If you’re a longtime iPhone user, you’re familiar with Do Not Disturb, the feature that mutes all incoming notifications. It’s a useful tool when you’re driving, sleeping, or just don’t want to chat.
iOS 15 takes Do Not Disturb and upgrades it with the new Focus feature. Focus gives you more flexibility in choosing which apps and contacts get muted, and which ones can still send notifications.
Here’s how to use Focus on your iPhone.
How to set up Focus on your iPhone
1. Open the Settings app and tap Focus.
2. On the page that opens, tap the plus sign in the top-right corner.
3. You’ll be asked what you want to “focus on.” You can pick one of the preset options – these have their names and notification options already configured – or select Custom.
4. Choose who you want to allow texts and calls from. You’ll likely be given a few suggestions right off the bat, based on who you talk to most.
5. Depending on which Focus option you picked, you might also be asked which apps can send notifications. Here you can also enable or disable Time Sensitive notifications – these are notifications that apps have marked as very important, and if enabled, they’ll make it past your Focus filter even if you didn’t allow the app.
6. Once finished, you’ll be brought to your new Focus’ options page. From this page you can delete the Focus, choose how it’ll affect your Home and Lock screens, set up a schedule for it, and more.
Some preset Focus options, like Driving, will also give you the option to create Auto-Reply messages. These messages will be texted to anyone who tries to contact you while you’re in the Focus. By default, they simply tell the other person to try contacting you later.
How to quickly turn on a Focus
Once you’ve set up a Focus mode, you can switch it on from the Control Center.
The investment bank found that productivity in the US economy increased just over 3% per hour since the start of the pandemic, largely in industries that adapted to remote work and less travel. That’s more than double the 1.4% per hour growth in the period prior.
Productivity is the measure of goods or services workers produce per hour on average. Many companies have been able to cut costs on things like office rent, furniture and equipment, holiday parties, client events, and work travel. With the continued evolution of business models, including automation and increased worker efficiency, Goldman Sachs expects to see productivity to rise by about 4% by 2022.
Gains were highest in jobs like IT, professional services, and product development that were able to accommodate virtual meetings and did away with in-person costs associated with travel and entertainment. Right now the cost of rental cars, gas, hotels, food, and airfare are all on the rise, making travel, whether for work or pleasure, even more expensive.
To be sure, working from home comes with its own set of problems. At the same time American workers were more productive, they were also more burned out. Part of the World Health Organization’s definition of burnout is diminished performance.
When building your case to work from home and travel less, it could help to cite your mental health and psychological engagement, in addition to what you were able to accomplish over the last year and the money you saved your employer by doing all of that from home.
Kickstarter is launching one of its most interesting projects yet: a four-day workweek for its employees.
The Brooklyn-based crowdfunding platform announced last week that starting in 2022, it will become the first company to join a set of pilot programs called 4 Day Week US. The programs, launched in part by Kickstarter executive Jon Leland, are a spinoff from 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit that promotes a shortened work schedule. On Monday, 4 Day Week US circulated an employee petition to help identify companies to target, and encouraged employers to join the program.
For business owners, this could be the perfect time to experiment.
“Remote workers are now coming back, and they’re used to some flexibility,” said Chris Mullen, executive director at Boston-based think tank the Workforce Institute. Mullen advises most employers to try it, provided they first gauge employees’ interest and engage insignificant dialogue about how to do it effectively.
The four-day workweek has gotten some traction in recent years. In March, Spain’s government announced it would pay companies to try it. London-based consumer goods company Unilever began a yearlong test in its New Zealand offices in November 2020. And Buffer, a San Francisco-based social media software company, tried the schedule in 2020 and decided to continue it into 2021 because it “resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance,” according to a company blog post.
Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan told Axios that the pandemic inspired him to try a four-day workweek for its 90 employees.
“What we’ve been all living through the last 18 months, you feel this compression on your professional life, your personal life,” he said.
A Kickstarter spokesperson says the company has not yet determined how it will implement the schedule. 4 Day Week usually advocates a 32-hour workweek comprising four eight-hour days.
The results of early experiments have been promising. When Microsoft Japan tested the four-day week in 2019, productivity spiked by 40% and 92% of employees said they liked the schedule. A 2020 study of 350 people in the Philippines published in the Journal of Physics suggested that compressed workweeks help workers feel less stressed and manage their personal lives more effectively.
“Innovation isn’t always a planned activity,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Amazon previously said it prizes having an “office-centric culture,” but has since softened that stance.
But there’s scant evidence to support the idea that having offices help companies where it matters most: innovation and productivity. In fact, prior research found that offices – namely open-concept ones – can even have a negative effect on the very sort of interactions that executives hope to foster.
A 2019 study by Harvard’s Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber (then at MIT), found workers at companies that switched from cubicles to open-floor-plan offices had 70% fewer face-to-face interactions.
Office workers may talk, but “there is almost no data whatsoever” to suggest it helps the organization, Bernstein recently told the New York Times.
“All of this suggests to me that the idea of random serendipity being productive is more fairy tale than reality,” he said.
Meanwhile, the tools and practices of remote work, became a lot more powerful as a result of the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, tech VC Marc Andreessen wrote in a recent blog.
“It turns out many of the best jobs really can be performed from anywhere, through screens and the internet,” he wrote. “It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important *than* the internet.“
Indeed, the claimed benefits of offices are in many cases offset or inaccessible for some workers, namely caregivers, people from underrepresented groups, others with physical or intellectual disabilities, or those who can afford to live within commuting distance.
A record 707,000 white-collar workers quit their jobs in April, according to government data, and a recent report from the flexible marketing talent network We Are Rosie found that two-thirds of marketers are planning a major career change this year – and that all of them want the option to work remotely.
To be sure, face-to-face interactions are still useful in building trust and relationships among teammates, but the Times report highlighted the fact that companies like Zillow, Salesforce, and Ford are experimenting with ways to get the best of both worlds.
“We believe humans want to connect and collaborate,” said Dan Spaulding, chief people officer at Zillow. “But do you need to do that five days a week, or can you do that once every three months?”
You want to change the world, so you work long, tireless hours, your mind never shuts off, and your body never rests. It feels as if your life were burning on both ends of the candlestick, but you can’t seem to let yourself stop.
Was it healthy? No. Was I more productive? Not necessarily.
Here’s the truth. If you want to actually impart change, drive your mission forward, and grow your business, then creating space and stillness in your life must be non-negotiable. To do so requires a mindset shift away from thinking breaks are bad. To turn downtime into a valuable asset, I started to do the following three actions.
Schedule your downtime
Most people think taking breaks is spontaneous, but the best way to stop is to plan accordingly. When nighttime comes around, your circadian rhythm and body know without consciously thinking that it’s time to sleep. You’re training your body and mind to anticipate shutting down. You can impart this same level of shift within your daily or weekly schedule.
Create a routine for your rest. Whether it’s a block of time in the morning, a day during the week, or a few minutes throughout the day, plan time to take a break and stick to it. Every Wednesday and Sunday, for example, I have blocked off time specifically for relaxation and reflection. This has become a non-negotiable in my life in order to instill the habit within my mind and the cycle within my body to unwind. Taking downtime becomes a habit, similar to that of checking email.
The thoughts and ideas that flow through your mind are how you raise your value as a leader. So use moments of pause to bolster your brain’s ability to think stronger and faster.
Take space to allow yourself to think. Focus on an aspect of business that you want to improve. Think about where you want to be and whether you are on the fastest path to get there.
In our society, we have become accustomed to constantly being stimulated and entertained. As a result, we must actively block time to find stillness, and allow these moments of perceived boredom to spark inner dreams and allow creativity to flourish. During this time, hold no judgment of the ideas you come up with.
You don’t need to work 12 grueling hours each day. You need one moment of insight.
Take care of your body
Some of the biggest deterrents to actual wealth creation and success are not resources, investors, or a strong supply chain; it’s your personal health. If you are energized, you are more likely to act and be bold when you experience fear or moments of opportunity. If you have taken care of yourself, you can more easily show up to connect with and support your employees, partners, and customers.
You are the leader within your organization. If something happens to you, everything is compromised. You must take care of yourself as if you are going to be around for a while. During your moments of space, create a wellness routine, navigate your fitness schedule, and give your body, mind, and spirit what it needs most. Some days, this looks like hitting the gym really hard, and other days, it consists of meditating, getting a massage, or reading a book.
Health is a resource that you can always provide to yourself.
Creating space for downtime in your life is necessary. After all, the entrepreneur road isn’t an end goal, it is a way of life. If you want to enjoy it for the long term, you must be willing to pause, reflect, and rejuvenate. It might just land you farther forward than those late nights at the office ever could.
If you struggle to be productive while working from home, you’re not alone. Staring at a laptop in silence makes it harder to stay on task than you might think.
In the absence of coworkers, you might turn down the rabbit hole of social media for a little human interaction, where scrolling can easily waste countless hours of your time. Or maybe you turn on the TV for a little background noise only to find yourself engrossed in a talk show for a solid hour.
So while silence can be problematic, filling the void can be a distraction. Fortunately, turning on a little background music might be the solution to improving your productivity.
But not just any music will do. Listen to the songs that help you feel happy, and you’ll get more work done in less time.
The link between music, happiness, and performance
Music is a great tool for regulating your emotions. The songs you listen to have the power to boost your mood, calm you down, or pump you up.
That’s why music became a lifeline for so many people during the COVID pandemic. Our recent survey at Verywell Mind found that 79% of people turned to music to cope with the stress of the pandemic. (Many of them were likely working from home.)
It makes sense that so many people rely on music to regulate their emotions. Research has also discovered that intentionally listening to happy music can have a profound impact on your happiness level. A 2012 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to happy music became happier people within just two weeks.
And it’s no secret that happy people are productive people. Researchers have long since known this. In fact, a 2019 study conducted by the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School set out to study how much happiness matters. They discovered that happy people tend to be 13% more productive.
So it makes sense that listening to happy music makes you happy. And when you feel happy, you work better. But that’s not the end of the story.
Listening to music while you’re focused on something else (like writing a report) might also improve your performance. A 2014 study found that listening to upbeat background music improved the brain’s processing speed and bolstered memory in older adults.
And while both upbeat and downbeat music showed memory benefits, processing speed improvements were only present when people listened to upbeat music. So this reinforces the idea that happy songs could be the key to enhanced performance.
Happy music is tough to find
You’ll likely find it’s easy to recall plenty of songs with sad melodies and angry lyrics. But spend a minute trying to recall happy songs, and you might draw a blank. That’s because upbeat songs are in short supply.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies found that music lyrics have become increasingly sad and angry over the past 50 years. And listening to sad or angry music may have a negative impact on your mood or performance.
So it’s important to be intentional about the music you play while you work. Commit to listening to upbeat music so you can be more productive.
A happy playlist
Rather than spend hours looking for upbeat songs – we thought we’d supply you with a great playlist that might help you feel happier and make you more productive right away.
While my expertise is in helping people feel happier, song recommendations are a bit outside my wheelhouse. Fortunately, however, I have a resident expert on staff.
The producer of The Verywell Mind Podcast, Nick Valentin, is an amazing audio engineer. When he’s not working with me, he records musicians like Pharrell Williams, Marc Anthony, and Sean Combs (a.k.a Puff Daddy or Diddy). So I asked for his input on the happiest songs he knows. (And it just so happens that he even worked on the album that tops our list.)
Here are 10 songs that can make you feel happier and be more productive when you’re working from home:
“September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
“Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
“Uptown Funk” by Mark Bronson and Bruno Mars
“ABC” by The Jackson 5
“O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps
“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
“I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown
“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams
“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
Turn on the background music
Experiment a bit with background music to figure out what helps you stay most productive. You might find listening to the same song over and over again actually helps you stay on task best. Or you might discover upbeat, instrumental music helps you stay focused.
Try a few experiments, and you’ll learn how to use background music to your advantage when you’re working from home.
“Leadership should consider each worker’s situation and circumstances in as nuanced a way as possible rather than try to generate a uniform or blanket policy,” she said. “Similarly, the motivation and rationale for bringing workers back to the office should also be carefully considered and discussed with your workforce.”
Aven’s recommendation for companies includes a “collective dialogue” to generate solutions.
“In general, I would first aim to get individual feelings in a manner that will allow as many people to share their concerns and situations – for example, a survey or one-on-ones,” Aven said. An online forum or discussion board are other options.
This is one path forward in what consultant Paula Rizzo, author of two books on organization, labels as “an opportunity to not go back to the way things were.”
“None of us are the same. Now people have this new sort of freedom from working remotely, and now everything is changing again,” she told Insider. How companies handle this change, Rizzo added, will determine how successful they are at retaining their employees.
“We’ve got a challenge where when we come back into the world of mixing virtual and physical interaction again, companies really need to think about how they make it the best of both of those experiences,” Rich Hutchinson, managing director and senior partner and social impact practice leader at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), said. “I really believe that people thrive on engagement and seeing other people, but the flip side is that there are huge benefits in being more productive in what you’re doing, but also spending more time with your family or being more flexible with where you are.”
Hutchinson was one of the authors of a recent BCG report envisioning the future of the workplace entitled “The Bionic Company.” In it, the consulting group envisions a workplace where technology combines with the “flexibility, adaptability, and comprehensive experience of humans” to create a “superhuman enterprise.”
This breaks down into several actionable steps that all businesses should keep in mind.
Make technology a priority
First, companies must work to integrate the technology they’ve leveraged during the pandemic into their regular workflow, and evaluate how those processes can be further deployed as workers return to the workplace.
“How will the core processes of the business evolve?” and “How will humans and technology create a more efficient process?” are the key questions leaders should be asking, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson gave an example of outcomes he’s seen these questions produce in action at a leading retailer. The company “built an algorithm to choose fashions for the next season. The algorithm improved on human choices alone,” he said. “But the best results were achieved when human recommendations were both inputs to an improved algorithm and also experts audited the outcomes. It’s an example of leveraging the power of humans and technology together.”
Becoming a “bionic company” isn’t just for large enterprises, either.
“The trick for small companies and entrepreneurs is to think about their processes in this bionic or digital mindset from the beginning, or adopt them in order of the ones where they think they’ll get the biggest bang for the buck,” Hutchinson said. “But because you’re small, I actually think you can build in a lot of the agile organizational mindset or the technology mindset pretty easily,” he added.
Buck the traditional leadership model and remain transparent
The next consideration is how leadership functions as you come back to work after the pandemic.
In the bionic workplace, it differs from the traditional top-down model, Hutchinson said. In traditional leadership, direction comes from the top and flows down to employees without much input or room for questioning, whereas in bionic leadership, it’s team-based, where the teams build products or drive outcomes and are charged with accomplishing their missions on their own.
“Leadership becomes much more about how I structure my teams, what are they working on, what’s the mission, do I have the right composition of talent on those teams, can I help remove roadblocks from them along the way, and if the project just isn’t working, do I shut it down and redeploy that talent onto other teams that have better uses?” Hutchinson said. “It’s basically how do you set up the teams, charge them with the mission, remove the roadblocks, and let them go, rather than managing a team and sort of orchestrating its activities in a very controlled manner.”
Keeping workers motivated throughout the changes that encompass a return to the workplace is another critical consideration, Hutchinson said. He said that taking the time to explain how the changes are going to be beneficial not just for the company, not just for the customer, but also for the workers, is key to their success. Having reached an unprecedented level of transparency during the pandemic, there’s no going backward.
For example, many companies that are digital natives use agile staffing processes to supplement their core employee base. Hutchinson said that handled properly, employees don’t see this as a threat.
“Employees are restaffed to other work that is now higher value. They see that making the company efficient through technology helps it win,” he said. “Growth creates opportunities for the employee. And agile staffing makes work more interesting rather than stagnant.”
That type of communication is common among companies that originated during the digital age, Hutchinson said.
“One of the things the digital natives have done really well is helping people understand that if we can grow and become more efficient and leverage these techniques into a more bionic operating model, that actually creates more opportunity for all of us, and our sincere goal is to help people find new roles and grow,” he said. “So I think there’s a large part of it that’s down to how the company executes it and helps people see the positives in their journey.”
Give employees an opportunity to structure their days
As business owners start pondering how to move forward, employees’ views will be central to considerations, Hutchinson said. He predicts that more autonomy in the workplace is almost unavoidable.
Employees “sharing what worked and what didn’t – and what they are looking for in a job moving forward – both will shape how employers structure jobs post-pandemic,” Hutchinson said. “For some, the pandemic has meant they needed to and could work in a more independent manner. Where this worked, I think employees will push hard for it to stick.”
Rizzo also believes that employees should get a head start on showing employers what they want and need by planning out what they’d like their work model to look like.
“We have an advantage because we know it’s coming,” she said. “We were all blindsided when remote work became full time, now you have some perspective – use it! Make a list of what you’re better suited to do at home and what works better in the office as you design your hybrid work model. It’s a good time to craft your days in a particular way that will make you more efficient, no matter where you are.”
Hutchinson identified less management, or the feeling of less management, as a benefit of the bionic workplace as well.
“They find that they’re operating more agile, which can be really energizing because it doesn’t feel as managed, it feels much more self-directed and they’re much more empowered,” he said.
When Dropbox asked its 2,500 employees to audit their calendars to analyze whether there was anything they could cut, its international HR director Laura Ryan realized she “was in 15 hours of standing meetings a week, not adding value to any of those.”
“They had just built up over time. That wasn’t allowing for any ad hoc meetings, which certainly wasn’t allowing much work to get done,” Ryan told Insider.
The audit was the first step towards the “non-linear work day” that Dropbox began implementing in October, shortly after it announced it would shift to “virtual-first” working in which remote working was the default.
Teams define “core collaboration” hours for meetings and individuals are free to structure the rest of their day whenever they want.
This could be evening or early hours, whatever best suits when they function best and when they’re naturally inclined to sleep.
Under this system, Ryan, who is based in Dublin, Ireland, cut a third of the 15 hours of meetings she was in and re-thought her contribution to others.
Now, her day typically starts with preparation, breakfast and school drop-offs.
At 10 a.m., the first of her core collaboration hours begins, which are generally spent on calls. Between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. she is meeting-free and will respond to emails, work on documents, and take a walk.
She then goes back into collaboration mode, spending between 4 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on calls, with the occasional late international call.
Ryan said that, after employees do their calendar audit, they’re asked to block out the core collaboration hours needed.
Respecting other colleagues’ independent time by not requesting meetings outside collaboration hours – and equally not accepting meetings outside your own – was key, she added.
So is clearly communicating schedule preferences to others in the team so no one thinks a person has gone AWOL when actually they intend to be working from 8 p.m. to midnight that day.
Current company guidelines state that the “collaboration hours” should take place between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., to allow for some cross-time zone meetings.
Teams, however, can adjust these as required. The rest of the time is reserved for independent, focused work, and does not have to be during the traditional working day but any time the employee prefers.
Regardless of how someone cuts up their day, the idea was to move away from a mindset of “busy for the sake of it” to “impact,” said Ryan.
With office perks less of an attraction for future candidates, Dropbox will be emphasizing the policy in recruitment, Ryan said.
New employees will be able to discuss their preferred work pattern, be they early birds or night owls, with their line manager during their onboarding. Team meetings could be shifted earlier or later, as long as all are in agreement, Ryan added.
Some teams lend themselves to a work pattern outside of conventional hours naturally. Engineering teams, Ryan said, typically start and end later.
And any role that is not customer-facing, such as HR, or marketing and communications, could work well in a non-linear fashion.
Sales teams, for example, need to work more traditionally as most of the company’s customers are still working this way.
But Ryan said Dropbox’s sales teams have introduced a rotation system so staff can still do non-linear working hours on certain days.
Ryan said the company was willing to tweak the system as time goes on.
“We’re not going to get this right on day one, but we’ll figure it out together,” she added.
Ethical, confident, wise – these are among the many attributes of great leaders, and these attributes usually stem from that leader’s experiences and personal style. But there is one thing all great leaders have in common: At some point in their career, someone believed in them.
Simple as it may seem, this realization can inspire new leadership tactics in great leaders and help them turn their attention to developing their teams.
Here are three tips on how to use your own expertise to build the next generation of leaders for your organization.
1. Present opportunities to your people
When you think about your own trajectory to a position of leadership, you likely got there because you had experiences that others didn’t. It is so important to help others develop themselves, and to start you must give them opportunities to do so.
Opportunities can be presented in a number of different ways. One tactic I use is to share examples of my own experiences – experiences that might inspire new ideas or help someone develop an understanding of the similarities between situations that can help them move forward.
Guiding The UPS Store throughout a global pandemic will be a story I tell for years to come. Our network of franchise owners remained open as essential to serve their communities, a feat that inspires resilience and optimism that can carry you through those more challenging times. I also draw on my experience as a former officer in the Marine Corps to help explain tough conditions and how planning, preparation, and the ability to adapt can help you forge ahead.
Another way to nurture development is to give employees stretch projects beyond their normal day-to-day roles. Let them take the driver’s seat so that they can develop the wisdom and confidence needed to make good judgment calls.
You’ll have to find what feels right and works for your company. Keep in mind that without these opportunities, you could be leaving your employees flat-footed to do their jobs and rise as leaders, both of which impact your organization overall.
2. Recognize your own hesitancies
Know that it’s normal to feel some level of stress when handing over the reins to your team. Whether you are worried about being accountable for someone else, giving up control or becoming a micromanager, you must overcome those feelings to give employees the opportunity to expand and evolve.
Start by identifying the sources of any hesitancy you might have, and then look for solutions to overcome it. If accountability is something you are worried about, is there a way to find shared responsibility within a project? Start by clearly outlining the project goals and then ask your employees to check in with you at specific milestones. By keeping you informed and sharing regular updates, you can have confidence that the project is moving forward and in the right direction while allowing employees to develop their own leadership skills, generate new ideas and build upon new experiences.
Remember that failure is a part of the growth process, and a big proponent of helping employees develop themselves is giving them the space to learn, try, and push beyond their comfort zone. But keep playing the role of coach or adviser to help them gain the knowledge and skills to develop as leaders.
3. Extend your circle of trust
Humans are creatures of habit and that extends to leadership. Once you’ve successfully relied on members of your team to accomplish a big task or launch a new initiative, it can be tempting to go back to the same people to do it all over again. But as new projects arise, it is important to continually identify and leverage the strengths of other employees.
Ask other leaders throughout your organization to recommend people for a project. This practice helps employees gain exposure to new areas of the business, work with a different team and adapt to new team dynamics. By trusting your people to take on new roles, you help foster a culture of integrity and develop leadership skills among a broader base of people.
The best employees are adept at making sound decisions and have the ability to plan, prioritize, and solve problems. It is so important to give people the opportunity for continued professional development. Through these new opportunities, you often reveal strengths in people that you were unaware of, while at the same time, you help to scale your organization with diversity of thought and experiences that can drive your business forward.
Remember, it all started with someone believing in you. Be that person for the teams you lead.