Working From Home Has All Sorts of Annoyances
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Working From Home Has All Sorts of Annoyances

Here’s how I solved them.

By Alexandra Samuel
Mon, Nov 29, 2021 11:23amGrey Clock 6 min

In the war between office and home office, I’ve picked a camp: I’m Team WFH, all the way. But that doesn’t mean I’m impervious to its many annoyances.

My secret is that after more than 20 years of remote work, and even longer as a die-hard tech geek, I’ve built up a repertoire of gadgets and tricks that take the edge off some of the little aggravations that can ruin the joys of remote work.

I don’t pretend that most—or any—of these problems fall under the category of Big Issues. But it’s the small, quality-of-life frustrations that can do the most daily damage. So with that in mind, here are my favourite fixes for the things that most bug me.

I miss collaboration

There is no substitute for the day-to-day mind meld that can happen when you work side-by-side with trusted colleagues. When you’re working remotely, it’s harder to communicate project updates, requests for feedback, or guidance when assigning a task.

A giant screen can help—and I’m not talking about a 28-inch-monitor. Our living room now features a projector and a 100-inch movie screen, and it makes an enormous difference. When I can fit all 30 columns of a spreadsheet on a screen, and walk a junior colleague through the steps I need her to take on, it makes it much easier to provide clear guidance. And when I can project my work in progress on the big screen, I can get quick feedback from my husband when we run into each other during a midmorning coffee break.

I’m tied to my desk

One of the few things I miss about office life is the sense of variety: between meetings, hallway chitchats, professional-development events and collegial lunches, I could count on a change of pace (and scenery) throughout the workday. Working at home, I get tired of staring at the two feet of wall surrounding my desk and monitor.

The key: make it easy to relocate. The solution? A laptop docking station and hub that connect my monitor, mouse, webcam, backup drive and power supply. Now that leaving or returning to my desk no longer requires a festival of plugging and unplugging, it’s easy for me to take my laptop out to our deck or into the living room if I need a break from my home office. Changing my work locations throughout the day has made my days a lot less tedious.

Who’s stealing my supplies?

If you share your home office (or even your home) with other people, there’s no telling where someone might put that client file, your spare USB cable or your favourite pen. That’s why you need to label everything—so everyone knows to put it in the same place.

The right label maker makes it easy: Mine connects to my phone or laptop, so I can dictate or type up my labels instead of pecking them out on miniature keys. Yes, I could just label things by hand, but I’ve noticed that my family members take my organizing systems a lot more seriously when they’re backed by an official printed label.

My Wi-Fi is slow

Nothing is more exasperating than intermittent Wi-Fi if you are depending on it to stay connected to your office, colleagues or clients. If your home network slows down when more than one person is working from home, a few simple investments can make a big difference.

First, get a good-quality router, and plan on replacing it every few years. (Routers have a limited lifespan.) In addition, we have Wi-Fi extenders on our upper and lower floors: If I’m working from the offices on our ground floor or in our loft, I connect to the Wi-Fi extender on that floor, for a more reliable connection.

Finally, to ensure my kids’ Netflix watching and online gaming doesn’t disrupt my work or presentations, I use my router’s Quality of Service (QoS) feature to give priority to the Wi-Fi connections on my computer and my husband’s, and to send our Roku and our PlayStation to the back of the line.

I have no secrets

Even those of us who post our innermost thoughts to Facebook may wish to preserve some secrets from our colleagues—which can be a real challenge when you’re dialing into video calls from your bedroom or living room. I lean on a few physical tools to protect my family’s privacy.

I put slide-open camera covers on my laptop’s webcam and my external webcam, so I absolutely know my devices aren’t spying on me by accident. I have a couple of pop-up green screens that I can use to hide the chaos in my workspace. I installed a few picture ledges in my son’s bedroom (which I sometimes use to deliver presentations) so that I can quickly take down his favourite décor and replace it with my own work-related books. And when all else fails, there’s always the “background blur” option built into meeting software.

No accountability

One of the difficulties of remote work is that when you have a really productive day, nobody notices. And even more dangerous, nobody notices when you have a day where nothing much gets done.

Since I’m more productive when I have some sense of accountability for what I get done in a day, I’ve used different online tools to create that accountability for me. For a long time I had a “Lone Wolves” group on Slack, where I would share my top three daily priorities with a circle of fellow freelancers, and then we’d all check in at the end of the day to report on what we’d accomplished. If I have a day where I get a really remarkable amount of stuff done, I list it all in a “yay, me!” post on Facebook (though I don’t do that more than once every month or two, because it’s a bit obnoxious). And a few friends swear by Focusmate for the same benefit: It lets you make virtual co-working dates so that you feel accountable for how you’ve spent your time.

I lose track of time

One joy of remote work is that it’s easy to fit personal tasks into your day, like planning dinner or shopping for a gift. By the same token, however, it’s easy to lose track of the time and nuke your productivity with personal distractions.

To keep an eye on where the day (or week, or month or year) goes, I keep a time tracker running in the background on my phone and computer. The tracker lets me set up simple rules to categorize different keywords or categories as personal or professional, and colour-code them so that I can see at a glance whether I’ve had a work-first or personal-first kind of day. And when I worry that I’ve let my work hours get out of control, I can use the timer to see whether I’m really spending more time at the keyboard.

I miss people

I have a few co-working buddies who keep remote work from feeling solitary, but I still miss the opportunity to meet new humans and tap into ideas from outside my usual orbit. While I look forward to the day when in-person networking events feel viable again, I have found some online options to fill the breach.

For a good stretch of the pandemic, I hung out on Clubhouse, an audio social network where I formed connections with new colleagues and got to hear from other people in my field. One of the people I met on Clubhouse let me know about Lunch Club, which is kind of like networking roulette: The service sets you up on virtual networking dates with other people you might find interesting to meet.

I’m tethered to email

The same technology that makes it feasible to work outside the office also makes it next to impossible to turn work off. It’s easy to feel like you have to be accessible by email 24/7, which makes it hard to do focused work and contributes to burnout. But turning off (or ignoring) email isn’t feasible if you have a demanding boss or client who acts like you’ve abandoned them to the wolves when you go 20 minutes without answering their missive.

The solution? Text-to-email notifications that alert you when you get an email from that can’t-miss manager or client. Just set up a mail rule in your email client that forwards your boss or client’s emails to the email address associated with your mobile phone number. Once you know that you won’t miss a crucial message if you unplug, it’s a lot easier to keep email from taking over your whole life.

I eat too much

If waistlines expanded during the Covid era, it’s not only because health concerns kept some folks away from the gym. When you’re working from home, a snack is never more than a few steps away. To ensure I only dig into my chocolate supply when I actually intend to have a treat, I keep my favourite chocolate bars locked in a passcode-protected safe. Yes, I know the passcode, but it’s harder to get to the chocolate without thinking first.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: November 26, 2021.



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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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