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Harness the power of your voice

Now more than ever, we’re all very busy in different ways – juggling family, work, friends, and whatever else life throws our way. So now using the power of your voice you can save time and energy to create great content using transcription and voice commands in Microsoft Word for the web. And best of all is hands-free creation and its time stamped!

For me, this is an absolute revelation! I support learners working towards Leadership and Management & IT apprenticeships. As part of these programmes, I carry out recorded professional discussions with learners and also obtain supporting witness testimonials from employers. So, being able to use the Microsoft Word transcribe tools has helped me focus on the people I am talking to without the worry of taking notes and having to spend hours transcribing my conversation afterwards.

Whether you are a secretary recording a meeting, a university graduate recording an interview for your dissertation or a mentor recording informal discussions, these tools will save you hours!

Interested? If so, then Transcribe in Word is here to help.

How does Transcribe work?

  • Transcribe in Word is available in Word for the web for all Microsoft 365 subscribers. (Transcribe in Office mobile will be released by the end of the year!)
  • It is supported in the new Microsoft Edge or Chrome browsers.
  • It offers you unlimited recording and transcription within Word for the Web.
  • Transcribe currently has a 5 hour limit per month for uploaded recordings.
  • Each uploaded recording is limited to 200mb.
  • Transcribe enables you to upload audio or videos you recorded outside of Word. Whether you record on your phone or via one of the many calling and video conferencing apps, you can simply select the file to upload and transcribe.
  • Transcribe supports .mp3, .wav, .m4a, or .mp4 files.  
  • Transcribe detects different speakers so after you finish recording, you can easily follow the flow of the transcript.
  • After your conversation, you can revisit parts of the recording by playing back the time-stamped audio and you can even edit the transcript if you see something amiss.  

Transcribe in Word enables you to stay focused on your conversation in the moment, saves you valuable time and energy by transcribing it for you, and is integrated into Word so you can focus on the message of your document and not fuss around with different windows or applications. 

Contact Us for a demo or more information.

How can you sustain productivity in a virtual world?

Maintaining productivity levels among remote employees is an enduring challenge. Leaders will need to take direct steps to address the differences in performance among employees. They will need to invest in underlying systems and processes that will help teams work in a productive and engaged manner.

Here are five key points for businesses and leaders to bear in mind when developing ways to make remote working a success and sustain performance and engagement.

Define the right set of KPIs

Effective performance management of remote workers calls for holistic indicators; key performance indicators (KPIs) aren’t simply a matter of sales calls made or reports filed. Business KPIs that track both productivity (in terms of output) and effectiveness drive focus and accountability within the team, but well-being and collaboration KPIs should be added too. They can help predict productivity, or provide early warnings when people are feeling strained.

These well-being and collaboration metrics could include measures such as the number of touch points between teams, or individuals’ mood levels, or how people are coping with their workload. Well-being and happiness, of course, mean different things to different people but it can open up a discussion for people to explain and explore (if they wish) the reasons they’re not feeling great, and allow for the option of getting support.

Create a connected team

Regular meetings help maintain a connected team and sense of community, even when people are working remotely. Remote workers actively seek out opportunities to connect so having frequent touch points creates an opportunity to discuss performance, well-being, priorities, and any issues at hand, as well as to celebrate successes. I’d like to refer to these daily “huddles” – even if it’s just 15 minutes to allow participants to review the key metrics that matter most.

Develop the role of leaders

Leading a remote team requires a strong emphasis on specific leadership skills — such as empathy, the ability to foster a sense of community, and the employment of digital skills that maximise the use of technology — and this should be recognised in leadership training and development. Team leaders may need specific coaching in order to successfully manage underperformers; for example, it’s far more challenging to hold a difficult conversation remotely.

Some leadership skills in a remote environment are more esoteric, but no less important. Remote workers need to feel a sense of empowerment in order to give their best, for instance. Leaders will need to create an environment in which teams take ownership of their work and of their preferred working style when they are away from the office.

Organisations will need to adapt their leadership development strategy in order to create leaders who can bring out the best among their remote teams. This development strategy should also recognise the different demands placed on leaders in this new environment; adding recovery time to schedules and monitoring the well-being of high performers will be essential in the months ahead.

Build in positive recognition

Regular recognition not only helps maintain a positive working culture but is also an important driver of productivity. Recognition becomes even more important in a remote environment in which managers don’t have access to the physical and verbal clues they might pick up on in the office, and there are now fewer opportunities to provide on-the-spot acknowledgment. Leaders should identify fresh occasions to express recognition, tailored to individuals in a meaningful and genuine way. Technology can help here through techniques such as incentives – performance leader boards, competitions with prizes can encourage desired behaviours.

Use structure to deflect distractions

As much as 30% of a team’s time can be spent on non-value-adding activities. There is a risk this percentage could increase in a new hybrid work environment as a result of home distractions, child care, and the tendency of some people to feel burned out after a long day of virtual conference calls. Building clear structure into team schedules — such as short daily catch-ups, focused time for specific activities, and breaks — helps support the focus of a dispersed team.

In this new virtual world, the winners will be those organisations that successfully navigate the specific challenges of managing remote teams. The variation in productivity levels during lockdown suggests that current performance levels are unsustainable because they rely on super-achievers pulling up the average, but the five points outlined will help organisations and their leaders maintain and improve productivity and engagement levels for everyone as we move into this new world of work.

Maximising Online Engagement and making a positive impact to delegates and learners

How do you ready your attendees or learners for an excellent online/virtual learning experience?

Here’s how we do it at Directive Training

You will shortly be joining your online session. To make sure you really get the most out of your learning, we would like you to consider a few things before we start:

  • Bring any pre-work reading, notes or research with you, and be really clear about what you will get from the online learning event.
  • Engage with your trainer and the learning material
  • Make sure that you are in a place where you are not likely to be distracted and you can interact with the group online

The session will be highly interactive and engaging. To enable you to do this we suggest the following few tips…

  1. Turn off any emails and pop your phone on silent
  2. Shut down any browsers unless your trainer has indicated you might need them for the session
  3. Have a drink and a notepad to hand
  4. Ensure you have earphones or headset plugged into your laptop or computer as you will get the best audio experience this way
  5. Sit in a comfortable position and have enough space around you to stretch and move around
  6. It’s worth joining the session 10 minutes before the start time to make sure you’re all set up and ready to go
  7. Click on the link which has been provided and when prompted join the session
  8. If you have the option of joining via your phone, tablet or a laptop or computer, we’d suggest the latter for the full functionality
  9. You might be using your video camera during the session so make sure you are aware of what people can see
  10. Double check there is nothing behind you in the room you are in which you wouldn’t want other to have sight of, or which could be distracting
  11. When your session starts, familiarise yourself with the functionality which the platform offers, which can include a toolbar, giving you access to the chat box, participants box and emoticons, and an annotation bar. Let’s have a quick look at these now…
  12. Say hello to others in the chat box and get ready for your session to begin. Your trainer may record the session for you and others to benefit from in the future

By following this advice, you are likely to get the most from your session and really enjoy your learning.

Feeling Stressed Out By Your Email? You Might Be Suffering From Email Apnea

Have you ever wondered why, after spending hours on email, you feel tense and tight?

Why you feel more anxious than before? 

Or why, even when do you stop, your mind keeps spinning? 

So, what is Email apnea? Well, according to psychologist Linda Stone “email apnea” is characterised by “shallow breathing or breath holding while doing email, or while working or playing in front of a screen.” Sound familiar?

This condition resonated with me as I have felt an increased anxiety since WFH when lockdown was enforced on 23 March 2020! So, why did I feel like this?

Email apnea occurs for a variety of reasons:

First, our posture slumps the moment we pick up our phone or computer, which compromises our ability to inhale and exhale fully.

Second, after hours spent staring at our screens, our eyes get fatigued and strained, which further interrupts relaxed breathing

Finally, when we’re lost in email and other online tasks, we lose awareness. We become so fixated on texts, emails, and social media posts that we don’t even notice this shift in our breathing.

So how can we interrupt this daily source of stress and anxiety?

Here are 3 tips.

1. Keep breathing

This sounds obvious, and yet the root cause of email apnea is a compromised state of breathing. Our breath gets shorter, shallower, and moves up from the abdomen into the chest. If we can simply notice this shift in breathing, the remedy becomes relatively straightforward. 

All we have to do is begin breathing more deeply into the abdomen while sitting at our computer or using our phone.

2. Take breaks

Email apnea is a condition caused by uninterrupted screen fixation. Thus one of the most powerful cures is to build in short breaks every now and then. Get up. Stretch. Move around. 

All you have to do is give your mind and body a short amount of time to experience a more natural state of relaxation. To do this, it can be helpful to set a timer each time you sit down at your computer. You can even schedule these breaks on your calendar if you find yourself forgetting.

3. Relax your eyes

Research on office workers indicates that many of us experience computer vision syndrome. The hours we spend staring at screens leads to a variety of problems: eye strain, headaches, eye twitching, as well as neck, back, and shoulder strain. Excessive eye strain is also one of the primary forces that holds the breath pattern of email apnea in place. 

To begin relaxing your eyes, it can be helpful to look away from the screen every once in a while. Look out a window and let your eyes relax into a soft gaze. To further interrupt this pattern, you can even experiment with closing your eyes while texting or emailing. 

These tips might sound like a lot of work.  They might seem inefficient.  But consider how much creative and productive energy you lose each day to the breath-holding pattern of email apnea.  Consider what it would be like to finish a long day spent in front of the computer feeling rested and relaxed, rather than exhausted, anxious, and scattered. 

I hope these tips help. To download a free Breathing app click below:

NHS Stress & Anxiety Companion app

One space IS better than two – Microsoft has decided!

Microsoft Word flags double spaces as errors, ending the great space debate. What’s your thoughts?

Starting out as a PA in the 1980’s and completing my Secretarial studies with a distinction at 60 words a minute on a manual typewriter, part of my training involved the “drilling” of always using two spaces. Typewriters used monospaced fonts to allocate the same amount of horizontal spacing to every character. Narrow characters like “i” got the same amount of space as “m,” so the extra space after the “.” was needed to make it more apparent that sentences had ended. Word and many other similar apps make fonts proportional, so two spaces is no longer necessary.

Microsoft has settled the great space debate and sided with everyone who believes one space after a period is correct, not two. The software giant has updated Microsoft Word to highlight two spaces after a full stop (technically called a period) as an error and offers a correction to one space. Microsoft have tested this change with the desktop version of Word, offering suggestions through the Editor capabilities of the app.

If you’re still on the two-spacer side, you will be able to ignore the suggestion. The Editor feature in Word allows users to ignore the suggestion once, make the change to one space, or turn off the writing-style suggestion.

THE SUGGESTION CAN STILL BE IGNORED BY TWO-SPACERS

That hasn’t stopped the battle over one space or two from raging on for decades, however. Even a study back in 2018 on the hotly contested issue did not convince Microsoft. But, you will now see the new changes in Word have been rolled out – so congratulations to the “One Spacers”!