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Could your office benefit from an open floor plan?

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Science proves that open floor plans are more conducive to office productivity, but will it work for everyone?

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If you walk into a tech startup, nine times out of ten you’ll find an open seating / bull-pen style seating. Whereas traditional work environments are divided up into departments with individual offices and cubicles, open offices have floor plans that put all employees in the same room. Studies have shown that cubicles don’t increase productivity. As a matter of fact, people are more productive when they are sitting close together, but can see each other.

Pros of openness

Some of the advantages of an open office floor plan are obvious. These kinds of offices are economical because you can fit more people and more desks in less space, and because it is more efficient to heat, cool, and light one large room than several small rooms.

Open office plans also facilitate communication between managers and their employees, and between departments.

Rather than taking the stairs or hiking down the hall to collaborate with another person, you can simply holler across the room.

Cons of openness

Unfortunately, all of that hollering can sometimes be pretty distracting. A University of Sydney study found that half of workers in open offices say that the most frustrating part of their workplace is the “lack of sound privacy.”

Open offices are not only noisy, but are also less secure, since everyone can overhear one another.

Employees may get peeved if they can’t concentrate because of all the noise around them, or can’t make a phone call without being overheard.

Dr. Who inspired solution

A startup called Framery Acoustics offers a solution.

They create soundproof phone booths and meeting pods designed to complement open office floor plans.

One of the founders, who previously worked in an open office, complained that his boss talked too loudly on his cellphone. His boss replied, “Well, get me a phone booth.” Thus, Framery Acoustics was born.

Simple solutions

Framery Acoustics is just one company that offers a product suited to appease open office dissenters. Framery Acoustics isn’t ready to give up on openness and neither should you. So, when it comes time to return to your office (if you haven’t already), look for ways to make your office more flexible. Whether it is by providing a quiet capsule for private meetings and phone calls or just having a designated section for meeting, the solution is out there.

Compromising allows you to reap the benefits of an open office plan, while still ensuring that you and your officemates have privacy and quiet when it is needed.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Real Estate Technology

20 of the best free professional tools for your business

(TECHNOLOGY) Running a small business is a ton of work and you need all the help you can get. Here are 20 free tools that help make it a little easier.

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When running your business, big or small, you’re only as good as what’s in your arsenal. This applies to your ability to be creative and think on your feet, as well as to having tangible tools at your disposal.

Below, we’ve outlined 20 of the top free tools that are designed to help grow your business – let us know in the comments what you love or what you’d add!

  1. Google Analytics – this is a definite need. With the world continuing to grow more and more digital, it’s necessary to know how your business is operating in the online realm. Google Analytics provides data about your small business, including traffic to your site and clicks on links. It gives you an idea of who is visiting and when, allows you to track your goals, and generate audience reports. Google also offers virtual classes that teach you how to master the platform.
  2. Hotjar – want to understand exactly how visitors are using your site without getting lost in the shuffle of numbers and data? Hotjar is where it’s at. You can see a user’s behavior and their exact process of perusing the site. There are also tools like feedback polls that allow your audience to interact with you when using your site.
  3. Canva – this is one of the best visual tools to create graphics for your company, both to print for physical display and to use on social media. The platform is easy-to-use and allows for a myriad of sizing options, backgrounds, and stock images.
  4. ProProfs Help Desk – this is a ticketing system that allows your visitors to contact customer service and start a thread of communication; all while keeping everything ticketed and organized. This also allows for shared inboxes, ticket resolution via chat, and ticket reduction up to 80 percent with knowledge base.
  5. JungleScout – this is your best friend when it comes to learning to sell on Amazon. Regardless of where you are in your seller journey, this tool will help you maximize your skillset.
  6. Kickstarter – crowd sourcing for your business without giving away the equity. This lets you recruit micro-investors and donors for your new business venture.
  7. MailChimp – This is an all-in-one tool that is necessary for all small business users. According to their website, “Bring your audience data, marketing channels, and insights together so you can reach your goals faster. With Mailchimp, you can promote your business across email, social, landing pages, shoppable landing pages, postcards, and more — all from a single platform.”
  8. Shopify – this platform has helped over one million businesses around the world and is continuing to help small businesses thrive. Shopify allows users to create and design an ecommerce website that is backed by helpful tools that help discover new customers, drive sales, and manage your business’s day-to-day operations.
  9. Buffer – provides simple social media tools that receive authentic engagement. Tell the story of your brand while growing your audience. The platform includes publishing, analytics, and engagement.
  10. Qualaroo – this is a customer and user feedback software that states its value as ten times higher than email surveys. It comes with what you need for useful feedback, including AI-powered analytics and reports.
  11. Zapier – a platform to connect your apps and automate workflow. Zapier moves information automatically between your web applications, allowing for more focus on the most important work.
  12. Doodle – a scheduling platform that allows meetings to be booked faster and smarter. No more need for an hour of back-and-forth emailing in order to nail down a meeting time.
  13. Docracy – a home for contracts and other legal documents, created by the community that uses them. The idea is to make these common documents easily available for everyone.
  14. Slack – the ideal way to communicate with your team and keep everyone on the same page at all times. This is a central communication hub where you and your team will stay in the loop, ask questions, and share updates.
  15. GoDaddy Website Builder – this is an extremely user-friendly tool that allows you to build websites that looks as though you paid someone hundreds to build it for you. There’s many options for customization, and they have the tools that help your site look great on both desktop and mobile.
  16. ToDoIst – For many, it’s impossible to stay organized without use of a to do list. With this tool, you (and your team!) can stay organized with the most important tasks and priorities.
  17. Grammarly – When writing copy for your business’s brand, it is important to have as many eyes read through it as possible for any errors. Grammarly is a tool where you can plug your copy in and it will automatically find and highlight any grammar errors or typos. You can never be too careful!
  18. AdobeSign – Formerly known as EchoSign, this tool allows for paperless signatures that help make signing contracts and agreements as easy as the swipe of a finger.
  19. Sumo – a platform filled with tools to help you grow your website. It’s a free email capturing tool that takes only seconds for sign up.
  20. Pixabay – We don’t always have the time or the money to take photos to go along with our website copy and social media posts. Pixabay helps alleviate that need with free stock images that will help your message pop.

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Real Estate Technology

Meet Cam: Using cool widgets to improve our video calls

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With video calls here to stay, any tools to improve them are more than welcome in our book. Let’s take a look at what Meet Cam has to offer.

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Video conference call on skype, without Meet Cam widgets.

Let’s face it. Video calls are here to stay, and anything that might make our meetings remotely better is worth checking out. So, take a look at Meet Cam.

Meet Cam is a virtual camera for macOS that lets you overlay visual widgets on top of your camera image, such as a timer, agenda, or GIFs. The app works with any app that uses a camera. This means it works with popular video meeting apps like Zoom and Google Meet.

The app has a variety of features that help bring order to meetings, but make them fun at the same time.

Let’s get down to business.

We all have at least one meeting that manages to always go over. Either enough time wasn’t scheduled to go over a project, or people were going on and on without getting to the point.

Meet Cam has a couple of cool features that will help meetings stay on track and not run long.

There is a Meeting Timer widget that displays how much time is left in the meeting. The timer is located on the top right corner of the video, and everyone can see the timer on their screen. So, as less time remains and the numbers start turning red, you know it’s time to wrap things up.

Not to be confused with the Meeting Timer, the Countdown Timer widget, is a timebox used to specifically keep track of time being spent per activity. A countdown timer is displayed in the block of the person who is speaking. This gives them a certain amount of time to get through X, Y, Z. With everyone having the same allotted time to talk, everyone can pace themselves without worrying about not everyone putting in their input.

If you’re someone who really likes checking things off a list, the Agenda widget might be just what you’ve been looking for. This widget displays like a typical list, and it can be used to structure your meeting. As you go over each item on there, you can mark them off as you go. This makes it clear for everyone to know what topics have been discussed and what other topics are still pending.

It can’t be all work and no play.

Have you ever wanted to be a TV news reporter? Well, you don’t have to be one to look like one. Meet Cam’s Headline widget appears much like a static news ticker on the lower portion of your video. With it, you can write a sentence to draw everyone’s focus to a specific topic. And, for a livelier touch, you can write a friendly headline to give reminders, such as “Turn on your camera. 📹 Use headphones. 🎧 Be kind. 😃”

Plain text can sometimes get boring, but the Emoji widget can help you express yourself so much better. The large, animated emoji appears right in the center of your screen. So, if someone is doing a good job, you can give them a thumbs up. Also, this helps eliminate any accidental interruptions because the emoji will silently communicate the expression for you.

To take it to the next level, you can also display animated GIFs. This works just like the emoji widget. The only difference (in my opinion) is that it gives your communication so much more pizazz!

From the looks of it, Meet Cam does have some pretty neat features that have the potential to make meetings more productive and fun. The app is relatively new and some features still need to be implemented. If you’d like to check them out, you can visit their website.

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Real Estate Technology

How Cloudflare’s web analytics could give Google’s tools a run for their money

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) In a world where data is king, Cloudflare’s web analytics value user privacy, staking them as pioneers against other analytic tools.

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Web analytics open on a desktop screen on a table.

When it comes to web analytics tools, users are examining comprehensiveness, usability, and price point. Free analytics tools typically come at a price, which is more often than not the data privacy of your customers.

A new competitor for Fathom Analytics, Simple Analytics, and even Google Analytics is Cloudflare’s web analytics tool. Not only is it free but, unlike the competitors, it will not keep visitor’s data and it will not be able to track conversions, making it the perfect tool for small websites, personal pages, and blogs. Sounds great, right?

In their blog, Cloudflare states: “At Cloudflare, our mission is to help build a better Internet, and part of that is to deliver essential web analytics to everyone with a website, without compromising user privacy. For free. We’ve never been interested in tracking users or selling advertising. We don’t want to know what you do on the Internet — it’s not our business.”

Additionally, Cloudflare doesn’t track users using their IP address, User Agent string, or other attributes. They are truly committed to providing metrics without intruding.

Valuing user privacy makes Cloudflare an industry pioneer. And the best part is, you don’t have to be a Cloudflare subscriber to access this feature.

From the blog: “Today, for the first time, anyone can get access to our client-side analytics — even if you don’t use the rest of Cloudflare. Just add our JavaScript snippet to any website, and we can start collecting metrics.”

What’s next for Cloudflare?

Well to start, they are working on integrating their analytics tool with the rest of the Cloudflare tech. This would mean that customers would receive more stats regarding site performance and security, in addition to traffic stats.

They’re also hoping to develop their analytics tool so that it can be a powerful singular product, with support for alerts and updates in real time.

If you’re someone who wants metrics and values privacy (and free things!), keep your eyes on Cloudflare’s analytics tool. I’m excited to see how far they will take a zero-cost, privacy-first product in a world where data is the hottest commodity.

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