All posts by Gabrielle Weaver

Gabrielle is the Product Manager for Unified Communication & Collaboration at ReadyTalk. She has a passion for identifying customer pain points and solving for them with innovative solutions that exceed their expectations. The future of work demands that we work smarter not harder and using a product should enable us to do that. Gabrielle looks forward to making her customers lives that much easier by developing solutions that unify your needs into one world class platform.

4 productivity hacks that actually work

There's no shortage of so-called "productivity hacks" on the internet – one Google search will give you no fewer than 2 million results.

Though pointers abound, many of these tips just fall flat when applied IRL, though they sound smart and snappy in theory. They may be unrealistic, out of touch, too complicated or end up causing you to create more work for yourself instead of less. 

To help you save time and work smarter, not harder, we've taken it upon ourselves to dig through the buzzwords and pie-in-the-sky ideas to give you a list of four productivity hacks that actually work:

1. Tune in to your energy levels 

Everyone has an individual energy rhythm. While not everyone can switch up working hours to suit personal preferences, you can make some tweaks to the ways you tackle your to-do list to be more in line with the natural ebbs and flows of your energy levels throughout the day. If you're highly alert in the morning, that may be a great time to work on projects that require lots of critical thinking, while the slower afternoon period may be a good time for more routine tasks. 

2. Capture that flow state 

Much has been written about the flow state – that golden period when you get so absorbed in your work that you don't even realize that time is passing. As Zen Habits noted, key to getting into this magic state is eliminating distractions – and anticipating those that will arrive unexpectedly. Clear your schedule, and make sure others know you're not available for meetings for a certain period during the day. Then, put some ambient music on and get going. And don't, we repeat don't, succumb to the temptation to check your email!

3. Plan for tomorrow 

Ernest Hemingway used to stop writing in the middle of a sentence each day so he would know what to get started with when he sat down at his desk the next day. Apply the same concept to your work to improve your productivity and reduce the time you spend each morning getting up to speed on what you need to accomplish. At the end of each work day, make a list of everything you need to tackle tomorrow. 

4. Rely on robots 

There are some apps and technologies out there that claim to make your life simpler but become only another unnecessary distraction. However, there are tech tools out there that can help you work faster and smarter. Personal web conferencing, for example, can help you easily share presentations and images with co-workers to help meetings run more smoothly, and messaging apps can help you coordinate projects among teams, even if members are remote. 

Hacks can be trendy, but the four tips above are proven ways that you can improve your productivity and work smarter. 

4 ways unified communications saves your employees time

There are a lot of things that can be a real time drain at work – a broken copier, long talks about "Stranger Things" over the water cooler, the ice cream truck that parks outside the building every Friday in the summer, for example. But the worst offenders, by far, are inefficient communication technologies. 

Many companies today depend on their employees being able to quickly conduct conference calls, send project materials to each other and collaborate via online platforms. All these processes, however, are often not integrated with each other. It seems that employees must constantly reference an ever-growing list of logins to keep up with all the different technologies their companies use. 

All that effort sure does take a lot of time – and every minute fumbling around with tech is a hefty sack of bottom-line-destined money thrown in the trash.

So what can a business do to protect its time? Adopt unified communications. UC puts collaboration and communication all under one roof and can get hours back in your employees' days.

Here are four ways UC saves your employees time:

1. Total integration 
Say goodbye to the days of navigating a slew of tech platforms to complete tasks. UC is a cloud-based service that integrates messaging, screen sharing, file sharing, virtual meeting rooms, and audio and video conferencing. Move seamlessly from one screen to the next. 

2. Call from any device 
With UC and its hosted voice capabilities, you can call into or conduct audio and video meetings, chat co-workers and share files from any device, not just your work computer.

Stay on top of calls even if you're away from your desk or in a conference room. Hosted voice means no more playing phone tag. 

3. Connected instant messaging
You can securely instant message co-workers whether you're using your smartphone, tablet or laptop to quickly get answers and move forward on projects. 

4. Share files easily 
No more scrambling to send a presentation and supporting documents to meeting participants – UC enables you to easily share your screen and any accompanying media or files. Engage people's attention better while also keeping your meetings short and sweet. 

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're not fumbling around with disparate communications technologies. Protect your company's most valuable resource – time – by uniting these platforms and adopting UC at your business. 

How to help employees get in the ‘flow state’

"Work smarter, not harder," is what nearly every productivity guide and self-help book out there identifies as the path to on-the-job success. One effective way to work smarter is taking advantage of the "flow state."

The flow state is a psychological concept that describes being "in the zone" while working; it's the attitude where you have complete focus and move through tasks swiftly and seamlessly. You are so absorbed in your work that the hours tick by without you noticing. This state of mind is similar to what athletes feel when they are competing, performing optimally without thinking about it. 

Work benefits of the flow state 

Your body undergoes physiological changes when you enter the flow state. Activity in the frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that ponders the self and is easily distracted, significantly slows down, as Trevor Vaughan, co-founder of productivity firm Mettaflow, explained in an article for Thrive Global.  

When used for work tasks, the flow state has the potential to drive productivity through the roof. Vaughan cited a McKinsey study that found that increasing the time employees are in the flow state just 15-20 percent can nearly double productivity.

Being in the flow state more often at the office has benefits for not only work but also overall job satisfaction, Steven Kotler, a bestselling author and journalist on productivity science, told Fast Company.

"The amount of time someone spends in flow has a massive and powerful correlation to life satisfaction," said Kotler.

Giving employees more opportunities to enter the flow state at work can lead to more efficient and happier humans, a win-win for your organization. 

Ways to help employees get in the flow state

So how can you encourage employees to be in the flow state more often at work? Try the methods below:

Give employees more control over their schedules
Some people are most productive early in the morning, others after lunch. Give employees more flexibility and freedom in structuring their days so they can schedule large blocks of uninterrupted time when it suits them best. 

Match projects to skills
Flow state researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi told Entrepreneur magazine that there needs to be a balance between skill and challenge for someone to get into the zone of hyper focus. Keep this in mind when assigning projects to employees. 

Use unified communications to keep all work materials within easy reach
Nothing ruins the flow state like having to search for a spreadsheet or document. UC enables employees to always have the resources they need front and center. 

4 ways your company can improve work-life balance in 2018

Work-life balance was a hot topic in 2017, and it's going to be in even more focus this year. As employee wellness becomes a greater business priority, companies are exploring how they can more effectively support their workers to have healthier workloads and better control over their time. 

Here are four ways your business can improve work-life balance in 2018:

1. Re-evaluate workloads 

The era of expecting employees to work overtime is over. Not only are labor law changes on the table, but companies are finally realizing the serious negative toll that working extra hours can put on their employees. Eliminating the need for overtime requires more realistic workloads, however, so collaborate with HR and department managers to reassess assignments and see where you can take the load off overworked employees. This may require hiring new talent to expand your workforce in 2018.

2. Embrace flexible working arrangements 

Allowing employees to work from home some or all of the time can support a healthier work-life balance, as people can skip long commutes or be home to pick up their children from school, for example. Video conferencing technology enables valuable face time with remote workers, bridging the distance and ensuring effective collaboration and communication can still happen. You could also permit employees to set flexible hours if home or family demands are interfering with work obligations and creating stress. 

3. Create the right culture 

Cultivate a culture at work where every employee knows that they are strongly discouraged from answering emails or taking calls after hours or while on PTO. This involves having company leadership practice what they preach and consistently communicate their dedication to supporting healthy work-life balance. You could also encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day or establish an unlimited PTO policy, as HR Daily Advisor noted. 

4. Eliminate categories of days off 

At many companies, employees have separate categories for days off, such as vacation days and sick days. The Balance recommends getting rid of the classifications and instead just offering blanket paid time off days that employees can use as they see fit. This move shows that employers trust and value their employees to manage their own time and communicates that they are encouraged and even expected to take the time they need to tend to pressing personal issues. 

A healthy work-life balance means employees who are happier, less stressed and more engaged when on the job. The tips above can help employers support their employees to lead healthy lifestyles and manage their time well. 

3 communications upgrades to help your company compete in 2018

You snooze; you lose. A new study from Forrester found that companies that don't invest in digital transformation will fall behind in 2018. At the crux of digital transformation is communication: How employees and clients hold meetings, collaborate and share knowledge will have a major impact on the a business's ability to compete and thrive in a digital-first marketplace. 

As your company gears up for the new year, consider making these three vital communications upgrades:

1. Unified communications

The past few years have seen a boom in productivity apps, internal communications platforms and cloud-based software systems. There's a good chance employees at your company are using a dizzying array of programs to get their work done and collaborate with each other on any given day. As a business becomes more streamlined, intuitive and digital-native, it's high time to connect those disparate programs. Unified communications does just that by seamlessly integrating all the systems that employees are currently using. With UC, employees can switch from voice calls to video calls to texts, internal chats and online presentations, all without skipping a beat. 

2. Video conferencing 

Companies no longer have all their employees working in a single office. Some employees may work remotely, located hundreds of miles away from headquarters, while others may have flexible working schedules that put them in a shared office space some days and then from home on others. Your company needs a way to effectively communicate with remote workers wherever they are, and sometimes, audio-only calls just don't cut it. Video conferencing enables face-to-face communication with remote employees for more engaging, productive meetings; instead of multiple people tripping over each other in conference calls, video calls can be just as fluid, effective and dynamic as those held in the office. 

3. Webcasts

While video meetings help improve the quality and effectiveness of communication among remote workers, webcasts can strengthen your company identity and brand on a larger scale. Webcasts are perfect for holding all-company meetings if you have telecommuting employees, and their interactive nature fosters employee engagement. Whether you're streaming quarterly sales meetings, company retreats or holiday parties, webcasts are an exciting way to strengthen social bonds and branding at your company. 

The three communications upgrades above – UC, video conferencing and webcasts – can help your company embrace digital transformation and stay competitive in 2018.