meetings? What does the typical home life look like for your average worker? If your answers are “often, often, and adults with young children to look after”, you may prefer to lean in a traditional direction. Other answers will, obviously, create a whole different kind of optimal model.

One significant choice that must be made in this model is in allowing workers to choose their own days worked from home. Will employees prefer to work Monday and Friday at home? Or perhaps Wednesday and Thursday?

Unlike the choice between WFH and traditional offices, you will likely need to take a firmer stance here. There are few generally-applicable sources in this area, which means you’ll need to choose the model that best fits your workplace.

For example: if you plan on coordinating an in-person meeting, or have multiple employees collaborate on a task simultaneously, then all those involved will need to ensure they chose the same day to arrive at work in-person. Since these same workers will likely be planning their own lives based on when they can or can’t be at home, they will need some predictive way to determine their must-be-at-work days. That means coordinating things far ahead of time, which means you need a system for archiving and distributing those predictions, and so on. If your business focuses very heavily on non-collaborative tasks, then such an endeavor may be worthwhile – but that will not be every business.

Another choice could lie in an inversion of that process. What if your business is on the other end of the spectrum, and benefits from a primarily WFH model? The disadvantages of WFH will need a counterbalance, but is it worth setting up an entire office complex just for that? The answer is likely a definitive “no”.

But that doesn’t mean the question is unsolvable. It just needs a shift in perspective. How can you get a powerful office space, if you won’t need or use it 24/7? The answer is, of course, a rental. There are plenty of services out there willing to host any number of employees – be it small teams or whole networks of people.

 

Book a meeting room in Toronto

If your business works best with a separated work/home space, but doesn’t need it to be a permanent fixture, The Professional Centre has plenty of options to fill your exact niche.

Pick up all the benefits of a centralized workplace, without any of the firm anchors keeping your business model rooted in a single method. Whether you need to service a large team or a small meeting, The Professional Centre can supply the exact kind of space you need to enhance your team’s productivity.

 


Works Cited:

Afshar, V. (2020, July 7). The future of work is hybrid: Work from home and the Workplace. ZDNET. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.zdnet.com/article/future-of-work-hybrid-home-and-workplace/ 

Baker, M. (2020, July 14). Gartner Survey reveals 82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time. Gartner. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-07-14-gartner-survey-reveals-82-percent-of-company-leaders-plan-to-allow-employees-to-work-remotely-some-of-the-time 

Bloom, N. (2020). How working from Home Works Out. Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://siepr.stanford.edu/publications/policy-brief/how-working-home-works-out 

Bloom, N. (2021, June). Hybrid is the future of work. Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://siepr.stanford.edu/publications/policy-brief/hybrid-future-work 

Bloom, N. (2021, March 21). Our research shows working from home works, in moderation | nick bloom. The Guardian. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/21/research-working-from-home 

Bloom, N., Liang, J., Roberts, J., & Ying, Z. J. (2013). Does working from home work? evidence from a Chinese experiment. https://doi.org/10.3386/w18871 

Corps, M. (2018, June 30). Survey of working adults shows U.S. employees willing to take pay cut for workplace flexibility. Survey of Working Adults Shows U.S. Employees Willing to Take Pay Cut for Workplace Flexibility. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-of-working-adults-shows-us-employees-willing-to-take-pay-cut-for-workplace-flexibility-128877868.html 

Hunter, P. (2018). Remote working in research. EMBO Reports, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.15252/embr.201847435

Terence M. Murphy (2001) The Effects of a Crowded Workplace on Morale and Productivity, Journal of Histotechnology, 24:1, 9-15, DOI: 10.1179/his.2001.24.1.9

Toscano, F., & Zappalà, S. (2021). Overall job performance, remote work engagement, living with children, and remote work productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. European Journal of Psychology Open, 80(3), 133–142. https://doi.org/10.1024/2673-8627/a000015 

The Shape of the Workplace in a Post-Covid World

We live in the waning days of a global pandemic. The existence of Covid-19 forced much of society to warp around it, and with it gone, we now must determine the shape of “back to normal”. In some cases, it’s a simple task of recreating what came before, but for employers, they face a special challenge. The working world experienced a surge in work-from-home (WFH), and found the move to be a great success, Covid or not.

WFH is a special kind of working, that does some things extremely well, and others poorly. The concept of a work-life balance has been given a greater cultural emphasis, making those factors more relevant, even to non-WFH positions. So if you’re looking to create a business structure, how can you chart a path forward? Which route is best for you and your workers? This article places a strong focus on the data, seeking to evaluate various methods of work, all to help you make that final call.

For the sake of simplicity, this article will mainly be comparing a traditional office setup with a WFH direction. There are variants to each mode, of course, but these two offer the highest contrast between each other. Work-from-anywhere, though it can operate on a global scale, has a lot of overlap with existing WFH frameworks. Likewise, coworking spaces are similar to the traditional office structure in that they bring all employees to a centralized, curated location – but there, employers have less control over the space. A difference to be sure, but not enough to make it disanalogous from an office.

 

Comparing Work-From-Home to Traditional Offices

When looking into discussions about WFH, you’ll find the concept of “work-life balance” everywhere you turn. In the pre-Covid era, when people were encountering WFH for the first time, it was often touted as a way for people to set their own schedule and balance things in a way that best suited them. In practice, this concept proved more difficult to achieve than expected. Much of this difficulty was actually definitional – this idea of “work-life balance” is actually quite nebulous, which makes achieving it a difficult task (Felstead et al, 2002).

Generally, WFH’s problems are things that a traditional workplace structure excels at. Where employees may feel aimless when working from home, unable to truly separate their work life from their home life, other kinds of employees may enjoy the defined severance created by a traditional workplace.

Offices are more than just a space for people to get work done and leave. The collecting of each worker in one place allows for a collaborative environment, letting employees organically intermingle, offering a helping hand when needed. They can offer support, education, advice on projects, or simply allow for socialization and career networking. Letting an employee watch another do a job well is an excellent, efficient way of training new hires. The very act of making employees accessible to other employees is not to be underestimated.

But there is another side to the coin, this time in favor of WFH, and it’s an all-important factor for any workplace looking to see positive results: productivity. The ability to craft one’s own schedule, down to the finest detail, allows for a more flexible model – one that could, in theory, lead to employees optimizing a workflow model that fits their needs specifically. 77% of workers claim to be more productive when working from home (Steward, 2022), but is that true? Of companies that introduced remote work policies, 83% saw an increase in productivity (Hunter, 2018). Not a universal success by any means, but certainly worth taking notice.

It is also worth noting that the productive effects of WFH have some caveats. For instance, productivity levels do tend to drop in some situations, relative to your average WFH employee. Perhaps the most obvious factor is in living with children, as parental needs tend to carry a strong influence over the parent’s life (Toscano et al, 2021).

On your employee’s end, the added control can offer numerous quality-of-life benefits. It erases the commute, lets parents keep a closer eye on their kids, and if an unexpected window of opportunity appears to get work done, nothing is stopping them from taking it.

Keeping employees in their own homes is also less expensive than the need to maintain a constant office space, and you won’t have to worry about your entire workforce catching the common cold all at once.

Of course, hybrid models like coworking spaces can offer a mix of both upsides while potentially negating some of these downsides. If this is the direction you lean, then the question moves away from “which option do I want” and towards “which should I emphasize?” If employees are sometimes working from home and other times from an office, how often is “sometimes”? Whether you aim to keep one foot in each model or embrace a side with open arms, you’ll have a choice to make.

 

Making Tough Decisions

So, with the options set in place, how can we begin evaluating each direction? Which one best fits the business you aim to operate?

In short, WFH offers dispersed freedom, at the cost of centralized structure. Traditional offices are the inverse, centralizing their structure at the cost of dispersed freedom. You will have to decide which end of this scale has the most synergy with your business model. Perhaps you value a dispersed employee group, operating from different parts of a state or nation, to give them a wider degree of perspectives and life experiences? Or maybe you value the interpersonal connections between employees, and the idea of solo jobs isn’t one you encounter all too often? The factors at play are simply too numerous to list here.

But that is only a functional perspective on these models. Employers will face different realities and responsibilities in each situation, so another question to ask is “which option can my business most easily support?”

When it comes to the operation of a traditional workplace structure, it does come with an added ‘catch’. If you want a dedicated space for employees to work, then someone has to manage and design that space. This is not a simple task – every detail, right down to the temperature of the room itself (Lan et al, 2009), will have an impact on worker productivity.

In allowing WFH, you will offer employees the chance to personalize their own schedule, but it’s a schedule you may need to plan around. Several studies recommend a degree of employer planning when it comes to WFH, as different employees will have different needs in different situations. While some workers will use that control to be more productive, some may be hindered from doing so (such as in the previous “living with children” example). In WFH, employees will typically collaborate indirectly, so if projects call for a more direct involvement between workers, you might face issues.

There is still one final perspective worth considering here, though. What do employees prefer? Will either one have a stronger effect on employee well-being?

You’ve no doubt come across someone who’s said “I could never handle that”, or something similar, in regards to WFH. It’s not an uncommon sentiment, by any stretch of the imagination. You’ve likely never heard the reverse, that some people are just totally incompatible with office life. Some will begrudgingly accept the “daily grind”, but few reject it outright. There’s a reason why it’s been a staple of workforces for so much of human history: because people, in general, will do it.

Granted, it’s obvious that for some people, they greatly prefer WFH to any traditional structure. That’s why WFH was able to maintain relevance past the pandemic – because people realized how much they love it. But there is a difference between a preference and a requirement – and from what it seems, few people have a requirement for WFH, but some will require a separated working space.

One final piece of evidence can perhaps solve this puzzle. According to a study (Llanora, 2022), 49% of workers actually preferred a hybrid model. Usually, this means some days at the office and others left open, but it can also involve having a persistently-available working space that’s optionally accessible to those who need it, and used on occasion. This demographic isn’t quite a majority, but it’s larger than the other groups who prefer one model over the other – both hovering around 25% of surveyed workers. 

 

The Best Post-Covid Option for Your Workplace

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to workplace woes. In deciding whether to take a traditional or WFH approach, you’ll use factors like a business model’s compatibility, the opinions of your workforce, and the business’ capacity to enable either model, all to guide your thinking. Examine whether your business aligns better in a centralized structure or in dispersed freedom. Or if it’s a combination of the two, determine the degree to which your business leans in either direction. This will offer valuable insight through which you can frame each decision factor.

One possible solution can involve leaning on another person’s expertise. If you don’t have the time or resources to set up a maximally efficient workplace, you can find someone that does. Co-working spaces, for example, offer that dedicated working environment without being anchored to any one business. Other options include renting a space for dedicated project meetings, if you don’t anticipate a need for persistent working locations.

As mentioned in the intro, there are several other business models that aren’t strictly WFH or traditional offices. If your workforce doesn’t want to ditch a given benefit of either model, the ever-intriguing hybrid models might do the trick. Some businesses have managed to retain the flexibility of WFH, while offering employees a professional center of operations. Once you’ve mapped out your business’ needs and priorities, you’ll be that much closer to finding a workplace model that best suits everyone involved.


Book a Meeting Room in Toronto

If your business works best with a separated work/home space, but doesn’t need it to be a permanent fixture, The Professional Centre has plenty of options to fill your exact niche.

Pick up all the benefits of a centralized workplace, without any of the firm anchors keeping your business model rooted in a single method. Whether you need to service a large team or a small meeting, The Professional Centre can supply the exact kind of space you need to enhance your team’s productivity.

8 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance

Do you continue to take calls once you’re home from the office? Or check your emails on the weekends? It’s okay – a lot of us do it! But it’s not the healthiest of habits and the pandemic has only made it more of a common experience. With hybrid teams and remote work being the norm, it’s no surprise that we’re finding it harder than ever to draw a line between our professional and personal lives. After all, the couch has now become our work, rest, and social spot. It’s not that easy to “turn off” after work when our space is consumed with it. So, in 2021, it’s more  important than ever to maintain our work-life-balance.

We talk a lot about work-life balance, but what does it actually mean? The simple answer is that it means “having a good equilibrium between your professional and personal life.” Consistently working long hours, skipping vacations and weekends, and feeling unsupported at work can lead to chronic stress. This then snowballs into both physical and mental health problems. Without a balance between our professional and personal lives, it’s easy to fall victim to workplace burnout. 

Improving work-life balance can be achieved on both individual and organizational levels. With the former, it’s essential to give enough space and time to our relationships, personal responsibilities, and to the things that bring us joy in life. With the latter, businesses need to encourage having a healthy relationship with work. This creates trust between employees and employers and can increase employee satisfaction. So, here’s a breakdown of some best practices for a healthy work-life balance.

 

Don’t Skip Those Breaks!

Time management is one of the most important aspects of work, and especially remote work. This doesn’t just mean organizing our time while being productive, but also our time while not working! We need to schedule breaks. At the office we’re able to chat with coworkers, grab food, or stretch our legs. At home we’re often isolated and not in contact with people throughout the day. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t necessarily be glued to our desks for hours on end, so we should try to step away from our monitors and take breaks.

 

Routine, Routine, Routine.

Building a routine is game-changing for time management. This means waking up on time, getting dressed, and leaving for work at the same time every day. It’s easy to start or end late, but having a routine gives us a sense of control over our workdays. Prior to the pandemic, we would get home from the office and, after preparing for the following day, we’d normally have some down time. It shouldn’t be any different when working from home. Clocking in and out at the same time every day and planning time off stops us from being drawn to our emails and can stop work from leaking into our personal lives.

 

Move Your Body!

Once we’ve gotten the hang of taking breaks, let’s consider adding movement to them. We all know that finding the motivation to exercise can be challenging these days, but moving doesn’t necessarily mean doing a workout. Even the smallest movements matter. When using the office, we get movement in our commutes, visiting coworkers, and running errands on our breaks. When working from home, some of us only shift from our bedrooms, to our desks, to our kitchens, and back again. So, we need to remember to move! Perhaps try going for a walk or a light run, doing some yoga, or stretching every day. These actions can also be built into the routine we talked about previously.

 

Set Boundaries.

Clocking out at the end of the day isn’t always enough. Setting boundaries and limiting how often we check in on work is essential. Applications like Chrome allow you to create multiple browsers so that your bookmarks, homepage, and email are assigned to a specific browser. This gives you a separate one with no business-related links or emails, meaning you can surf the web without constant reminders of work. It’s also helpful to sign off of communication apps and shut project management apps at the end of the day. Try to even turn off notifications for the night! 

 

Separate Your Workspace.

If possible, try to separate work space from leisure space. Some of us don’t have a designated workspace in our homes, but making small changes can still help. Working in bed is not a good idea because it should be a safe and relaxing area – moving to a couch or table is healthier. We often unconsciously associate our spaces with the activities we do in them. So, if you’re working in your bed, you’ll start to associate it with work, and this can make it harder to unwind or sleep. If you don’t have access to a separate space, look into accessible spaces away from home. 

Depending on the government restrictions near you, you may want to look into working in a coffee shop or even a coworking space. The Professional Centre offers On-Demand offices that are available to rent for a day, a week, or however long is needed. They grant access to benefits such as a fully equipped office, professional on-site support staff, and refreshments. If you’re struggling with work from home, think about giving yourself a workspace away from your home.

 

Manage Your “Zoom Fatigue”.

We now use video conferencing for work and socializing. After multiple calls a day, it’s common to feel irritated or extra tired. We should try to look away from our screens or try doing audio-only calls. We can check in with our teams and ensure that all of our meetings are essential. If you’re not needed in every meeting on your calendar, consider opting out from time to time.

 

Use Your Vacation Days.

It may not feel like it’s worth taking vacation days with travel restrictions and lockdowns in effect, but they remain as important as ever. Just because we’re at home, doesn’t mean we wouldn’t benefit from some time off. We need time away from work to destress, switch our brains off, and to spend time with loved ones. Vacation days might not always roll over, so it’s better to use them rather than lose them! 

 

Enjoy Your “Me-Time.”

We all have hobbies, interests, music we enjoy, food we love, and friends we want to talk to! So, here’s a reminder to take time out of your day to foster those aspects of your life. Start a new hobby or reunite with an old one. Cook yourself a delicious meal and put your favourite music on. Call a friend or family member and chat for a while. It’s easy to feel isolated these days, and it’s important to remind ourselves of all the good in our lives. If our entire week is completely consumed with work and work-related topics, we might forget about the things that make us happy.

 

This year has been universally challenging and everyone is adapting and learning at their own pace. Finding a good balance between our professional and personal lives is an on-going process! It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or lethargic, but implementing some of these techniques can help shift some of the weight from your shoulders and help you feel rejuvenated.


 

We were recently featured in The 10 Best Coworking Spaces in Toronto [2021 ] (thebesttoronto.com).

 


Rethinking your organization’s workspace? Discover our flexibly designed and fully managed enterprise office solutions.

How COVID-19 Has Changed The Way We Work

It’s been a long year. Remember back in March, when we thought this was all going to be over in a few weeks? Well, 8 months later, it seems like we are finally at a stage of accepting the pandemic’s long-term effects on society. These changes will likely exist for several years, and the landscape of the working world is going to look very different. 

People may feel nervous about the idea of long-term change, but try to remember that, on a global scale, we’ve lived through several societal changes over the last few decades. Through mass-tragedy or mass-fortune, technological advancements, politics, natural disasters and more, many of our systems of communication, travel, and work are now permanently altered. This is just another one of those shifts that occurs across the course of our lives.

 

Work-From-Home:

The first and most obvious change is that remote work is now the norm. Most of the workforce – excluding essential workers – have found ways to make work-from-home accessible for themselves. Forward-thinking professionals are now investing in home-offices. People are taking the time to buy the necessary tools (desks, chairs, laptops etc.) to ensure that, regardless of the future, they have a proper workspace in their homes for when they need it. Some are finding a lot of benefits in working from home, especially those with children or other daily commitments. 

The freedom that has come with remote work is going to be difficult to let go of and, even as offices reopen and welcome their employees back, some will still opt to work from home for at least part of the week. There are also those who are struggling with WFH and will want to return to the office as soon as possible. These shifts are forcing companies to adopt the new hybrid work model, which incorporates both partial WFH and partial in-office work.

 

Workspace Redesign:

The majority of larger companies have said they expect to open their offices in 2021, depending on the ebbs and flows of the pandemic. When offices do reopen though, we will see a massive shift in how they look and operate. Plexiglass, reduced capacities, and physical distancing markers are just a few of the physical changes that will need to be in place before people return. COVID-19 screening procedures and temperature checks will be standard until a vaccine is finalized and accessible to the general public. Another change is that, though open-plan offices were previously making headway as the new “it” layout strategy, the safest way forward will follow a more traditional model of having private offices that are regulated and safe for employees to use. Most flexible workspaces have already begun the process of transforming their spaces to be COVID-19 safe.

 

The Professional Centre, as an example, has already installed plexiglass in all common areas, placed air purifiers throughout their floors, and ensured the floors are key card accessed only. Masks are mandatory, all members and guests have to fill out a COVID-19 screening survey before entering, and everyone is required to inform the on-site staff of any risk of exposure or positive tests. This has all been done to ensure that anyone using the space is as safe as possible.

 

Flexible Workspaces:

It seems that the flexible workspace industry will take the lead in safe workspaces for the foreseeable future. Companies are understandably hesitant to consider the financial commitments of traditional office spaces and long-term leases, especially without knowing how many employees will return to the office. There’s also the financial commitment of having to prep and ensure that their space is safe for a return to work. This is why flexible workspaces are the ultimate solution for the new hybrid model of work. 

With countless different sizing options, from individual desks to 100-people sized offices, there is a solution for every need, at lower costs than traditional office space. One solution is to rent an office that is smaller in size (and therefore a better financial choice) and have a larger team come in on a rotating schedule. This means the team will be able to choose when they would like to work from home and when they will come into the office. It allows them to work together for part of the week, and it ensures that there are never too many people in the space at the same time.

 

Work Flexibility:

COVID-19 has also brought about several philosophical changes to how we view both office culture and work-life balance. The most recently discussed is the traditional 9-5 model of work. With remote work, there came the realization that we don’t necessarily need to show up to work at 9am and leave at 5pm. Working from home has allowed people to incorporate freedom to their workdays, taking breaks to run errands and attend to personal needs. People are now shifting their hours to start and end later. It does not mean that we’re working less, but just that we are choosing when we can work most effectively. Redefining the “workday” has brought a newly-found freedom to people’s lives.

 

Changing How We Measure Productivity:

Because of this change in what constitutes “working,” we also need to develop new ways to measure productivity at work. Previously, it was generally measured by who showed up at the office and sat at their desks all day. Now, though, with everyone separated and physically unaccounted for, team leaders are having to revisit how to hold their teams accountable for their work. New deliverables, key performance indicators, and regular check-ins need to be set up for distributed teams. Allowing employees to have flexibility in their hours means that we need to check in about the level of performance, instead of simply checking that they have shown up.

 

Redefining “Leadership”:

COVID-19 is also changing the way we view the word “leadership.” Living through a global pandemic is a new experience for absolutely everyone, managers and team leads included. The universal leadership advice is that they need to “put their own oxygen masks on before helping others.” Leaders first need to discern their own parameters around how to cope and take care of both their professional and personal needs. Once they have figured that out, they can then address everyone that looks to them for guidance. 

Post 2020, leaders need to have constant open communication, even when they are unsure of how to proceed. They need to be open to critique and concerns and be flexible in how they address others’ problems. Humanity is an essential characteristic to being a good leader these days. Learning how to address each team member as human with their own stresses and feelings about the pandemic, is a vital part to their roles these days.

 

Yes to Casual Dress:

A fun aspect of our new working world is that casual dress is now normal for most fields of work. With everyone working from home for months on end, the need for formal dress has

disappeared and people are now able to wear whatever they want (within reason) in

meetings, interviews, and when addressing their staff. Seeing each other comfortable in our homes has brought a sense of compassion to work, and though the option for formal dress is still there, it is no longer required.

 

Less Travel:

Unfortunately, we are going to have to write off work-related travel for the time being. A positive to this is that the technological world is evolving faster than ever to accommodate for long distance relationships. However, this also means that people cannot hold in-person conferences,travel to clients, or travel for work in general (unless it is essential). 

 

New Technology:

But fear not! The future looks bright and maybe soon we shall be using tools like VR to add an extra sense of friendliness to our virtual replacements for travel. Tech companies are working hard to develop new software and programs that make virtual work more efficient for distributed teams. We’re all looking for new ways to bring humanity to our work every day. Maybe we want to send a video message instead of sending a memo. Maybe we host more virtual lunch hours for staff to get to spend some quality time together. 

 

Despite how isolating things feel right now, remember there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about the future!

 


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