How to Unplug on Your Summer Vacation

It’s a yearly tradition in our family. We pack up our camping gear and make one last frantic run through the local grocery store before we head into High Sierra Music Festival. Bring your sleeping bag and join our family to disconnect from your 9-5 responsibilities. Oh, and don’t worry about bringing your phone; you won’t need it out here.

I treasure this annual chance to disconnect, but I also understand the hesitation to do so. The business world is more connected than ever before. I know the feeling of not wanting to miss a thing, especially with how face-paced today’s work world can be – “What if I miss a cool marketing opportunity with my team?” It’s like work FOMO.

But the technology that tempts us to constantly connect also gives us the freedom to take a break:

  • Collaboration tools mean that I can trust my team to jump on any time-sensitive opportunities without missing a beat.
  • With the right tools, everything will be waiting for you when you return. Your teams can record meetings with WebEx so you can jump in without missing a beat.
  • With Cisco Spark, everything you need to catch up is in one place. Find where you left off and scroll down – it’s that easy to get up to speed.

It might seem like even if you can step away from work, your mind will always be at the office. Check out these tips to overcome the temptation to take the worries of work with you.

Before you go:

  • Communicate with your team. Let them know when you’ll be heading out and getting back.
  • Recap and fill your teams in on the status of your projects.
  • Leave contact information to connect people who may need to find the right resource.
  • Make a note about your trip in the Spark room associated with those campaigns. It’ll be easy to pick up where you left off.
  • Set your ‘out of office’ in email and in Cisco Spark. Be sure to include when you’ll return and a contact to answer any immediate questions.

When you get back:

  • Block off an hour of time to get caught up. Reserve time on your own calendar to read emails, scroll through Spark, and watch any recorded WebEx meetings.
  • Connect with your teams for any high priority messages.
  • Let your Spark rooms know you’re back and catching up. Use this time to ease back into work.
  • Keep your vacation photos handy! Take breaks during the day to remember the great times with your family.

Being able to relax, recharge and get a new perspective is going to help you a lot more than chiming in on small things during your time off. Be brave and don’t check email; maybe even turn off your phone!

Enjoy the show, enjoy the music. You literally earned it.

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Faster Collaboration for Global Teams

When an opportunity presents itself, great teams know that collaboration is essential to bringing the best work to life. But when your team is located across the globe, staying on the same page can feel like an uphill battle.

Nate Franklin, a product marketing manager, works with an integrated global team on cutting-edge, fast-paced projects. In his Two Minute Take, Nate talks about how the right technology tools keep work-streams moving quickly, and his team’s unique culture alive.

Learn how to bring teams closer together with real-time connections through Cisco Spark and WebEx, so you can work seamlessly with people across the world.

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Small Changes, Big Productivity

If your team needs a big boost in productivity, you don’t have to overhaul all your tools to get results. Finding small changes in the way you collaborate and communicate can make a big impact.

In her Two Minute Take, technical adviser Mackenzie Guy shares simple advice on combining your collaboration apps to keep everything in one place. Instead of spending time learning new skills or replacing entire systems, your team can focus on work and let the app do the heavy-lifting.

A few simple tweaks can go a long way when it comes to productivity. Cisco Spark lets you keep what works, and unify your collaboration experience.

 

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The future of digital teamwork: 5 ways to get ahead

Advances in how we work, where we work and the tools we use to get the jobs done have opened new opportunities for collaboration across continents. As meetings move from cramped boardrooms to virtual settings around the world, organizations that adapt will build the foundation for success in the workplace of the future.

More than 40% of organizations say they exchange financial information during virtual meetings and through digital channels. As sensitive information like customer data and patient info speeds around the world, security and control are more important than ever. And just as technology tackles security, so too does it work to meet the needs – ever-growing and changing – of the organizations powered by Cisco. Almost half of organizations say they need to be available at all times and 66% of organizations say a solution that isn’t scalable doesn’t work for them.

Is it possible to connect the world’s organizations quickly and securely for the best possible virtual workflow? With Cisco Spark, a cloud-enabled UC service, business of all sizes can maximize the benefits of digital teamwork via a single platform. Click through the guide below to get started.

 

 

 

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Does Your Team #MeetBrilliant?

Leaders understand their teams better than anyone and that business magic happens when they have the freedom and space to bring their best work to life. When you have great meetings,  brilliant ideas are shared, plans are made, and work moves forward. That’s what we like to call #MeetBrilliant.

Now, we’re pairing WebEx Meeting Center with another powerful tool, empowering your teams to create, share and do more whenever and wherever inspiration may strike.

With the addition of Cisco Spark to WebEx Meeting Center, teams now have access to secure, reliable workspaces in the cloud. With the power to meet in personal workrooms with unique URLs, teams can now join work sessions, message one another, upload files and even engage with interactive “whiteboarding” to visualize new concepts. All while still using the crystal-clear video and audio of WebEx Meeting Center.

Imagine all of the possibilities when work moves at the speed of your team. When ideas can be shared in real-time and feedback can be instantaneous. When you can simply answer a phone to join a meeting without the hassles passwords and access codes. When your teams can count on Cisco security, reliability and service.

It’s time to move beyond imagining and embrace the realities. Take advantage of our 30-day free trial of Cisco Meeting Center with Cisco Spark and give your teams the tools and space they need for brilliant meetings.

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3 work styles that might be hurting your business

The number of available communication and collaboration tools has exploded over recent years, keeping team members connected and working together across city, state and even country. But while nearly half of those recently surveyed by Forrester Consulting reported that they need technology to connect with their colleagues, nearly all of them have had that technology fail them at some point.

Can you say work stall?

For teams to accomplish anything using these online communication tools, reliable, secure and compatible systems that alleviate communication obstacles are an absolute must. Unsure how unreliable, insecure and incompatible systems can derail a team’s progress? Take a look at the checklist in the “3 Work Styles That Might be Hurting Your Business” to identify – and fix – the technology causes that make a team less productive.

 

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#WebExPoll Results: Your Teamwork Habits Revealed

On the third Thursday of each quarter, many businesses observe “Get to Know Your Customers Day.” After realizing that yes, this is an actual thing, the WebEx team grew even more curious about our customers and kicked off our next #WebExPoll Series, dedicated to understanding their meeting and productivity habits.

So what did we discover? Overall, you guys send a lot of emails, get more done in the a.m. versus the midnight hour and are pretty good at juggling the collaboration tools you need to get your work done. Oh – and we love how easy you find it to take meetings from home using WebEx for your video conferences.

Take a colorful look at fun facts we discovered about you and be sure to follow @WebEx on Twitter to join the conversation.

For those early morning meetings across different time zones, 75% of you would hop out of bed and take the meeting from home.

Speaking of starting early, 64% of you shared that morning is your favorite time of day to get the most done.

And you’re all about finding ways to collaborate with your teammates. Because 52% of you use 1-3 collaboration tools daily.

And…Cisco Spark is one of your go-to tools to make things happen. Over half (53%) of you would trust Spark over email to send urgent and confidential documents. We’ve got your back.

We were sorry to hear that most of you are glued to your inbox. 55% said you check email constantly and 49% you send between 50 and 100 emails a day! That’s a lot of typing, folks.

But even when you’re busy, you love finding time to meet with your team face-to-face. For 44% of you, video is your favorite way to meet.

No matter how you like to get things done, finding a way that works for you is what matters most. Learn how Cisco Spark can work for your team.

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Webinar: Teams are Trending: How to Spark True Teamwork Online

While teamwork remains a relevant work trend, after studying 2016 work trends, Deloitte discovered  organizations are moving away from more traditional structures to form dynamic networks of teams, regardless of where team members may be located. So while one team member is working from an office in Dallas for a client in Miami, it’s entirely possible for them to be working with team members in Chicago, New York and London.

And the key to all of this? Technology!

Thanks to increased use of new digital and online tools, teams separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles are still able to connect, create, work and “do” more. It’s no surprise then that 85 percent of the executives Deloitte surveyed noted a compelling and meaningful work environment was just  as important as employee engagement.

But what are the best ways to use technology to create these desired environments?

In our next webinar, “Teams are Trending: How to Spark True Teamwork Online,” Meghan M. Biro, CEO and founder of TalentCulture, Meghan Biro will outline how videoconferencing and online meetings keep teams engaged. She’ll  also discuss the best ways to optimize digital environments for maximum creativity, performance and more.

This is a “don’t-miss” event for leaders looking to help their teams do their best work in a digital network. Be sure to register now for this March 30 event, kicking off at 12:30 p.m. PT.

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Three Ways to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

In spite of the recent winter storms that tagged the country last week, today marks the first official day of spring. In addition to the warmer days that lie ahead, today is also a perfect day to indulge in a bit of spring cleaning – but we’re not talking about a bit of dusting around the house. Today is also the perfect day for you (and your teams) to knock out a bit of digital spring cleaning as well and we’re sharing a few tips to guide you along.

Dust Off Your Digital Work Life

Any one of these tips – or combination of them – will fast track your digital decluttering.

  • Find yourself shifting pass the same apps on smartphone or tablet? If you’ve stopped using them or have turned to other products, then delete them! An added bonus? Eliminating unnecessary apps and files, helps your device could run faster.
  • There have been times I’ve realized I have dozens or even hundreds of unopened email in my inbox. Since selecting all and hitting the delete button is not a reality for many of us, revisit the “Zero Inbox” method to keep your inbox as clutter free as possible.
  • When you’re prompted to change your password for an email account for example, consider changing passwords for all of your work-related accounts. From internal intranet sites to your 401k provider, save yourself some time down the line by taking care of it now.

Get Your Team in the Declutter Game

When everyone gets in on the digital declutter game, your team will already be set to hit the ground running when it’s time to connect and work together.

  • Now that you’ve applied the Zero Inbox method, instead of a starting another long email thread filled with attachments, get the entire team onboard with an app like Cisco Spark to share information, whiteboard, edit documents and screen share.
  • Have your teams look at all of the meetings and invitations currently on their calendar. If there are some they never find themselves attending or are just simply meetings they don’t need to attend, they should delete them to ensure their calendars are as up-to-date as possible.
  • As a leader, do you know what your team members spend their time on each day? Help them optimize their energy and prioritize their day by auditing their time and helping them refocus.

Cultivate Creativity

What does all of this digital decluttering leads to? A fresh new digital environment prime for cultivating the most creative ideas and solutions teams have to offer.

  • One of the easiest ways to cultivate deeper levels of creativity is to welcome new members – and their ideas. Set up a video meeting with Cisco WebEx and tap into the fresh ideas colleagues across town or around the world may have to share.
  • After this deep digital spring cleaning, be sure to keep your digital life nice and tidy. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each to prioritize your workload, clean out your inbox and check your Cisco Spark work rooms for team updates.

How do you plan on decluttering your digital life today? Share your best tips with us or how these helped you below.

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Find Success in 2017 with a Message that Matters

As a kid, I dreamed of being a VP at a bank. After all, everyone had a “safe” job in my family and it seemed like the right path to follow. But since I was five years old and made my first $.10 selling a drawing to my neighbor, an entrepreneurial spirit has always lived inside me. Today, I admit to being a bit obsessed with helping entrepreneurs achieve success, which is why I was so honored to take part in a recent WebEx webinar, “Find Success in 2017 with a Message that Matters.”

While that’s a pretty big title, the webinar focused on one thing – discovering the one word that helps entrepreneurs nail down their passion, their purpose and their personal motto for 2017 and beyond.

My one word came to me in a point during my life when I was experiencing a lot of success – but found that something was missing. After a bit of reflection, I discovered that writing down the things that were important to me spoke a lot to my core values and “believe” was the word that popped off the page.  Believe is a huge concept to try to box into one thought and I did consider adding something to it. But regardless of what business I’m running today or where I may be in the next decade, I know I will always believe in what I’m doing and who I’m working with. So believe it was.

In the spirit of helping others, I wanted to create a blue print that would help others find their word and create a more powerful impact on their lives as well as their businesses. On the webinar, I outlined how the one word is not just a resolution for 2017, but it’s about what an entrepreneur is about and who they are. I also shared how to find your “one word” by listing all of the things in the world that make you happy – from songs to books to family and hobbies – and finding the connective tissue between them that helps you find your word.

The webinar was a lot of fun and a great exploration of how to put your one word to work this year. But if you missed it, no worries. Catch the replay here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @EvanCarmichael and tell me your one word and how you’ll use it to make 2017 your best year yet.

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The Rise of Employee Experience

For a long time organizations around the world have been investing in employee engagement. Today this has become the equivalent of short term perks like free food and working from home on Friday’s, basically a Band-Aid solution that manipulates employees into temporary happiness. Unfortunately, this yields little impact for the organizations and has minimal impact on the employees. This is why investment in employee engagement programs is at an all time high why the scores are at an all-time low.

In a recent webinar with WebEx, The Experiential Organization, I talked about trends behind employee experience and how leading organizations are creating new business value by engaging their workforce. If you missed it, watch the replay here to learn what it means for your business.

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Productivity Can Be Simpler Than You Think

“Be more productive.” While this is a simple thing to say, between busy home lives and just the day-to-day office routine of meetings, conference calls and client catch-ups (and some social media scrolling if we’re all honest), maintaining a certain level of productivity can be a challenge.

  • On a daily basis, Care@Work notes the average worker is interrupted every three minutes, taking another 23 minutes to get back on task.
  • Harvard research also shows that people spend almost 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.

All of these distractions not only cause employees to be less productive, but also costs companies some pretty big money in lost revenue. In fact, the total soars into the billions when employees aren’t engaged with their jobs, according to a Gallup poll.

Obviously, there are many ways to go down an unproductive path during the workday. But all hope is not lost! More research shows that people who live busy lives tend to do better on tasks of memory and tasks of reasoning.  So it’s good to be busy! The key is learning how to stay busy and engaged, without tipping into the territory of stress.

As a team lead, I’m all for helping others be more productive at work. In that spirit, I’m sharing a few things that have worked for me and that my team members have said work for them.

Clock Work

It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Set your clock 10 minutes ahead of schedule first thing in the morning so you have an extra 10 minute to get organized before you dive into whatever is on your calendar for the day.

Zero Inbox

No, I’m not saying you can just delete everything that arrives in your inbox each day. But, taking immediate action on the emails you receive can save you a lot of time.

When you receive a new email, reply to it, forward it or set a meeting to follow-up on the subject matter. Adding a task to your to-do-list (or best of all deleting it) is ok too.

Check It Off 

Making a list of all of the things you want to accomplish not only helps prioritize your day, but if you’re like me, you’ll find literally checking an item off of a to-do-list extremely satisfying.

When making a list, develop a system that works for you. It could be a color-coded one or maybe using icons helps you better. And if you find the list is getting too long, scale it back to what you can take on for the day.

Find Your Work Happy Place

Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans, believe workers who work remotely are just as productive as those who work in a business office.

Thankfully, technology has made it possible to pretty much take your office on-the-go. Apps and programs like Cisco Spark and Cisco WebEx make it possible to work and meet in real-time, share updates and documents, set up individual meeting rooms and more so everyone can review updates on their own and remain on the same page.

Throw Yourself a Party

Look, everyone deserves to treat themselves a bit when they accomplish their goals and get more done during the day. So celebrate your productivity throughout the day.

For starters, take five minutes to relax after completing a task. Go grab a snack, listen to a few songs, call your mom or best friend for a quick catch-up – whatever helps you recharge and refocus on your next task, do it!

 The great thing is, what helps with stay productive is not set in stone. Discover what works for you and run with it. Do you have any tips and tricks for getting things done? Tells us your favorites in the comments below.

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Caregivers Find Balance Using Technology

Has anyone ever asked you what your typical day looks like? As an art director, I rarely have one. And with the added responsibility of being a working caregiver to an ailing parent, typical doesn’t quite describe any of my days.

My time is typically accounted for during the week. If my life was an accountant’s ledger, then work and caring for my mother are the debits and credits. This is not a complaint; it’s just how the books have been reconciled for me.

Shortly after my father passed away in 2010, my mother and I began to realize how heavily she depended on him. She would get easily confused and often break into her native tongue, French, which pointed to signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. As her dementia increased rapidly my immediate reaction was to grieve. But, I had to quickly gather my feelings and develop a plan to stay engaged professionally while taking on the new role as caregiver of an aging parent.

The truth is, there’s no handbook — this and every situation is unique. But I’ve found a few ways to stay balanced during the process and I hope these simple tips help others on the same journey.

Find Your New Work-Life Balance

For most people, caring for an aging parent means finding more flexibility in your work schedule. For me, having the capability to be mobile and work a non-traditional schedule has been a life-saver.

Luckily, I’m not alone. According to AARP, 61% of caregivers also work. And the 2015 American Time Use Survey showed that the share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. Many companies are beginning to catch on and offer more flexible work arrangements for employees caring for aging parents.

Not sure where to start? Talk to your HR department to educate yourself about your company’s policy and learn about the benefits available to you as a caregiver. Reach out to employee support groups if they’re available to you — sometimes, talking to someone who has walked the same road is the best way to find solutions.

Communicate with Your Team

For me, it was critical to be up-front with my colleagues about my new responsibilities. Letting everyone know what I was grappling with was a huge benefit in the long run when it came to accountability and communication.

I’ve worked with my team and manager to make arrangements for working outside normal hours so I can attend doctors’ appointments or make unexpected trips to the hospital. My transparency with my team has made it easier when things pop up unexpectedly. And it’s had another side effect. I have felt a wonderful outpouring of support from my colleagues, and this has lightened my load emotionally.

Make Technology Work for You

The ability to work remotely helps both businesses and employees and there are almost limitless things you can accomplish from afar using technology.

Collaboration technology has been vital in my process of staying connected to work. While I love working on my laptop for design projects, I’ve found that using the Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark apps on my smartphone or tablet helps me shift seamlessly between “work mode” and “caregiver mode.” For example, when my mom is seeing her doctor, I can hop into a WebEx meeting or check my Cisco Spark conversations for project updates, all on my iPhone from the waiting room. I don’t need to tote around a heavy bag or rely on Wi-Fi.

Being a caregiver is not easy. But, there are ways to cope if you find yourself in a major life transition like mine. Talk with other people who are experiencing the same things. Rely on your supportive network of family and co-workers. And use technology to your advantage to keep your professional and personal houses in order. Being there in person is always better, but in the end, the ability to contribute and work with your team – allows you to “show up” – wherever you may find yourself.

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