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Op/Ed

Why you should lose the sweat pants if you work from home

(EDITORIAL) While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity.

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There are many often discussed benefits to working from home. If you’re not spending time on a daily commute, that means you have more time to work on personal projects and share with your family and friends. Plus it saves you gas and/or fare money.

While it’s tempting to cozy up and work in your most comfortable sweatpants or yoga pants, there are a number of reasons that dressing up to go to work can help increase work from home productivity — even if you’re just commuting to your couch!

You should wear pants (yes, everyday).

When you look your best, you feel your best, and arguably work your best.

It’s pretty hard to resist the temptation of vegging out a bit if you’ve rolled out of bed and headed to your desk while still wearing pajamas. If you have no plan to get dressed for the day, the temptation to hit the snooze button until the moment you need to be present and accounted for will really work against you.

Your computer will say work, but your favorite oversized t-shirt says go back to bed.

When you’re working from home, planning to get up early and prepare for your day allows you to create a transitional space that will help distinguish your home life from your work life. Dressing for success, even if you don’t see anyone during your office hours, will drive your sense of purpose and help you carve out a more productive space. It will also signify to any family members or roommates that you’ve entered the workspace and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you work from a restaurant, coffee shop, or workspaces, it can make you more approachable.

If you’re not dressed for the part, those around you may assume that you’re spending your time recreationally. Even if you are constantly answering your phone, drafting emails, or working on a project. It’s deceptively easy to look like you’re simply browsing the internet or socializing in casual attire.

There are plenty of opportunities to network and meet new people, even when you work from home. You never know who you may end up connecting with, and dressing appropriately to your profession can send the message that you’re an expert and take what you do seriously.

Caroline is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. She recently received her Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s College of California. She currently works as a writer as well as a Knowledge Manager for a startup in San Francisco.

Op/Ed

How to support [insert group]-owned small businesses this holiday

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) There are a lot of ways to support small businesses this year, and a lot of different groups to support. Use this guide to spread the love!

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Women over laptop to support small business.

In 2019, the SBA reported that small businesses account for 44% of U.S. economic activity. Another report cites small businesses as creating two-thirds of net new jobs. Small, local businesses are big contributors to the economy. Business New Daily quoted Stephan Goetz, Ph.D., professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, “big, non-local firms… can actually depress local economies.” As we move into the holiday season, let’s focus on why and how to support small businesses.

How to find minority-owned businesses

It’s pretty easy to find minority-owned businesses. #BlackLivesMatter brought the need to support black-owned businesses to the forefront, but women-owned businesses need just as much support as do LGBTQIA+-owned businesses.

  • Search your town + [group] -owned small businesses.
  • Yelp highlights black-owned businesses currently and has a feature to search for women-owned businesses.
  • Do512.com has a LGBTQ+ directory for Austin and other larger cities.
  • WeBuyBlack is the “Black Amazon.”
  • Chez Nous is another global guide to minority-owned businesses.
  • Use your Chamber of Commerce website to find local small businesses in your community.
  • Ask other business owners where they shop and who they support.

4 Reasons to support small businesses

  1. Local small businesses keep tax dollars in your community.
  2. Small business owners get involved in the community, not just to create jobs and opportunities for community members. Local businesses give back to schools and non-profits and encourage tourism.
  3. Small businesses create infrastructure within the community, utilizing other small businesses, building an economic foundation.
  4. Small businesses create opportunities for people, especially women and minorities, to be their own boss and to create an income. In many communities, it’s the small businesses that create new jobs for locals.

I might be biased. I live in a rural community where local businesses are the lifeblood of the community. I see it every day. A local law firm set up the 4-H food truck in their parking lot as a fundraiser for a sheriff’s deputy who needed financial help after getting sick. It’s the local business owners that support the community center where I’m on the board. I see our local shops hiring local people who might be otherwise be unemployable. The town where I live has a large population of vulnerable individuals, people with developmental or physical disabilities. The generosity of our small businesses never ceases to amaze me.

Buy local, support local

Seek out small business this holiday season and beyond. It’s these businesses who make up the fabric of our lives. Community Impact Newspaper reports, “Over more than seven months, this once-in-a-hundred-years public health crisis has ravaged Austin’s famed small-business community, and countless local institutions have shuttered…” Local businesses have given to the community for generations. Now it’s time for the community to step up and support those local businesses.

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Op/Ed

Why delegation of work doesn’t always lead to productivity

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Delegation is tricky, and can end up creating more work for yourself if it isn’t done well. Here’s how to fix that.

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Man talking on virtual meeting, using delegation to get more work done.

Delegating work is a logical step in the process of attaining peak efficiency. It’s also a step that, when executed incorrectly, leads to a huge headache and a lot of extra work for whomever is delegating tasks—not to mention frustration on the part of those asked to complete said tasks. Here is how you can assign work with the confidence that it will be done quickly and effectively.

Firstly, realizing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work can be a bit of a blow. It’s certainly easier to assign tasks across the board and wait for them to be completed; however, when you consider how much clean-up work you have to do when those tasks don’t end the way you expect them to, it’s actually simpler to assign tasks according to employees’ strengths and weaknesses, providing appropriate supports along the way.

In education, this process is called “differentiation”, and it’s the same idea: If you assign 30 students the exact same work, you’ll see pretty close to 30 different answers. Assigning that same piece with the accommodations each student needs to succeed—or giving them different parameters according to their strengths—means more consistency overall. You can apply that same concept to your delegation.

Another weak point in many people’s management models revolves around how employees see their superiors. In part, this isn’t your fault; American authority paradigms mandate that employees fear their bosses, bend over backward to impress them, and refrain from communicating concerns. However, it is ultimately your job to make sure that your employees feel both supported and capable.

To wit, assign your employees open-ended questions and thought-provoking problems early on to allow them to foster critical thinking skills. The more you solve their problems for them, the more they will begin to rely on you in a crisis—and the more work you’ll take home despite all of your delegation efforts. Molding employees into problem-solvers can certainly take time, but it’s worth the wait.

Finally, your employees may lack strength in the areas of quality and initiative. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is—basically, employees may not know what you expect, and in the absence of certainty, they will flounder. You can solve this by providing employees with the aforementioned supports; in this case, those look like a list of things to avoid, a bulleted list of priorities for a given project, or even a demo of how to complete their work.

Again, this sounds like a lot of effort upfront for your delegation, but you’ll find your patience rewarded come deadline time.

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Op/Ed

Simplify your feedback loop with this powerful new WordPress tool

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) FeedbackScout is a new data-forward solution for any WordPress enthusiast, consolidating your feedback into meaningful analysis portals.

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FeedbackScout is a new WordPress extension to help your feedback.

Feedback is simultaneously one of the most crucial aspects of any kind of service and one of the most frustrating things to collect—to say nothing of analyzing it. There are innumerable feedback collection tools out there to improve this process, each with their own pros and cons; however, if you use WordPress, a new tool might change the way you implement criticism.

That tool is called FeedbackScout, and its job is simple: To consolidate your feedback in a meaningful, easy-to-analyze format so you can spend less time combing through data and more time implementing it in your next product or build.

The way FeedbackScout works is reminiscent of Trello—something the developers assure you that you won’t need after using their tool. You start by creating a “Feature Request” post on your WordPress site through the FeedbackScout dashboard. Once it’s posted, anyone on your site can comment or use the built-in “Like” button to show their support for the feature.

Once you’ve posted several different feedback requests, you can monitor which ones attain the most input and focus on those—all from within the FeedbackScout dashboard and your WordPress site.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this model is its convenience. Rather than having to leave WordPress to review a spreadsheet, all of the feedback you need is built right into the form you post—and, if you’re using WordPress with the frequency with which one can justify implementing FeedbackScout, chances are high that your product’s users are comfortable enough with your site to leave their input expeditiously.

FeedbackScout also includes a feature called “Roadmap” that consolidates all of your feedback into a board of to-do resources. This feature can be shared with your user base to keep them invested in your progress; after all, if they know you’re working on features they requested, they’ll be more likely to come back frequently—and that’s good for you.

Collecting feedback and helping users feel heard is an exceptionally important process. As mentioned earlier, there are tons of feedback tools available for free these days, and most users are relatively comfortable with at least a handful of them (looking at you, Google Forms). If you use WordPress, though, FeedbackScout is a new and improved way of collecting, analyzing, and reporting progress on the requests you receive—regardless of your industry.

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