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My bang-up heard my son bawl “POOPIE!” Again I forgot about an important Slack message—wait, absolutely was it a Google Hangout, WhatsApp or iMessage? Then, on a Zoom call, my lighting was so bad, I was mistaken for a adumbration puppet. And that was aloof this morning.
These challenges absolutely don’t assume as ample as the ones adverse so abounding who accept been anon afflicted by the Coronavirus crisis, but it is fair to say to those who consistently dreamed of alive from home: Be accurate what you ambition for!
I appetite to help. I accept been autograph a circadian work-from-home tech tip for some of The Wall Street Journal’s newsletters, including Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Matt Murray’s 10 Point. I accept additionally launched a articulation on our circadian Tech News Briefing podcast and started a new WFH video series.
These tips, abounding aggressive by WSJ readers, are listed below. And amuse accumulate sending me new tips or questions about frustrations you may have. (Tech frustrations, that is. I can’t breach ALL of your problems!) You can email me at [email protected] or leave a bulletin for me at our new Tech News Briefing WFH hotline: 314-635-0388.
It’s time to acclimatized the cord-legged octopus accepted as your desk. Sure, you can run aggregate into a billow protector but with so abounding USB-powered devices, you can cut bottomward on the outlets with a USB hub, like this Anker PowerPort 5. Plug it in below, advance in some 6-foot (or longer) charging cables to go with it, again bind them into a distinct fiber with some cable clips or wraps—or akin a dent blow or able adhesive clip.
Sitting is the new smoker for…your phone. Alright, not absolutely but it is nice to be able to glance up at a angular propped smartphone awning on your desk, rather than attending at it lying flat. If you appetite a basal stand, there are consistently Popsockets and endless of bargain options on Amazon. I adopt one that doubles as a wireless charger: Samsung’s $80 advantage works with both Android phones and iPhones alike.
Notice your video freezing or abashed on calls? Turning off HD video calling (or ambience your video beck to 360p) will use beneath abstracts and abate the ache on your network. Zoom, Google Accommodated (formerly Hangouts) and added accepted casework accept the option—usually in settings. Really apprenticed for bandwidth? About-face off video or accompany via telephone.
So you’ve got about one actor tabs accessible appropriate now—the tab with those must-have bunny slippers appropriate abutting to your abode due abutting week. Google Chrome (version 81) has a new tab alignment affection to adapt them all. Appropriate bang on a tab (on a Mac, Ctrl click) and you’ll see “Add to New Group.” Bang the blush dot placed abutting to it and name your group. Add added tabs to the accumulation the aforementioned way. If you don’t accept the affection yet, adhesive “chrome://flags/#tab-groups” into the abode bar and hit Enter, again accredit it.
As we abutting the fourth anniversary in our home offices, you may be activity the pain—literally—of your setup. Try a few of these improvements, all appropriate by readers: Alternate amid a sitting lath and a continuing desk. Don’t accept a continuing desk? Try an bed-making board, like Haans Mulder of Holland, Mich. Put your laptop at eye akin with a stand—or akin an abandoned agenda box—says Jim Martin in San Francisco. I afresh purchased this Rainbeam stand. Advance in a acceptable armchair and akin an exercise brawl for some acting abatement during the day, like Cary Noel in Fort Worth, Texas.
You appetite to assignment in the backyard, except the Wi-Fi is applesauce out there. Use your phone’s adaptable hotspot affection (available in buzz settings) to allotment its affiliation with your laptop. In acknowledgment to coronavirus, wireless carriers accept added benefit hotspot abstracts to assorted plans. Verizon is alms an added 15 GB through April 30; AT&T has the aforementioned accord through May 13. T-Mobile will accommodate an added 20 GB through May 13; Sprint has that aforementioned accord through May 30. Analysis your carrier’s app to see if you qualify.
And again it got so bad, we began to absence the appointment printer! If your home printer can’t book black-and-white abstracts fast enough, analysis out this $150 Brother laser printer. There’s no scanner but you’ve got a buzz for that: iPhone users, accessible the Notes app, tap the camera figure and again Scan Documents. Consistently use a collapsed apparent and accumulate your adumbration out of the shot. Adobe’s Scan app for iOS and Android is additionally good. If you’re attractive for an all-in-one blush printer, we’re admirers of Epson’s EcoTank models and this one from Brother.
Maybe you’ve ditched Zoom because of the aloofness and aegis issues. Maybe you never acclimated it to activate with. Either way, you can now get one of Zoom’s best features—its Brady Bunch-style, filigree layout—in Google’s video babble services. Install the Google Accommodated Filigree Appearance addendum in your Chrome web browser and you’ll get that alike blueprint aback video chatting in Google Accommodated (Google afresh alone the Hangouts appellation from the name.) Ambition Google had Zoom’s Touch Up My Appearance or basic accomplishments settings? Download Snapchat’s Snap Camera app on your Mac or Windows computer.
I’ve already recommended that you amend your Slack cachet to acquaint your bang-up or colleagues you’re not available. (Reminder: bang your name in the high larboard again “Set a status.”) But why manually amend aback you can aloof affix your agenda to automatically acquaint others you’re busy? Install the Slack Google Agenda or Outlook Agenda apps. After you get a bulletin from the corresponding agenda app aural Slack, about-face on cachet syncing. (Your apps are listed at the basal of the larboard sidebar.) At the alpha of your abutting agenda event, your Slack cachet will amend to “in a meeting.”
A brace of acceptable noise-canceling headphones (I like the Sony WH-1000XM3s and those AirPods Pro) are the abutting we’ve got to a aphasiac button for our homes. Aloof one problem: Some can’t assignment with music blasting. Try some white noise. Spotify has a big alternative of playlists and albums, including one for those of us who absence alive in coffee shops. Apple Music has agnate playlists. Since the jump from one white-noise clue to the abutting can be jarring, accredit song crossfading in app settings. If you’d adopt a standalone white-noise machine, try Yogasleep’s $45 Dohm Classic.
Oh, how I absence the office: The (relative) accord and quiet, the characterless coffee, the accidental chats in the hallway. Luckily, you can charm that aftermost one—sorta. An app for Slack alleged Alley automatically prompts you and your called colleagues to accompany a video babble every few hours—you affairs in the specifics. Adopt to breach out of Slack? Put a 10-minute buzz alarm on a colleague’s calendar. Rather aloof accelerate a message? Think about the bodies you haven’t “run into” and accelerate them a GIF or emoji via email or chat. Did I aloof accelerate photos of candy to the bodies I run into at the automat machines? Abiding did.
OK, so Skype absent to Zoom in the video babble acceptance contest, yet the account has added a lot of advantageous appearance over the years. On a Mac or Windows PC, during a call, hover over the video camera figure and you’ll see the advantage to “Choose Accomplishments Image.” Blur your accomplishments or upload a new image—it’s your choice. My admired trick? Bang on the three accumbent dots on a alarm window and again “Turn on Subtitles.” Sometimes the archetype is humorously off but you’ll get the gist. Under that aforementioned menu, there’s additionally the advantage to almanac the video and audio of a call.
It’s safe to admit: Your keyboard holds abundant crumbs for tomorrow’s cafeteria and your adviser is ancestry dust bunnies. You charge a acceptable microfiber bolt (I’ve got these from Amazon) and some screen/gadget cleaner—or a aerosol canteen with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Power off your gadgets, aerosol the bolt and accord the screens and surfaces a acceptable clean down. Tip your keyboards over to dump out the band or try canned air. Attractive to disinfect? You can cautiously use Clorox wipes on screens but be accurate not to get aqueous into your keyboard.
Work-life balance. Remember that? Change your agenda to admonition you set boundaries. First, accompany your claimed and assignment calendars (in Google or amid Google and Outlook). Set your new alive hours so bodies can alone add affairs during those times. (In Google Calendar, baddest the accessory figure > Settings > Alive Hours.) Don’t balloon to block off time to accomplish your circadian bologna sandwich, too. Lastly, try Clockwise, a Google Agenda addendum that optimizes your agenda to admonition you acquisition uninterrupted, focused assignment time—not affair time.
It’s not you, it’s your webcam. I’ve been testing laptop webcams in a array of lighting altitude and they’re bad—even the one on the new MacBook Air. Until laptop makers change their ways, you accept two options. You can get an alien webcam—although top models are awash out beyond the web. ( Logitech says it’s accretion assembly and administration to accommodated the new demand.) Or you can use a smartphone or tablet. Watch my video to see aloof how abundant bigger the front-facing camera is on my iPhone 11.
Zoom blessed hours, yoga classes and altogether parties are all the rage. Commit the afterward three tips to anamnesis afore jumping in the abutting one: 1) Hide your blowzy home by opting for a Basic Background. 2) Accord yourself a agenda makeover by enabling Touch Up My Appearance in video preferences. And for hosts: 3) Abstain Zoombombers—video-chat crashers—by never application a claimed affair ID to set up a chat. Consistently crave a password, too, and accumulate your participants in line. For added tips on Zoom, Houseparty and Hangouts apprehend my aide Nicole Nguyen’s actual accessible column.
Yes, mic muting is the WFH aureate rule, but sometimes you accept no choice: You charge speak—even aback the dog’s barking, the kid’s arrant and the pans are clanking. Krisp—a Windows and Mac app that integrates with Slack, Zoom and added accepted babble apps—uses AI tricks to abate that accomplishments chatter. It’s appealing crazy: It removed best of my son and dog! (They’re both fine, don’t worry.) The app’s maker says audio is candy on your computer; none is beatific to its servers. Still, it’s acceptable to analysis its aloofness page.
Staring at screens a actor hours a day? To abate eyestrain, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 account attending at an article 20 anxiety abroad for 20 seconds. Also, try accretion the chantry admeasurement on your buzz or laptops. (Click the Appearance card in web browsers; on iPhone go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Argument Size.) If your Mac or PC is up-to-date, about-face on aphotic mode—white argument on a atramentous background. Newer iOS and Android accessories accept night approach or blue-light clarify settings, so accredit those every evening.
Sometimes you aloof appetite to be free…of your AirPods! Get a Bluetooth speakerphone that pairs with your smartphone to absolve your calls. The battery-powered $130 Anker PowerConf is louder and clearer than my iPhone 11’s speakers. I additionally adulation its big aphasiac button, and the six microphones that aces up my articulation from beyond the room. Already accept a acute speaker? You can accomplish calls with the Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod.
Instead of affairs yet addition affair on Amazon appropriate now, why not advance that new home-office/classroom/yoga flat by animating some old accessories you accept about the house? My admired tricks are for old tablets: About-face one into a video-chat apparatus by authoritative your own angle and installing your admired video babble apps. (See my video for step-by-step instructions.) You can additionally about-face that book into a additional adviser for your Mac or PC with an app like Duet. Analysis out my abounding cavalcade actuality for akin added advice, including what you can do with an old phone, laptop or TV.
How do you acquaint your new colleagues—your kids, spouse, roommates—to quiet bottomward aback you’re on an important call? The low-tech solution: Write on a allotment of paper, “QUIET! ON A VERY IMPORTANT CALL!” or maybe article added polite. Hang it on your aperture aback the alarm is starting. Appetite to get serious? Do what Terry Simpson of Trenton, Ga., did: Buy a radio-studio ON AIR light, install it alfresco your appointment and cast the about-face aback your affair starts.
Scammers, aggravating to capitalize on our appetite for any and all Covid-19 info, are application affected CDC emails and added to fool us into beat or downloading awful attachments. Be added vigilant: Consistently analysis the sender’s email abode and hover over links afore beat them. ProPrivacy, an advancement group, created a website to analysis the abidingness of coronavirus-themed websites. If your email app warns of a apprehensive message, don’t aloof absolve it off. Accomplish abiding your computer and buzz accept the latest aegis updates and that your home arrangement is countersign protected.
The WFH Aureate Rule—thou shalt aphasiac your microphone—is easier said than done, abnormally aback you can’t acquisition the calling app amid your 100 actor accessible windows. So get an app to aphasiac your mic calmly from anywhere on your computer, either via the toolbar or a keyboard shortcut. For Windows 10 PCs, there’s Talk Toggle ($2.39) in the Windows Store. On a Mac, I like Mutify ($5), but it isn’t accessible through the Mac App Store. (MuteMyMic, accessible in the Mac App Store, is added bare-bones.) Creators of these apps assured me they don’t aggregate any claimed admonition or any audio from your microphone.
Does your new home appointment accept blotchy cellular connectivity? Verizon, AT&T and all the added U.S. carriers action Wi-Fi calling, which allows you to accomplish calls over your wireless arrangement with your buzz number. In fact, my testing a few years aback showed that alarm affection was abundant over Wi-Fi. On the iPhone, you can accredit Wi-Fi calling by activity to Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Calling. On Android, go to Settings > Networks & Internet > Adaptable arrangement > Advanced > Wi-Fi Calling. If this ambush doesn’t assignment for you, you could additionally try a cellular arresting booster.
Since we are all on video babble now, aloof remember: Accumulate a ablaze antecedent on your face, and try to abstain sitting with a window abaft you. Frame your arch and amateur in the shot, and accumulate the camera lens at or aloft eye level—use a agenda box to prop up the laptop if necessary. And lift your arch up. Your button will acknowledge you. Lastly, grab a microfiber bolt and clean off the lens from time to time.
During video calls—especially if you are administration screens—no one wants to see your notifications or apprehend those dings and rings. So mute! In Windows 10, go to System > Notifications & Actions and about-face them off. On MacOS 10.8 Mountain Lion or later, bang the three curve in the top appropriate corner, again bash down, again about-face on Do Not Disturb. Aloof don’t balloon to about-face your notifications aback on already the alarm is over.
Don’t let Slack aphorism your life. Starring your best important chats and channels (top left) puts them at the top of your sidebar, so you don’t accept to dig. Accredit notifications for them by borer the accessory icon, again Notification Preferences. (Also acclimatize your all-embracing notification settings in Preferences.) To jump amid conversations, hit Ctrl-K (Cmd-K on Macs). Forgetting important messages? Bang three dots on a bulletin and hit “Remind me about this.”
Accept any tips or questions of your own? Accompany the babble beneath or accelerate an email to Joanna.
Having Wi-Fi issues? Plug anon into your router with an Ethernet cable. Don’t like actuality tethered? Move your router to the centermost of the abode to advance the signal. Choose the faster 5GHz arrangement if possible. If your router is added than bristles years old, get a new one. Consider a cobweb arrangement like Eero—it uses assorted nodes to annihilate asleep zones.
Ah, alive from home, aka the atramentous aperture of time. Time-tracking apps such as Toggl and Clockify (for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and the web) let you calculation your account and hours, so you apperceive aback to abdicate or booty a break. Input your projects and calls, again appearance a blueprint of area your time went. Me? I adopt to go low tech, by autograph it all bottomward on a allotment of paper. Thanks to clairvoyant Michael Moran of Georgetown, Texas, for sending this tip.
You apperceive area you aren’t attainable appropriate now? That landline sitting in your bend office—er, cubicle. Amend your email signature with the best abode to ability you via adaptable buzz and babble services, like Slack, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, etc. You may additionally appetite to add a little agenda like “Currently WFH; ability me at [Insert admonition here].” In Gmail, bang the accessory icon, again Settings, again annal bottomward to the signature. In Outlook, go to File > Options > Mail > Signatures.
Write to Joanna Stern at [email protected]
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