Category Archives: work from home

Zoom Meetings and Your Virtual Office Set Up.

 

zoom meetings

Zoom meetings can be a magnificent tool for working from home, but you will need a deft hand to get the most out of it. Your home office can offer you just as much control over your virtual meetings as a co-working space, and it can make a big difference in how much you get done and how well you can collaborate with your colleagues. It can also be an effective tool for a virtual manager. so if you never set up a Zoom account now is the time to start.  It is easy if you follow this simple guide.

Action 1: Create a Zoom account– it’s free to sign up! Either way, it takes less than a minute to sign up for a Zoom account.

Zoom Basic: This is the free variation. If you’re the meeting host), Great for 1:1 unrestricted video calling and group calls (40-minute time limit. You likewise get endless direct and group messaging abilities with Zoom Chat.
Zoom Pro: For $14.99/ month, you get all of Basic plus enhanced admin controls on your conferences, in addition to cloud recording. Compare plans and rates to find out the best one for you.
Step 2: Download the Zoom Meetings software on your desktop and mobile. You can discover that on the Zoom download centre. From there, simply check-in, and you’re good to go!

What Setup Do you Really Need For Zoom Meetings?

Your laptop computer (Mac or PC) will likely have an integrated camera and audio, but it makes a huge difference in the experience for you and others in the conference when you have a quality webcam and a great microphone.

To be your finest self on cam, we advise getting a Logitech Brio webcam and a set of Airpods (although they are pricey). Even a pair of wired mic-enabled headphones can go a long way.  To even improve your appearance on Zoom meetings you can get some cosmetic surgery tweaks – tweakments as they are referred to – so even in close up your wrinkles remain hidden. You can also enable “Touch up my appearance” to remove some of the wear and tear of lockdown. This capability can be enabled via your Zoom setting.  It is of course, easier and cheaper than a trip to Harley St or your local Botox clinic.

Virgin? BT? Talk Talk?

Normally, home internet isn’t as robust as your office network. Rest ensured, though, that Zoom is enhanced for efficiency and is known to work excellent at home, in cafes, and on your mobile network.

When you’re all set up with the software application, the setup, and your web, go to www.zoom.us/test to evaluate your audio and video. You’ll sign up with a quick test conference to help get your communication settings all rectified. I have used Zoom successfully on a fast Virgin fibre connection and also on a portable Simcard powered modem in the heart of the countryside, it all worked fine.  Zoom is designed to prioritise your audio over your video output so you will always be heard.

Hide your kitchen cupboards with a tropical garden.

Zoom Background Image

Zoom Background Image

Uploading a good background or video will help you hide background mess and other visual interruptions, specifically for those who may work out of a spare bedroom, have an inquisitive pet who follows you around or wish to keep their domestic circumstances private in a cool way.

A useful tip is to stay on mute in large meetings just in case the Amazon guy rings your doorbell rings my doorbell or Dominos Pizzas are running early. Holding the spacebar to unmute to make a quick comment makes it so much simpler to manage your audio. You will find this handy option in all Zoom plans.

Integrate your calendar

Many of us use Gmail so I’m going to go through that specific workflow, but you can find more on calendar integration here if you use Office 365 or Exchange.

No matter how comfortable your home office is, there will be days when you just don’t feel motivated to work. You may find yourself procrastinating or just staring at the computer screen, instead of doing what needs to be done. On days like that, you can also toggle your Zoom Chat status to busy so you can give yourself a bit of much-needed me-time.  When you are using Hold Everything to answer your business phone call you are always available to clients and colleagues and you can structure your working day as it suits you best.

 

Is Work From Home WFH an Illusion of ‘The Real Thing’?

WFH working from home

Work from home

You have probably noticed all the major corporations promoting their WFH schemes as if they had discovered the mystery of the universe, it is interesting to step back a moment and see what it means.  Here, at Hold Everything, we know all about working from home but from the perspective of small businesses and independent-minded freelancers.  Most company employees are not Working From Home. as a clever Flexi policy  (#WFH) they are trapped in their homes working for the same corporation in the context of a pandemic.

It makes me chuckle that right now companies are patting themselves on the backs for ‘opening the floodgates’ to flexibility when really they had no choice but to release everyone into their homes. If they didn’t Zoom in over the last eight months, they’d have had to shut down.  I came across a very interesting report by Sir Robert McAlpine and social change agency Claremont entitled ‘Forever Flex: Flexible working beyond a pandemic’.  What the report found was that  2020 is not the time to hail a flexible working revolution because people are burning out by always being ‘on’. We’re in a period of ‘fake flex’ where employees are competing to prove their worth by logging on 24/7 and in turn, aren’t taking a break, resulting in them breaking.

wfh

So whilst corporate employees suddenly see themselves in the same universe as ‘true freelancers’ they are, in reality, poles apart. They are not actually ‘digital nomads’ strolling on some Indonesian beach with a laptop in a canvas bag.  They are just corporate fodder tied to their own home waiting for the next Zoom request from their line managers. It might well be, that these WFH corporate employees will eventually morph into true freelancers/consultants and independent businessmen because of redundancy or general corporate cutbacks.   When this happens, and the apron strings that have tied them to the big banks and consultancies are finally cut, they will take advantage of what a virtual office can offer them.   It is only then that they will see the real benefits of #WFH by setting a genuine flexible life/work schedule without having to be grateful for every crumb of head office support allocated to them as they sit in their cramped kitchens.

During the COVID-19 year, we have had a stream of new clients come to us who are seeking the true ‘sunny uplands’ that working for yourself can bring.   So let’s not confuse being outsourced to your own home by corporate necessity and choosing an independent life supported by companies like Hold Everything.

Cabin Fever? Ditch the Home Office For Your Local Pub or a Mayfair Hotel.

work with zoom

cabin fever

Are you getting ‘cabin fever’?  Are the living room walls beginning to move in on you?  Has WFH turned from being a delightful novelty to being a dreary ‘same old, same old?   When isolation goes too far its time to have a change of office scenery in this ‘new normal’ office life.  Two important parts of the struggling hospitality industry are here to help you overcome WFH blues.  Your friendly local pub and your under-utilised luxury hotel.  Both benefit from wifi and both can provide day-round refreshments.  After all its what they are there for.

Dozens of pubs are encouraging people who have been working remotely to escape the four walls of their home office and work from their local instead.

The schemes, which typically cost £10-20 for unlimited tea, coffee and sandwich lunch, help landlords to make up for lost revenue after months spent closed or working under Covid-19 restrictions such as the 10 pm curfew in England and the closure of pubs and restaurants in central Scotland until Sunday.

According to a recent article in the Times the King’s Head pub in Winchmore Hill, north London, for example, offers customers unlimited coffee, lunch, and a pint of beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day for £20.  “People who have taken the offer up are staying longer than they otherwise would have,” said Gary Willison, the pub’s general manager. “We had someone here yesterday who worked here and then met their families here at the end of the day.” When you are paying a set fee you feel less like you are ‘table-blocking’ the way one often felt pre-Covid at the local Pret or Cafe Nero.  

Hotels too are getting in on the act, they have been having a terrible time with their regular clientele not filling the rooms or keeping the bars busy.  Another article in the telegraph confirmed this ‘Cabin Fever’ trend.

cabin fever

According to Melanie Marcombe, head of sales at Dayuse.com, a platform that allows users to book a hotel for hours rather than overnight, the site has seen an explosion in hotels offering working packages; not surprising, given that worldwide most are currently operating at below 30 per cent occupancy – far lower than what they need to survive.  Normally Dayuse.com was the ‘philanderer’s friend ‘ with afternoon rooms being let out for illicit trysts now they are being used by bored executives for less erotic purposes.  That cute boutique hotel that 6 months ago offered an afternoon of discreet naughtiness now offers an afternoon of high-speed wifi and coffee and biscuits on tap, plus the convenience of meeting space -all socially isolated of course, and relief from cabin fever.

Large, urban hotels aimed at business travellers have been among the hardest hit. Since the beginning of lockdown, Marcombe says they have received more than 1,000 requests from hotels around the world asking to join the platform – which now features 6,000 hotels in 25 countries.  Elsewhere Joanne Taylor-Stagg, general manager at the Athenaeum, – one of London’s most exclusive hotels – admits that occupancy is currently “in the teens” percentage-wise (at this time of year they’d usually be around 80 per cent full) and certainly, so they are more than happy to cut a deal with the work from home community.  Remember, that when your main office functions are professionally outsourced to the Virtual office team at Hold Everything it doesn’t really matter where you plug your trusty Macbook or drink your cappuccino.   So why not explore some fresh surroundings and make these dismal times that bit more cheerful?   Also bear in mind, that these are all legitimate business expenses that your accountant will probably look favourably on.

Your Work-From-Home Setup – Time To Smarten Up Your Act.

work-from-home

work form home

All the indications are that work-from-home will be around for a lot longer than we expected when we first entered COVID lockdown mode. Michael Gove and the rest of the cabinet team want us to work at home if we can to help contain the virus.  The emphasis seems to be on ‘home’ bit of ‘work from home’  they are not recommending using a shared office like ‘We Work ‘ as a convenient compromise.    Indeed the shared office space boom is becoming a victim of the pandemic along with many other old-style work patterns.   Sharing office space with a dozen other freelancers is not any healthier than trudging into a Canary Wharf office suite.  The We Work business model has taken a bad bruising and rents are not being paid on time.  20% of We Work’s office space in New York – its biggest market – is empty and not showing any signs of improving.

It seems obvious to me and many other business pundits that the optimum solution is to perform the actual work from your physical home but the combine this with a fully functional ‘Virtual office‘.  So if we are going to work from our home we need to make the workspace as efficient and as comfortable as we can.  So where should you be investing your attention and your money in bringing your home office up to speed?

Here are some essential items that will give your work-from-home set up an ergonomic and, of course, aesthetic upgrade.

1| L-Shaped Desk

Your desk is the centre of your dedicated work station, and a quality work table will do wonders for your work-from-home productivity. Finding the best desk depends on the space, budget, and personal preference, but one type of desk I highly recommend is an L-shaped desk. It’s big enough to handle a PC, laptop, notebooks, printer, and plenty more besides.

2| Luxury Chair Makes Work-From-Home a Pleasure

Eames office chair – a classic.

The chair is everything. Sitting on a Monoblock for 12 hours a day might just give you scoliosis, so give yourself a break and invest in one very comfy and very luxurious wheely chair. It might hurt your wallet, but at least it won’t hurt your back. Don’t just grab the first chair you find at Rymans or Ikea search around for something stylish. Perhaps a classic Eames office chair that you see in many office film sets?  It’s a classic in design and very comfortable.   If your sitting position is important ten maybe visit a specialist back chair shop and try what is most comfortable for you.  Remember, you are your own human resources department. When you work-from-home you decide your own office style and function.

3| Wide Monitor – Keep Multiple Projects on the Go. 

samsung wide moonitir

The power of a big monitor is underrated. Even if it isn’t hooked up to a PC and just an extension of your laptop screen, having a wide view of all your tasks and windows can make you feel as if you’re on top of the situation.  Samsung, LG and all the usual culprits will sell you something to dazzle your family and friends and work on several projects at once.

4| Sleek Keyboard

Logitech K780

Go for something sleek with a good clunky feel to the keys so that you feel a satisfying click as you work.  In my experience, the keyboards that come as part of a PC deal are cheaply made and not ergonomic.  Visit the big retailers like Curry’s or PC world that have a good selection of keyboards or the tech department of Selfridge or John lewis will let you see what are available at different price points.

5| Soft Light For Bright ideas

philips hue lighting

Bad lighting can make your headache worse, and you don’t need that to happen if you’re already sitting in front of a computer screen half the day. Soft light is the answer to your troubles. It’s bright enough to do the job, but not strong enough to glare into your eyes when you’re feeling drowsy.  Maybe this is the time to check out the Philips lighting system that you can control to get exactly the hue and power to suit your needs when you work-from-home.

6| Docking station

A really good docking station from Kensington

Too many wires and plugs all over the place can affect your focus and therefore your productivity. Clean up your connectivity with a simple docking station that does the job of getting rid of clutter.  If you use a Macbook for example, there are some very slick docking stations you can hook into to free up space and give you extra USB points.  Browse online to find the best docking station for your type of computer and then do a price comparison to get a good deal..  But, you already know this, you are an entrepreneur which is why you are following our blog.

Be your own Barista

work-from-home

 

You can make your work-from-home cup of coffee as stylish as any top coffee lounge in London by buying a good quality coffee maker.  You can grab a capsule system from Amazon or visit a specialist barista supply shop if you really value your morning cappuccino.   Pair the coffee with a few chocolate beans or a cantucci for a better than Cafe Nero experience.

If you allow yourself the finest in home office equipment then you will match the high-quality equipment and services we use to work efficiently as your virtual office.

 

Working From Home Will Establish a Different Kind of Business Landscape.

home working
working from home

London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York,  each of these huge global cities are related in that they are major nerve centres of creativity. These cities started to buzz for a reason: vital business meetings of national importance were taking place, Business owners and idea makers were putting their heads together to invent exciting new technologies, and go-getters met over flaming sambuca’s and expresso coffees to discuss startup ideas.  Now we all seem to be working from home in social isolation.

The physical setting really did matter; the bricks and mortar of a downtown office block and the in-person interaction that comes with that. Yet, in a step toward making distant work a lasting future, Facebook and Google, for example, told their staffs that they can work from home until July 2021. We know that the nature of jobs has changed into ‘digital by default’ so this is the result we might reasonably expect.

Indeed, a study by Google on distance workers found “no difference in the effectiveness, productivity ratings or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires teamwork with coworkers around the world versus ‘Googlers’ who spend the majority of their daily collaborating with colleagues in the same office.”.

Nevertheless, some people might justifiably claim that staff working from home could potentially hinder product development and innovation. Tyler Cowen writing in Bloomberg said that “Even as tech companies grow more essential, the geographic distribution of company activity will also make them less unique. They’ll start to resemble a typical cross-section of the workforce, with all of the routines and bureaucracy that most other companies experience. They’ll have less fire in the belly to disrupt and overturn previous institutions.”

This is not a completely new trend. IBM, the pioneer of teleworking, eliminated nearly all of its office work years ago, and then released a report entitled “Challenging the modern myths of remote working, the evidence for the upside of teleworking.” Back in 2014, they boasted about their innovative modern business model with over 45 per cent of their employees working from home. But one also has to consider that WFH on a large scale can destroy the innovation hubs that have popped up in places like silicon valley or Shoreditch in East London.

silicon valley

Offices have been discarded for Discord Servers, Zoom, Slack Channels and the like. Over the last few months, multiple news sources have confirmed that people are forsaking from cities towards urban and rural areas. Could this Covid-19 pandemic really decentralize tech opportunities out of just a few hotspots, such as London and New York?.

These developments have huge ramifications for the global innovation landscape as a whole.  Here at hold Everything we see the future being mapped out before our eyes.  Large office suites are being rationalised into more compact meeting areas with employees working out from their homes.  The sprawling office of the past has turned into an agile set of services, call answering, mail forwarding and meeting rooms by the hour.

Nevertheless, to say that working from home will mark the end of innovation is an exaggeration. As per Raconteur and Professor Bernd Irlenbusch, who co-led a study titled Innovation and communication media in virtual teams: an experimental study, by the University of Cologne and Leibniz University Hannover, “Previous research has shown that creative performance is significantly lower when there is no face-to-face communication. However, the current lockdown has fostered the adoption of new technologies to conduct collaborative tasks when team members work from home. Video conferencing can mitigate the gap in creative performance.”.

virtual work

We will work remotely but human contact is part of our human makeup and we will need to set up new routines with augmented reality (such as social online meetings) that can be put in place to foster collaboration and more human-like meetings instead of solely relying on cold, unemotional Zoom meetings.

The most important takeaway that emerges is that working from home means that a new species of entrepreneur has emerged, and those who adapt quickest will be best-suited moving forward.  Hold Everything will be there to help with our fully serviced, totally agile, virtual office.