Summer 👏 is 👏 here 👏!  It’s time for the beach, barbeques, and early release on Fridays. Unfortunately, for us adults, summer does not mean school’s out. But, if you play your cards right you can work hard and play hard. The name of the game is productivity. The more you can get done in a shorter amount of time the better. Check out these top 5 apps for productivity so that you can spend less time working, and more time enjoying the sunshine with friends and family.

Serene - a 3 tiered approach

Serene is a macOS app that layers three techniques to boost focus and limit distractions. This is one of the best apps for productivity because it helps you plan your day. We all know how powerful goal setting can be, especially when they are small and achievable. Each day Serene prompts you to identify a goal, specify the timeframe to complete it, and how you will get started. 

The second step in Serene is to block digital distractions. The app allows you to block apps and websites that you know take you off track such as Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter. While you can customize which websites you would like to block, you aren’t able to block “some” distractions or prioritize “some” information. The app or website is blocked entirely during the session you choose so you have to be sure your focus is more important than missing any messages.

The last step is to enhance your focus. Serene helps customers do this with focus music, countdown timers, and scheduled breaks. Overall, this product is great for someone who likes a plan but needs help sticking to it. The distraction blocking is a nice addition but the options are somewhat limited.

|| Try Serene for a trial period of 10 hours here.

 

Hardly - Notification Customization

Apps for Productivity, Hardly

When developing the best apps for productivity, companies must balance simplicity and customization, and Hardly does just that. Hardly’s interface is very straightforward making it easy to use. A productivity app is no good if you are distracted by figuring out how to use it.

At the same time, the app offers users a high level of personalization with the ability to prioritize certain alters and block some distractions. Instead of going totally silent, the app allows you to filter notifications by person, project name, and urgency. This means you can go into focus mode without fear of missing anything important or time-sensitive.  To me, this feature is priceless.

Want to learn more about how Hardly can help you reach your productivity goals? Read our deep-dive article from earlier this month and sign up for our beta test here.

Shift - all of your apps & accounts in 1 place

Apps for Productivity, Hardly, Shift

Shift is for those of you looking to declutter your desktop. The app helps you focus and improve your productivity by shortening the time it takes to switch back and forth between different email accounts, browser tabs, and apps. Shift becomes your browser for work; having everything in one place makes the process seamless and efficient. With Shift, you can snooze or mute your notifications and sync them with your calendar to avoid distractions during meetings. Lastly, Shift works across Windows and Macs so it’s perfect if you work on both platforms. 

Try Shift for a trial period of 7 days here.

 

Todoist - gimmick-free task management

Todoist is one of the best apps for productivity if you are looking to improve task management for your team. As a remote, international employee at Hardly, Todoist helps me stay on top of my assignments and assign tasks to others easily. The app allows you to transform a note into a one-off or recurring task, color-code priorities, share projects, and record your progress. After using Todoist, I realized group work doesn’t have to be painful. A seamless task management system makes all the difference in getting work done efficiently as a team.

Try Todoist for free here.

 

IFTTT - a seamless series of events

Apps for Productivity, Hardly, IFTTT

IFTTT, which stands for “If This, Then That”, is one of the best apps for productivity if you love automation. As we all know, time is money so being able to have small tasks taken care of without a second thought is a godsend. The website and mobile application allows you to connect internet-aware apps, services, and devices, without any coding.  For example, you could request your computer track your work hours when you are at a certain location in google calendar or automatically share your company’s new LinkedIn posts on your personal page. Basically, you can work smarter by concocting your own recipe of commands that triggers second and third order tasks automatically. 

Try IFTTT for free here.

 

My time in Japan has come to an end and I am now in the process of PCSing. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the term is used to describe the hellish moving experience for military members and their families that happens on average every three years. What makes this process so painful? All of the emails, phone calls, and signatures required to move myself and my belongings from one place to the next. Some are important and some aren’t but the one time you select “off” on your notification setting or throw items is the virtual trash, you will regret it.  Therefore, operating on a zero or one scale isn’t an option.

 

I need a spectrum or gradation. It would be amazing if I could turn my notification setting to off but still be alerted whenever an email titled “PCS” came through. Then, I could filter out the unimportant stuff when trying to remain focused.

 

Moreover, there is nothing worse than being bombarded with rings, dings, and pings when you are in a work rhythm. But, some people, topics, and projects are worth the distraction. The problem is most platforms only allow you to have all the notifications or none at all. That’s where the Hardly app comes into play. Let me introduce you to the notification setting filters of my dreams:

Notification Setting #1: Give certain people a VIP pass

Hardly Notification Customization

I love my grandmother to death but I know a conversation with her will last hours. Even when we both have the intention of simply checking in, our conversation becomes tangential and any work flow I previously had dissipates.  A phone call from her, while wonderful, is the ultimate distraction.

And I’m not alone. In our last team meeting, coworkers mentioned that their family group texts were at the top of their distractions list and something they wish they could filter out when they are in Zoom meetings or quickly approaching a deadline. We all want to know what Uncle Jack thinks about the latest COVID restrictions, just not when our website edits are due by the end of the day.

Without Hardly, my only option is to put my phone on silent or constantly be swiping away messages off of my laptop screen. With Hardly, I can silence my family drama while still receiving notifications if my deployed husband tries to contact me. Communication is few and far between so making sure I see his messages is a must!

This feature of the notification app is a game-changer. It gives you the power to hand out passes to the very important people you need to be in contact with to stay on top of your work while pressing the pause button on distractors (we want to hear from them, just not now!)

Notification Setting #2: Allow top-shelf topics to come through

Hardly App Alert Manager Notifications

In addition, the Hardly app allows you to filter notifications by topic. I love that my workplace values coworkers getting to know one another personally, not just professionally. However, I can do without the string of nonstop notifications from coworkers sending each other cat pictures while I am trying to enjoy a dinner date or working on writing a blog. 

I love this notification setting because I can limit distractions while allowing alerts from the blog or social media channels. Meaning, when my phone buzzes in the middle of getting some great thoughts down on paper, I know that it’s a notification pertinent to my work and actually worth checking. Any app that prevents me from losing my train of thought over random conversations is a winner in my book.

Notification Setting #3: Push through priority projects

Hardly App Alert Manager Notifications

Lastly, while other applications allow you to filter notifications by person or category, our software offers customization like never before. You can filter your notifications by urgent words. For instance, any messages that say “urgent,” “end of day,” or “ASAP,” can bypass my do-not-disturb notification setting on my computer so that I don’t miss anything pressing.

 

Don’t believe me? I bet you can think of at least one time where you had your notification setting off and when you turned it back on realized you had missed a question or request that was time-sensitive. Hardly will make sure you can keep your focus without missing anything that requires your immediate attention.

Why does all this matter?

Notifications Hardly Superhuman

The percentage of employees that would rather go back to their daily commute than continue sorting the deluge of emails and Slack or Teams messages. Source: Superhuman

Not sure if a notification filtering system will truly have an impact on your remote work experience? Superhuman just released a new survey that found nearly two in three remote workers would rather go back to their daily commute than continue sorting through the avalanche of emails and chat messages. Additionally, over half of men and women say they can’t go more than 5 minutes without opening a notification for an email or work communication.

 Click here to learn more about the Hardly app and let us know which notifications you love filtering out! Need more tips to keep the distractions out and the productivity in? Read our blog on how to overcome notification nerves

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

We think you may like these:

In elementary school, I planted trees; cleaned up the beach; and made recycle, reduce, and reuse posters every Earth Day. After a month of learning about “going green” and estimating our own carbon footprint, I remember telling my parents they couldn’t purchase an SUV, and we needed to stop using plastic straws and be more sustainable.

Since then, my environmental awareness has taken a nosedive. However, this spring, I have been thinking about whether remote work supports sustainable living. Are we all sustainable superheroes now that we don’t commute in our pollution producing cars? Or, have we become extra energy consumers working from home?

Hardly, More Sustainable

From one office to thousands

While the future of work is unknown, we can all agree that going back to a commute would be tough. Eliminating daily commutes to work in gas guzzling cars is a major point for the affirmative side. No commute means better air quality, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and less consumption of fossil fuels. Sounds like sustainable living to me!

Highway vehicles alone put out almost 35% of the total nitrogen dioxide and contribute to the 3.3 million world-wide deaths due to poor air quality every year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA came from transportation in 2017. Conversely, remote workers in the United States avoid emitting 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gasses every year, which is the equivalent of planting 91 million trees.

Sustainable living in a singular office

While getting to one office might have had a negative impact, working in one might have been positive. Companies were making huge efforts to reduce their carbon footprint before the pandemic. Fast Company shared how Shopify launched a sustainability fund in 2019, committing to invest at least $5 million every year into technology and projects to fight climate change. Since then, they have offered remote work to all of their employees indefinitely.

Whereas before they could control their sustainability by making environmentally friendly choices for one massive building, they are now dealing with “more than 5,000 offices scattered around the globe. All these offices have different heating systems, different energy grids, and each employee making different decisions now that they’re untethered from a central office.” Therefore, sustainability is not only less controllable but also less trackable. Without clear data, the jury is still out on which is better for the planet.

Hardly, More Sustainable

Different region, different impact

In addition to the inability to track everyone’s home energy usage, where you live and work complicates the questions of whether working from home is having a positive or negative effect on sustainable living. BBC brings up two important factors.

The first factor is workers in other countries, such as Norway, were using electric vehicles at high rates. Therefore, the lack of a commute is far less impactful there than in other countries that are highly reliant on petroleum, including the US and UK. In other words, sustainable living practices were already in place.

Additionally, cities where public transportation is used at large to get to and from work might not see any major changes in energy consumed since buses, trains, and metros are still running.

Where you derive your energy matters

Secondly, where your energy comes from plays a role in determining whether working from home positively contributes to sustainable living. For example, if you live in Iceland (where a significant amount of clean geothermal energy powers commercial buildings), virtual work is not scoring you many brownie points. Conversely, if you live in a U.S. city where coal power is the main source of commercial electricity but many homes have solar power, remote work could have a positive impact.

Similarly, the temperature varies greatly across the U.S. and the globe. In places like Florida where the heat is treacherous, fossil fuels are pumping from every home all day and required in large office spaces. Therefore, cutting out the cooling of big buildings could be beneficial. Versus if you live in San Francisco where the weather is mostly mild, heating or cooling systems might be turned off when leaving the house so the change is negligible.

Hardly, More Sustainable

Small habits or big changes

Do the small habits of individuals or the big changes at the corporate level make the difference? I don’t have the answer, but here is some food for thought:

Let’s take the use of paper and plastic. I don’t know about you, but I print various things when I’m at work, using someone else’s printer. Every time there is a meeting, we receive a paper agenda, which everyone throws in the trash on their way out, and a paper copy of the Powerpoint presentation (even though it was emailed to everyone the night before). But, when working remotely, I let the digital version suffice. Who wants to pay for all of that paper and ink?

On the other side of the coin, I see plastic Starbucks cups on everyone’s desk at the office, a product of getting their morning vice on the way to work. Yet,  my guess is  most drink the energizer from a reusable mug when working from home.

Also, what about the lights? In my apartment, I get great natural light all day so I don’t use much electricity, while my office is required to power overhead lights from 7am to 5pm.

More Sustainable? The takeway

Not everyone is environmentally conscious. Therefore, minor habits might not hold a candle to the millions of dollars that corporations can put into environmental efforts. For example, Zapier offset 647 tonnes of carbon through reforestation and Microsoft charges an internal fine of $15 per metric ton of carbon emission to encourage its departments to be as sustainable as possible.

At Hardly, we are striving to be environmentally conscious on all fronts. From our commitment to the sustainable packaging of products to our CEO’s use of S’well bottles, Hardly is making sure we do our part as a company of remote workers. Are you doing yours?

Finally, the days of hibernation are over, and spring is here. In Japan, springtime is marked by sakura or, as we say in the States, “cherry blossom” season. The delicate pale pink petals are in bloom for just 10 short days before they fall or are swept away by wind and rain. As I hanami, which is a Japanese term for “enjoying the transient beauty of flowers”, through the streets of Gion, I am reminded howI need to conquer some spring cleaning so that my workflow and productivity could bloom, too. What about you?

 

Here are Hardly’s tips to help you eliminate stressful chaos and bring order to your workday this spring season:

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Declutter your desk to destress

A clear desk equals a clear mind. Common sense tells us that a cluttered workspace literally prevents us from getting as much work done in a set amount of time. Everyone knows searching among a sea of papers for notes from a specific meeting or having to stop your workflow to clean up yesterday’s coffee you elbowed and spilled is a waste of precious time but the Harvard Business Review shares how a mess at your desk can affect your mind too. Research has shown

 

“cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.”

 

In 2009, an American study found levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to anxiety and depression over time, were higher in mothers whose houses were cluttered.

 

Scientists at Princeton University found that our brains respond best to order. In fact, they have proved constant visual reminders of disorganization such as pens strewn about and overstuffed filing cabinets deplete our cognitive resources and reduce our attention span.  Therefore, it’s not surprising that when you clear your desk the results are positive; you are more likely to focus, process information, and manage your emotions effectively. The moral of the story is to get rid of the distractions!

 

So what’s the best way to go about cleaning your workspace? 

Step 1: Assess what gadgets you frequently reach for and which ones are in the way. Then determine what is working for you and what isn’t. 

Step 2: Sort through all the papers and cabinets and return everything to its rightful home.

Step 3: Purge! Ruthlessly throw out anything that is not helping you be productive, feel good, or is a duplicate of a tool you recently upgraded. 

Step 4: Actually break out the cleaning products, the broom, the mop, the wipes, and the soap and water. A fresh start is best when it smells fresh.

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Organize your emailing for smooth sailing

One of the biggest headaches of remote working for me is emails. I feel like I receive 10,000 emails a day; some important, some from a subscription I signed up for just to get 10% off three years ago. The worst is when I am looking for a prior email to or from coworkers that was not clearly labeled in the subject line so I have to sift through one by one to find what I’m looking for. 

 

What’s the solution?

 

I highly recommend unsubscribing to anything you no longer read. Fewer emails coming in means fewer notifications, which means less anxiety from your phone or computer buzzing. Next, creating digital folders and having emails automatically file into them is a godsend. Last but not least delete all the emails that you no longer need. I know, this last one is crazy time-consuming, but the peace of mind you gain from having 1,000 emails instead of 10,000 emails is blissful and will definitely take your work stress from an 8 to a 4.

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Get your apps in order for a productive quarter

The more apps the merrier, right? Wrong. There is an app for everything these days and it’s up to us to make sure they are helping not hurting our workflow. Take stock of how frequently you use the applications you have. If you are using them less than once a week, chances are they aren’t that helpful and there is a better solution out there that meets your needs. In addition, try to find apps that serve more than one purpose so that you aren’t wasting time checking multiple apps throughout the day.

 

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Renew your routine so you can be a lean, mean, working machine

Now that you have gotten rid of all the things that no longer benefit your workday, it is time to recreate your daily routine. Take the hint from nature and make some changes with the season. It could be as small as switching from hot coffee to a cold brew or as impactful as clocking in and out an hour earlier. Additionally, look at your habits such as how often you need a break to step away from the computer or what times during the day you are connecting with colleagues the most and gauge whether adjustments can be made to streamline your schedule.

 

Spring Cleaning, Hardly

Refresh your mind to redesign

Finally, you made it to the fun part! You have done all of the hard work of spring cleaning and now it’s time to re-envision your home office. Breath in the freshness of the space and think about how to curate a space that encourages clarity, calm, and creativity. For example, an aromatic diffuser or picture of the ocean. Maybe reposition your desk to get more light or swap out the bookshelf for a comfy reading chair. The important thing here is to not replace junk with more junk. So be judicious with your choices and go for more of a minimalist aesthetic. 

In this episode “Hardly Headliners”, meet the founders: CEO, Allison Braund-Harris and CTO, Roger HarrisHardly Content Creator Leigh Hall learns more about them, both personally and professionally!

Transcript

Allison: Hi, I’m Allison, CEO of Hardly

Roger: and i’m roger the cto and we’re excited to answer some questions

Leigh: Hey guys it’s Leigh here content creator for Hardly and today I’m going to be talking with Allison and Roger so thank you guys for being our first Hardly Headliners— a series where we ask special guests 17 questions to get to know them better personally and professionally. So let’s get started!

As a kid I used to think that life would be perfect if I could just eat dessert before dinner. So I’m curious, what are your favorite sweets?

Hardly Headliners Ep 1
Hardly Headliners Ep 1

Roger: So I love a good New York style cheesecake. I’m weird where i just like it plain no toppings. Just give me that cheesecake and a good crust

Allison: Yeah, he’s a vanilla guy and I’m kind of the “load everything up as much as possible” — even if it doesn’t really go well together. I’ve learned the hard way. Just the other day I paired blackberries with chocolate mint cookies and just don’t…  just don’t do it. 

If you could describe Hardly in one word, what would it be?

Allison: Simplicity. We want to make people’s life more simple.

Roger: That’s a good word. I honestly can’t think of a better one.

Hardly Headliners, what’s the most frustrating and most pleasant thing about working remotely?

Roger: One of the things I love is the sort of ease of being able to communicate with people

even though that is spread across multiple apps one of the things I really miss is just that in-person uh communication and contact and hanging out with people at the lunch table

Allison: The spontaneity of interactions and shared experiences. Like being able to listen to the same music. All of that. I miss it. And I just love the fact that I can really decompress throughout the day. As an introvert, I feel like that’s really important and if you work in the office you never really have that decompression time

Hardly’s tagline is workdays just got a whole lot better. What’s one thing that makes your workday better?

Roger: I don’t know… for me, it’s that first cup of cold brew in the morning that always starts my workday off well.

Allison: And for me, it’s the fifth cup of coffee in the morning. I used to listen to brown noise all the time when I was working and then I found a few different companies… um… what’s the one that it’s like flow tunes or something it focused the name of it but it saves my life and I no longer have to listen to just brown noise all throughout the day but I can still concentrate 

 

When and where did you come up with the idea for Hardly? And be specific!

Allison: People have this vision of entrepreneurship that there’s like this eureka moment and you go and make it happen. When in reality you have a general idea of a problem and then you have to validate that and then you need to validate that there is a problem with the audience and then you have to validate that you’re creating a solution to fit that problem so really there wasn’t one moment but I think that it evolved over time 

 

Headliners, there are a lot of products that have come out since the pandemic began. What gap do you see in the market or what need is it being met?

 

Roger: I think for me it goes back to that sort of physicality of interacting with people we have zoom we have a bunch of different video conferencing apps but all of them very much feel like you’re on display, uh you’re kind of putting on a show. — So something that would allow people to be a bit more social, and is a bit more laid back.

 

Allison: When everything is communicated over the computer, all of a sudden things that are super not important, like “50% off sales” get the exact same level of importance as, “help I need a file in 20 minutes!” It’s really difficult to prioritize that information when you only are working with a two-dimensional space. 

 

Hardly Headliners, who are your technology mentors and why?

 

Allison: Steve Jobs. Just kidding!

Roger: That’s a tough one— the one the first one that springs to mind is actually my old boss Eddie because he was super smart super-capable. But also very down to earth. Would play chess games with you and he taught me a lot. He’s kind of somebody I want to become more like in my CTO position. Just being that mentor but also being very technically capable.

Allison: Kayla Matheus is a former CEO. And just a rock star in terms of hardware and behavior. Really just a great mentor to us. She’s been fabulous, as well as Carlos Lemas who we’ve been talking with since September and you’ve known for a decade. Oh my god, he’s been so patient with all of my dumb questions over the past seven or eight months.

I think we’re just focused on surrounding ourselves with smarter people than us and if we listen to them we’ll be okay.

Roger: but also Steve Jobs.

 

Starting a company isn’t for everyone. What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur?

Allison: When I came out of college I expected adulthood to give me more control, but it actually took a lot of my control away. All of a sudden, I had no ability to say, “well, I need to really take a breather I’m going to come in at 10.” That was out of my power, and I don’t want that to just be within my own power— I want to make sure that everyone in our company has the ability to set their own schedule work as hard as they need to and as little as they need to some days. Basically, I am creating the company that I really wish that I had when I was 22, and I’ve been struggling with to gain that autonomy for the past decade or so 

 

Roger: For me, it would probably be working on something you really are truly passionate about. It’s possible to do that without being in a startup or being an entrepreneur, however, sometimes it can be difficult to find the right company or even get accepted into that company. And so for me, being able to create something that I really love that I think is gonna help people— that I’m very passionate about is very rewarding for me.

 

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Roger: Such a hard this is such a difficult question, uh, I don’t think I could. I honestly don’t think I could.

Allison: You’d rather live in silence?

Roger: yeah I would rather live in silence than be stuck listening to one song for the rest of my life because that one song would get very tiring very quickly whatever it is

Allison: hmm..brown noise

Roger: I was thinking about that

Allison: (laughter) just brown noise for the rest of my life. Yeah, I think I think it was Spotify’s year-in-review one year. We looked back and it was like your most-listened-to song: “brown noise.”

This might be cheesy but I think it would be “Here Comes the Sun” because it’s positive, it doesn’t have any grating points to where I think it would annoy the crap out of me over time.

 

Who is the Hardly Dash for?

Roger: It is for people who want simplicity in their day of remote work — people who want to be more focused and more optimal in their working life.

Allison: if you’re the type that really needs prioritization of information— the stuff that you can’t ignore. Hardly Dash won’t let you ignore something that’s super important but will filter out all the stuff that’s not.

What’s your favorite productivity app?

Roger: I would say my favorite productivity app is probably Slack because it’s kind of a bit of everything in one— which is a good thing and a bad thing. But it does allow me to do my work, share files, have social chat with friends, make calls, video calls, and play games. A little bit of everything,

 

Allison: I wish that Zapier was my favorite app but it’s not. Like, I want it to save my life, but it breaks all the time.

 

So Hardly recently was a semi-finalist in the SXSW pitch competition. What was your experience creating a pitch video?

Allison: We were we were actually a semi-finalist in the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup competition and an alternate in the SXSW pitch competition. We had a debate around whether or not we should try to pitch together and or if I should just run with it. It’s really hard to pitch together. Within you know just a minute— which is what we had for SXSW and a 3-min pitch for AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup—you have to synchronize so tightly in order to to get 2 people into a pitch. So we just decided that it’d be best if I took it on.

It’s difficult because you feel the pressure to really say all that you can about the company, but it’s only 3 minutes so you have to prioritize. And of course, there are going to be things that you leave out because of that. My goal is that if we can just get people interested enough they’ll want to learn about all the other stuff that we had to leave out along the way

 

Who was the most inspiring speaker at SXSW?

Allison: I really love Debbie Millman’s talk on the future of work and what she felt like she lost and gained and the pandemic. She’s always a really amazing speaker if you do not listen to her Design Matters podcast you should!

 

What was your experience talking with investors virtually?

Allison: I think that we do have all of the tools at our fingertips to share our deck and collaborate and show off our product online and I don’t know if we would be able to do that a year ago because I would be worried that the investor may not be comfortable with the Zoom and all of these things. But now that we’re all comfortable it’s kind of amazing being able to move from one investor meeting to another back to back to back to back when before I would have to go to their offices and basically worry myself to death About the commute getting there 

 

Did you have any aha moments during the conference?

Allison: It was when we organized the SXSW pitch happy hour and we got to interact socially with a lot of the other SXSW pitchers— of course, over Zoom. And oh my god, it was just this moment of “wow, these people are so intelligent. so smart holy crap how did we get into this at all.” Major imposter syndrome.

 

Roger: Definitely agree, I’m more just amazed at the work that people are doing in this sphere of like technology and culture and improving society and really everything I mean if we are of course looking to improve remote work which affects a lot of people but these people were solving climate crises um social injustice crises and everything in between it was really amazing to be part of that

 

Hardly Headliners— What is your favorite feature of the Hardly Dash?

Roger: That’s just having a button that allows you to mute yourself in meetings. It seems way too complicated the hotkeys across the different apps are all different you think it should be “M” for mute it’s not uh so just having that physical key that also shows with the led lights whether you are muted or not I think is going to be a big help.

 

Allison: The LED lights around the Dash really signal you in a variety of different ways from across the room. We can actually catch your attention close up and make sure that you are aware of something that that really needs your focus. So we’re creating that prioritization of information, and that visual signaling to even other people in your home. So they know that when you’re muted or unmuted so they can actually come up and talk to you

 

Lastly, I gotta know… who’s nerdier?

Allison: This is an endless battle.

 

Roger: It is, and I think we have come to the conclusion that we are both incredibly nerdy in different ways. I’m a big nerd when it comes to video games, music, I love D&D, and you…

 

Allison: I’ve been talking. You tell them what I’m better at.

 

Roger: I’ll tell you she’s a much bigger sci-fi and fantasy nerd. Big book nerd. We both love coming together in that sphere of sci-fi and fantasy and movies and TV shows. We both cosplay when we went to Comic-Con and Dragon-Con.

 

Allison:  We will continue to go to. and we also went to BookCon multiple years in a row and that was my fault that was that was

 

Roger: I supported you then 

 

Allison: yes, it was actually a much calmer conference than Comic-Con— same genuine nerdiness, but much calmer.

Leigh: Yeah, thanks so much for talking with us. Hope you guys enjoy getting to know the CEO and CTO of Hardly to learn more check out our blog at hardly-work.com and don’t forget to press the like button or drop a comment if you want more video content from the Hardly team until next time.

 

Roger:  I think that’s a wrap.

Perhaps you have even heard that Hardly is going to be participating in South by Southwest® (SXSW®) in order to help spread the word that working from home doesn’t have to lead to madness. Many of us have gone from a working at home mentality to a living at work mentality. Working in general, and working from home particularly, can be really stressful!

Juggling one million tabs, shifting between multiple screens, and trying to stay focused amongst a myriad of distractions would make anyone want to pull their hair out! Hardly is all about making your workday a whole lot better by creating hardware and software that can improve your overall productivity and wellness

SXSW®, Hardly

What is SXSW?

SXSW® is a major conference and festival that celebrates all things focused on creativity and discovery. While the festival won’t take place in sunny Austin, Texas, this month, it will be an incredible, digital experience where companies, artists, and keynote speakers will share the fruits of their imagination from all over the world.

Be sure to check out their website for more details on who else is attending and what topics are going to be discussed.

SXSW®, Hardly

Who is fellow pitch competitor, AlphaBeats?

Luckily, Hardly is not the only company focused on trying to decrease stress and improve the mental wellbeing of us worker bees around the world. Fellow SXSW® competitor, AlphaBeats, is also leading the charge against madness caused by work-stress—but from a different angle. Their goal is to help you both  unplug and calm down during the little time we do have away from work. This way your mind actually has time to rest.

Alpha stands for “alpha waves”, which are the brain waves produced when you are in a relaxed state. Their app uses music to de-stress the brain.

Based out of The Netherlands, this revolutionary, technology company helps you to decompress from work in a major way. The first step is that AlphaBeats turns your smartphone into a biosensor. Then, they combine neurofeedback with technology that enhances the relaxing qualities of your favorite songs to train your brain to reach deep relaxation in 10 minutes after four weeks of consecutive use.

No more looking up the sound of waves or rainfall on Youtube for meditative vibes! AlphaBeats has you covered!

SXSW®, Hardly

What is work-stress?

Work-related stress is a real thing. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.”

Now, I’m not suggesting pressure at work is a rarity or that it is inherently unhealthy. However,  when the pressure becomes excessive and unmanageable, it causes stress that can damage your personal and professional health. Western Governor’s University states that when work-stress becomes chronic, compounding over a significant amount of time, it can lead to burnout, which has been linked to a higher likelihood of suicide, substance abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, and death before the age of 45.

SXSW®, Hardly

How does work-stress affect you on the job?

For all you productivity hackers, stress can be a disadvantage when it comes to getting a lot done in a short amount of time. You see, stress causes a lack of energy and focus. Initially, stress can give you a burst of energy but quickly transitions to draining you emotionally and physically— preventing you from delivering your best work.

In addition, stress can take over your mind and make it impossible to focus on completing the task at hand. The constant worry can take up significant time and reduce your creativity, which is totally inefficient.

Lastly, stress can turn you into the coworker from hell. When constantly on edge, we are more likely to make mole hills into mountains, freak out rather than problem solve when challenges arise, and snap at colleagues who are probably just trying to help. Remember, most jobs require teamwork, especially in a virtual environment. Your mood doesn’t just affect you but those around you, too.

SXSW®, Hardly

Take control of the work madness

If music isn’t your best stress reliever, try physical exercise, getting out in nature, journaling, taking a bath, practicing mindfulness, or enjoying an adult coloring book. No matter what you choose to do to destress, make sure it is quieting and releases tension from the workday so that you can get a good night’s rest—the ultimate form of restoration. You can also check out our lazy guide to better wellbeing.

Interested in learning more about how Hardly and AlphaBeats can help you zen out? Don’t forget to visit our virtual booth at SXSW® from March 16th-20th. We hope to see you there!

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan Lynch, Chief Strategy Officer at Beardwood&Co, about our theme of the month: creativity. In true remote-work fashion, there was a small scheduling mishap triggered by technology. The traditional binds of a Monday through Friday, 9-5 workday were broken, and we used Zoom to bridge the 7,000-mile gap between us.

As we’ve learned from 2020 and beyond, flexibility and adaptability are a must. After struggling to find a time when both of us were available, we settled on a Friday morning for him and Friday evening for me. Unfortunately, in an effort to remove themselves from the meeting, our mutual contact accidentally cancelled it on our calendars, too. Fortunately, we quickly rescheduled without harm or foul.

As I grabbed a cup of tea the next morning, hushed my husband who was on the phone in the other room, and positioned my computer on a stack of books so that my professional blouse would show and my Saturday morning sweatpants remained unseen, I thought:

“Maybe being creative isn’t about having grand moments of genius after exiting a meditative trance. Maybe it is the small moments of resourcefulness prompted by daily challenges.”  

Definitions

Lynch echoed this sentiment in his initial definition of creativity: “The human ability to problem solve.” Further intrigued by the question, he looked up the Oxford definition of creativity:

cre·a·tiv·i·ty /ˌkrēāˈtivədē/ noun the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

“firms are keen to encourage creativity”

His filter on the definition was to take out the “artistic work” and “original ideas”, simplifying it to “the use of the imagination in the production of a human endeavor.”  

In the editing of this definition, Lynch revealed something rather illuminating. Original ideas are overrated. The underrated skill of having the right idea at the right time is what breeds success. Like puzzle pieces, Lynch’s two definitions of creativity compliment each other perfectly and speak to the need for creativity in the context of remote work.

Remote Environment, Creativity

Deadlines

The use of imagination is the most beneficial when it is used to problem solve in a timely fashion. Lynch acknowledged time as a factor in creativity in his response to the question: What drives it? His answer caught me off guard: Deadlines.

When I chuckled, he explained further. He likened the process of being forced to produce to that of coal being put under pressure, resulting in a diamond. When in a time crunch, we have no choice but to think outside of the box and make it work by any means necessary. After being put on the spot, he created a signature quote:

“Creativity is best under pressure.”

Deadlines aren’t the only thing that promote imaginative solutions. Lynch’s mantra for fostering creativity is, “Failure is cool!” He stimulates creativity by encouraging others in the workplace to take risks and, as a leader, saying, “Oh, look, I failed, and here’s what I learned from it.”

As we know, perfection is the antithesis of production. Therefore, it makes sense that only in an environment where daring greatly is encouraged, and error is allowed, that creativity can flourish.

Remote Environment, Creativity, Hardly

Ditching traditions that no longer serve us

Equally as important as embracing failure as a necessary part of creativity is knowing when existing processes are failing. As we discussed how Lynch, himself, had been creative recently, we inevitably turned towards the pandemic as an example. Lynch characterized the pandemic as a “massive ball of accelerating change” that has inspired new neural pathways in our brain in an effort to solve new problems, ultimately requiring creativity.  

One of his particularly creative moments came out of realizing that Beardwood&Co long-standing, Thursday night happy hour was no longer working in a virtual environment—even after six months of trying. Wanting to maintain a time and place where staff could be human and not talk about business, his team came up with an “inspiration hour” on Fridays where they get together, eat lunch, and insight interesting conversations about life through guest speakers, clients, and friends.  

Remote Environment, Creativity, Hardly

Different humans need different stimulants

For Lynch, a walk in a green space gets the creative juices flowing. For some of his clients, it is the ability to share ideas visually or discuss projects with other brilliant minds in real time.

The point is, assuming a one-size-fits-all strategy isn’t so successful. Lynch argues “different humans respond to different things and need different stimulants” to help them enter their most creative headspace. As an overarching principle, Lynch advocates putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are talking to:

“What are they all about?

Where did they come from?

How do they think?

How do they solve problems?” 

By doing so, you are able to tap into what inspires them and what creative inspiration they are able to offer back.

Remote Environment, Creativity, Hardly

Dreaming of the future

While Lynch likes to remain platform agnostic, he does dream of using V/R to push the boundaries of creativity through collaboration.

“Take me to a William Gibson future, and I’m all in” he said candidly.  

Earlier in the interview, we agreed one area in dire need of innovation was recreating the feeling of human connection in virtual spaces. Fortunately, V/R has this capability. Currently,  Lynch uses noisy hand clappers and stuffed animals to demonstrate emotion and heighten connection. However, a tool that could provide a metaverse where interaction is seamless would take co-creation from afar to the next level.  

Lastly, Lynch mentions “play” as a salient ingredient in cooking-up a cauldron of creativity. With all of the deadlines and productivity propaganda, us adults sometimes forget that silliness and lighthearted energy are needed for the secret sauce.

As a blogger, learning to overcome writer’s block is a necessity. For me, it’s not so much the blank page. It’s the lack of creative triggers around me that make it difficult to get into a good writing flow. Companies and employees have always been focused on productivity (which seems like the right choice if Maslow had a business world hierarchy). However, creativity is also a key ingredient for success. While shoving a desk against any wall with an outlet might have worked at first, it is time to upgrade our home office into a permanent setup that inspires creativity.

Home Office, Creativity, Hardly

It's about balance

Over the summer, I picked up watercolor as a COVID-19 hobby to replace the time I would normally be out and about. One of my friends who frequently produces artistic genius told me:

“The secret to igniting creativity was to have the perfect balance of nothing and something around you.”

I know. It didn’t make any sense to me either at first. However, after reflecting upon this list of strategies, I’ve found her words summed it up perfectly. Check out our suggestions for how you can level-up your home office to a chamber of creativity:

Home Office, Creativity, Hardly

Stimulate your 5 senses

Fast Company claims that sight might have the greatest impact on our state of mind. Anything from painting an accent wall in your office to changing the color of your computer screen can help you elicit a new idea. Bringing visually stimulating artwork into space can spark creativity as well, as long as it’s not distracting.

If inspiring images aren’t your thing, try decorating with words of wisdom. Sometimes an inspirational quote or a profound poem is just what we need to get the creative juices flowing.

While sight might be Fast Company’s first pick, I would argue sound is the most powerful tool in inspiring creativity. It could be the soothing sounds of Bach or the poppy, feel-good beats of Dua Lipa that put you in the right headspace to bring new energy to your work. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found ambient noise is the best sound to evoke creativity. Try typing in sounds of the forest or beach on YouTube, and play it on a low volume.

For scent, try lighting a cinnamon or vanilla candle to enhance your creativity. In terms of touch, make sure the temperature of your workspace is ideal for you. If you are too hot, you will feel agitated. But, too cold, and your body will be using so much energy to stay warm. There won’t be enough energy to engage in out-of-the-box thinking.

Also, don’t forget to literally fuel your creative mind with the right foods (aka, taste!). Junk food can make us feel sluggish. Instead, prime your mind with healthy carbohydrates and natural sugars from fruit to keep you alert and energized.  

Home Office, Creativity, Hardly

Declutter your home office

A mess of a desk is a mess of a mind. Creativity requires clarity, which means a clear workspace. While this doesn’t mean your home office should be void of personality, making sure everything is in its place before you brainstorm will help you focus on the project rather than the coffee-stained stack of papers from an assignment that was completed weeks ago. I’ve found the easiest way to keep my workspace clear is storage. Shove stray items into some high-quality plastic bins that fit perfectly under your desk. This simple action will help you fake cleanliness on days when you just can’t Marie Kondo your life. A couple of items from The Container Store will help your creativity go from zero to 100 real quick!

Home Office, Creativity, Hardly

Go green

No, don’t paint your office green; what I mean is to breathe some new life into it with plants. Medium even calls potted plants creativity heroes. Prominent CEOs, such as Tim Cook, and leaders in tech like Amazon claim that surrounding themselves and their employees with nature inspires innovation.

Not convinced? CNN reports environmental psychologists have a growing body of research that suggests biophilic design supports cognitive functioning, stress reduction, and well-being, which can all contribute to ingenuity. Don’t be discouraged if gardening is not your thing. Even a small succulent that only needs to be watered once in a blue moon will do the trick!  

Home Office, Creativity, Hardly

Choose a window, instead of a wall

At the very least, if you are trying to increase creative vibes, move away from the blank wall. Not only is natural light better for our functioning, but a view of the outdoors can help us expand our minds.

Donald Rattner writes that design strategists—in conjunction with psychologists—have found that our perception of the expansiveness of our physical space dictates our perception of our mental space. In simplistic terms, the more physical space we think we have, the more inclined we are to generating original and useful ideas.  You can’t get more expansive than the great outdoors, so facing a window or opening up french doors to your backyard could be a game-changer.

Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” Following this spirit, share this article with friends and coworkers so they can foster creativity in their home offices, too!

As I work through my final semester of graduate school, I’ve been thinking more and more about my work skills. I try to avoid panicking, as cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and interview questions swirl around in my head. Yet, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed after a 3-year hiatus.

This weekend, I decided to play some Lizzo, grab my favorite tea, and knock the dust off of the most recent version of my resume. As I read it over, I pondered how the hiring process might have changed due to the pandemic. I mulled over whether the soft skills I had listed at the bottom of my resume were still impressive in this new landscape of hybrid work.

Do companies care if you are personable anymore? Does saying you are proficient in the Microsoft Suite seem amateur these days?

There are a few skills that signal to companies that you can be successful working from home. To help you position yourself as an hybrid work candidate, here are the top five skills HR managers are looking for in hybrid workers:

Work Skills, Hardly

Top-notch written communication

Before COVID, you were probably able to get away with convoluted emails because your coworkers could easily obtain clarification if needed. Now, your ability to communicate efficiently and effectively via email is crucial.

As Forbes put it, “Can you accurately and succinctly convey and interpret thoughts and ideas through digital messages?”  If you aren’t so confident in this area, spend additional time crafting messages until you get the hang of it. The ability to communicate your needs, ideas, and questions digitally is highly desirable.  

Work Skills, Hardly

Proficiency in digital platforms

Technical knowledge is more important than ever now-a-days. As I mentioned in last week’s article, being “behind the curve” on learning new software and digital platforms is a sure way to make yourself obsolete.

The success of communication, collaboration, workflow, and management is greatly dependent on employees’ mastery of digital tools. Companies want to ensure new employees know how to use tech to work faster and smarter (or are at least game to learn). Take time to practice using applications like Zoom, Slack, Hootsuite, Canva, Asana, and the Google Suite so that you know how to use each to their fullest potential.

Work Skills, Hardly

Self-sufficiency

The transition to hybrid work comes with a lot of “figure it out” and “learn on the job” moments. You need the ability to problem solve without the help of your superiors or colleagues.

While others want to help, working hybrid means others are frequently inaccessible to answer questions or provide guidance in real-time. As a result, one of the work skills you must have is the ability to work independently. Employers are eager to hire people who are self-reliant and proactive. Show them this describes you by mentioning times you took action without instruction from others in previous positions. 

Work Skills, Hardly

Excellent time management

Time management has always been important. However, staying focused has never been so difficult. When you work from home, it presents a whole new set of challenges. You are not locked in a room full of others working diligently from 9-5 each day. There is peer pressure to watch Netflix, do some online shopping, or talking on the phone during work hours.

Therefore, you have to block out the distractions, not procrastinate, and get the job done. In your CV, discuss your ability to multitask and follow through on short- and long-term projects. This will demonstrate your excellent time management skills.

Need some extra help blocking out distractions? Check out our Hardly app!

Work Skills, Hardly

Self-motivation

The Muse recommends job-seekers show they are “motivated about the job, the company, and the industry you are applying for.” In a hybrid environment, it can be difficult to stay driven or excited about the work you are doing.

Similar to football games without chanting, signs, and other forms of fandom, it’s hard to get hyped up about work. Therefore, hiring managers are looking for people who can insight passion in themselves and others. They want to know you’re committed to the cause and that you can be productive without constant oversight from team members. To demonstrate this, use the interview as an opportunity to share how you will be an asset to the company.

Hopefully, you already have most of these hybrid-work skills. If not, we hope you gained some new strategies to improve them before your next job search. Let us know in the comments if there are other must-have skills hybrid workers need in this new job market.  

Most of us are our absolute best work selves when we start a new job. Our boss says “jump,” we say “how high.” We show up early, over-prepared, and volunteer for every opportunity for growth. Then a couple of weeks or months go by and naturally as we get more comfortable a few bad working habits tend to rear their ugly heads. Our transition to remote work probably followed a similar pattern. In fact, we might have developed some new unfortunate habits in the process.

I started forgetting all about my body language during Zoom meetings. Being in a room surrounded by people dressed in business attire commands a certain level of attention. Being alone in my apartment with sweatpants and headphones on is a different vibe. I was catching myself mid-doodle, looking down at my paper, and suddenly remembering I was on camera! I hadn’t made eye contact with the current speaker or given any signs that I was engaged in the conversation in ten minutes. While I had been listening, it looked like I was completely zoned out to my coworkers. Realizing my habit could come off as disrespectful and unprofessional, I knew I had to nip it in the bud.

To save you from having to learn some hard lessons on your own, here are our top 5 bad working habits you need to kick in 2021:

Perfectionism is the enemy of good habits

He was right! Let go of meticulously going through the small stuff at the expense of making headway on the project as a whole. Instead, create a comprehensive rough draft where all the content or “meat” of the deliverable is there and then go back and make necessary corrections if time allows. Don’t let your fear of criticism keep you from pulling the trigger. The sooner you send it out, the sooner you can receive feedback, the sooner you can make it better.

Tardiness doesn't pay

One of my New Year’s commitments was to be on time for everything. Showing up when you are supposed to says you value your time and the time of others which can be hugely important in business since time is money. 

To avoid being late to any Zoom calls, set the alert for 5-10 minutes before the actual meeting so that you have time to go to the bathroom, close out of your email, or get a glass of water before it begins. Shoot for sitting in front of your computer with a smile on your face one minute before the start time.

Overpromising is a habit that will catch up to you

I am definitely guilty of this one. With good intentions, my default is to say “yes, yes, yes” to everything forgetting that I only have time for so much work. While setting boundaries might be difficult at first, it is better than disappointing others when you have to admit you bit off more than you could chew. Instead, set realistic expectations from the beginning and if you finish early, reach out and offer to take on more.

Tunnel focus is bad

Laser focus is a valuable skill however, in virtual work environments being accessible via online platforms is key. Coworkers rely on email and Slack to let you know they require your attention. Tuning everything out and working in isolation is not an option— and is definitely a bad working habit. Deeply focusing on one task for an extended period of time can cause you to miss time-sensitive messages from others on your team. You don’t want to be the one that people can never get a hold of. 

Prevent this by placing a time limit on your tunnel vision and scheduling email, Slack, and phone checks a couple of times per day so that you are attuned to all your tasks in the background.

Resisting new processes or software

Even if a change is for the better, there is always a learning curve. Being a stick-in-the-mud and unwilling to adapt is a sure way to make yourself obsolete. Don’t be the team member that is looking backward rather than forwards. Instead, take on a positive attitude and welcome the opportunity to add a new skill to your repertoire and resume. Just think, it will make you more competitive in the long run!

If you and I can ditch these bad working habits, we will be sure to excel in our current positions. Not to mention, our coworkers and bosses will thank us for being productive, punctual, honest, aware, and adaptable. Comment below if there are other bad habits you intend to improve this year and share your plan of attack!

I have now lived through two iconic New Years. The first was from 1999 to 2000. I brought in the new millennium with close family friends dancing around the basement to the YMCA and drinking sparkling cider. It was a seven-year-olds dream.  

The second was a couple of days ago, again in a basement (bar), but this time with a shot of sake, a bunch of ski bums, and friends in Hakuba, Japan. Even with the language barrier, it was clear everyone was ecstatic that the year from hell was finally over and hopeful that 2021 would bring new beginnings. But, when the clock struck midnight, the masks didn’t come off, COVID-19 did not disappear, and quarantining did not end.

Change doesn’t just come about; we have to set goals and then actively pursue them to evoke it. But sometimes achieving our goals is not so easy. Raise your hand if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution and then woken up three weeks later and realized that you’ve fallen back into old habits. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Which is why I’m letting you in on my top two secrets for successful goal setting.

Setting Goals, Hardly

Keep it small, in fact, make it micro

If you’re a high achiever you might be tempted to skip this tip, but sometimes the more ambitious we are, the more likely we are to fall into a self-defeating cycle. High expectations of ourselves lead us to set whale-sized goals when our plates only have room for shrimpy ones. But just because you don’t go big doesn’t mean you have to go home. I suggest breaking down a monstrous goal into a micro one. Tim Herrea in the NY Times describes it simply:

 “For any task you have to complete, break it down into the smallest possible units of progress and attack them one at a time.”

For example, one of my goals is to drink more water. My initial thought was to shoot for a gallon a day. While this might not be unreasonable for some, it is a significant amount for me (I know, I’m so bad). Just thinking about it, the goal started to feel troublesome rather than motivating. I already knew I was on the wrong track.

I remembered Sabina Nawaz wrote in HBR the key to micro-goals is making them “ridiculously small” and attaching them to a daily habit you do without thinking. By doing this, you take away barriers to getting started which is the hardest part of building habits, according to James Clear. James uses Newton’s Laws to hack productivity. Therefore, an appropriate micro-goal would be to drink one bottle of water while driving to pick my husband up from work each evening.  Not only does this require minimal effort, but it’s also connected to a mindless task.

Setting Goals, Hardly

Make it SMART-R

This one is a tried and true classic, but I have a spin on it. I was reminded of the SMART technique a couple of weeks ago when it was part of the curriculum I taught for my Healthy Thinking group. It goes like this: S is for specific, M for measurable, A for attainable, R for relevant, and T for time-bound.

While these are must-haves, I have found that the added R for “rewarded” has a huge effect on my success rate. It all comes back to behavioral theory. If you reward a behavior, your brain tells you to do it again. If you punish a behavior, your brain tells you to reevaluate your actions. While some may say there is enough satisfaction in achieving the goal itself, I say the more incentive the merrier. But, watch out for counterproductive rewards.  You don’t want to treat yourself to three slices of cheesecake if you have been working towards eating clean.  Instead, reward yourself with something in line with your goal such as a new outfit or a Vitamix.

With these tips, you’ll be able to achieve whatever you set your mind to this year. And remember, all gains are gains, no matter how small!

The coronavirus swept the globe in the spring of 2020. What we thought would be a temporary illness for some has become a pandemic for all, for months on end. While the continuous spread of the virus might be coming to an end shortly, the wounds are deep. Work-wise, the impact is mixed; some negative and some positive. As I began pondering the future of work post-pandemic, I found I had more questions than answers.

If you read my article from last week, you know that remote workers aren’t interested in going back to the office full-time. However, they are also missing the collaboration and community that in-person interactions bring. Companies are happy to reduce their expenses by not paying for large office buildings while maintaining a productive workforce. But they also recognize the need for some physical space at least part-time.

The future of work will move towards a hybrid model. Gone are the days where all employees commute to the same building and sit at the same desk from 9-5. However, working in isolation from makeshift home offices 100% of the time will not become the new normal. Companies will allow purpose to dictate the use of office space and employees will have a choice. But more is unknown than known about work in 2021; these are the macro questions I’m grappling with…

Will remote work be an equalizer or widen the gap?

Remote work might provide more opportunities for underrepresented populations to thrive in the white-collar job market. On the other hand, going virtual might be one more thing that boxes them out. Specifically, I am interested in the impact remote work will have on women and gender inequality in the workforce. In a BBC interview, Melinda Gates said that women were clustered in low-paying jobs pre-pandemic, and therefore were 1.8 times more likely to lose their jobs. Women who didn’t lose their jobs were forced into balancing housework and work in an environment where they are both constant and competing.

In my eyes, there are two potential paths. First, remote work will help partners share household duties more equitably. Plus, the flexibility will prevent women from having to make difficult choices between children and career. Without long commutes and strict office hours, both parents will have the ability to work full-time if they choose, and participate in household chores such as cooking dinner, doing laundry, and picking up the kids. Men can spend more time inside the home engaging with their children and contributing to household chores, giving women more time to advance in their careers.

However, just because they can doesn’t mean they will. Jean-Nicolas Reyt states that women have a more difficult time advancing professionally because they are more likely to prioritize their family responsibilities over their careers. In the future, working from home might intensify these feelings making women less present, focused, and productive.

Future of Work, Hardly

Will companies start to employ a more international workforce and what does that mean for domestic workers?

Remote work has expanded opportunities for international teams, but are domestic employees still more desirable? This year, our company hired four international employees, all in different time zones. From Thailand to Japan to London, Hardly has been able to pull talent from every end of the globe. Part of me thinks we are trendsetters. Without location being a factor, the talent pool is only narrowed by language and experience. With new platforms to make working with international teams seamless, distance will play a less prominent role in hiring.

Now, we have a “virtual first” style of work: designed for the remote worker rather than adapted. Everything will be saved to a cloud, and onboarding processes will be automated. Hiring international remote workers won’t require managers to do duplicative work or go out of their way, it will just be the standard. While there are many positives to hiring internationally, there could be negative consequences for the domestic workforce. US workers might be pushed out by companies trying to maximize profits by hiring people from countries where the cost of living is significantly lower and therefore, so is their wage. But currently, companies are rewarded for supporting America and Americans through job creation. Just like there has been a push to buy local, hiring local might become a new grassroots movement.

Future of Work, Hardly

In the future, will workers and companies alike be dehumanized?

The pandemic has caused many of us to become more humanitarian. While some believe a shutdown is the best way to save lives, others believe keeping the economy running is the protection we need. Either way, we all agree that human lives have value and should therefore be treated with care. But what makes someone human and what makes us care about them? Without the break room chats or company holiday parties, the person on the other side of the email becomes faceless. 

Some say they know less about their coworkers since working from home. People don’t discuss their children in passing, their quirky habits aren’t observable from across the room, and personality goes unseen with more communication via email. Without the ability to connect in-person, we run the risk of being degraded to worker bees.

However, some have had the opposite experience. Zoom has provided them a window into coworkers’ lives outside of the office in a very real way. A colorful painting in a colleague’s living room may lead to a conversation about their experience in Thailand, or seeing books may lead to a conversation of Russian authors.

If video chats and Slack conversations aren’t enough to help management form relationships with their team, they might not be as empathetic when a personal matter comes up. Employees won’t feel cared for and therefore won’t feel connected.  On the company side,  a lack of physical spaces makes it more difficult to embody a mission or culture. In other words, companies could become empty shells where people simply work to earn a paycheck and nothing more. A soulless company attracts soulless employees who only complete the bare minimum because they don’t believe in the work they are doing. To avoid this, companies will have to encourage coworkers to converse on a personal level and find a way to keep the company’s personality alive and well in a virtual setting.

Final word

If I’m honest, I have so many more questions about the future of work. Will people become more or less defined by their work? Will there be a great migration from urban areas to small suburbs? What new skills do you need to be a competitive candidate in the remote work scene? These topics may be seeds for next year’s articles but until then, use them as food for thought and if you have any predictions about the future of work, leave us a comment on our social media below!