How I Managed My Growing Company While Being COVID-19 Positive – ReadWrite
I received a positive COVID-19 test result on December 9th. I was working from home and had avoided socializing for months, but the virus reached me through my daughter’s kindergarten.
Staying isolated for a couple of weeks wasn’t going to be a problem. Still, the timing for getting sick was unfortunate. Everyone who has ever led a company knows how hectic the end of the year can be. Budget planning, yearly reports, and employee review meetings can be stressful even when you’re healthy, let alone when you’re ailing.
It was already enough of a challenge to lead a rapidly growing company with all my team working from home. It became a gargantuan task when I found that I was COVID-19 positive.
Despite being ill, I wasn’t able to completely “switch off” from managing my company. DeskTime is a productivity tracking software that has seen its user count tripled since the start of the pandemic. Ironically, COVID-19 brought us a growth spurt – and here I was, suffering from the disease myself.
How I Managed My Growing Company While Being COVID-19 Positive
Here, I want to share the attitudes that helped me stay sane while juggling health issues and a rapidly growing company from my home.
1. Being honest with my team
I hadn’t met any team members, or partners face to face for a while, so I didn’t need to worry about having infected someone. However, I wanted to be honest with my employees and let them know what was going on.
My team received the news of my illness with understanding and support. I think my honesty urged them to be even more empathic and take up extra tasks to unburden my schedule.
My main symptoms were fever, an intense headache, sensitivity to light, and a slight cough. I lost my sense of taste and smell for around ten days, and the cough lingered for five days.
The headache and fever stayed for three days, and that was the hardest time. During these days, I could only join in on video calls with our business partners via audio – I couldn’t participate, just listen. I’m thankful to my team managers who took over the meeting moderation process from me.
Working-while-sick couldn’t have worked if I hadn’t been honest with my team and told them that I would need their help and support for an unknown period — because no one could tell how long this disease would linger.
2. Setting priorities and delegating
I was sick, and I was stressed about it, and I had a hectic month ahead of me. My Google Calendar was merciless — from December 9 to 22, I had 32 meetings scheduled. I had to do some serious prioritizing in order to take care of my own health while not abandoning my responsibilities as CEO.
Clearing my schedule
I cleared my schedule of everything that didn’t absolutely require my involvement. As a result, I worked three to four hours a day. As my first priority, I wanted to be (virtually) present in all employee annual evaluation meetings. I also could not postpone finalizing the company budget for 2021.
I decided to delegate yearly review meetings with outsourced employees and agencies to the team managers. As for accounting and other paperwork, I moved it to the bottom of my priority list. This “maintenance mode” helped me stay afloat without falling too far behind on critical tasks.
Seeing how efficiently I could delegate in times of need made me appreciate my team even more. I believe this trust shouldn’t be taken for granted – it’s a foundation for success in any company.
3. Being prepared
We live in times when anyone could get sick, so it’s better to have systems in place so that work is not disrupted in case a manager – or even the CEO – suddenly needs time off.
My company didn’t come to a standstill due to my illness because we’ve all been working and communicating remotely for almost a year now. Each team member has their yearly and monthly goals, and everyone knows their tasks.
We kept each other up to date thanks to regular team calls and company-wide online meetings. Regardless of whether the boss is sick or healthy, the well-oiled machine can power onwards and work never stops.
4. Nurturing a healthy and supportive company culture
Being sick and confined to the house made me realize what matters most – the happiness and well-being of the people on my team. We had been working remotely since the pandemic began in order to stay safe and prevent spreading the virus. But could I do more to reassure my team and support their well-being?
Keep a remote and hybrid work format ready
It’s now clear to us that we will keep a remote or a hybrid work format even after the pandemic. Our team has embraced the work from home model; in summer, we worked from our summer houses and even while traveling around the country.
In addition, I’m supporting healthy team-building initiatives, like a calorie-burning challenge with a traveling trophy. I also encourage my team members to plan flexible workdays, including a walk or a run during work hours.
Our own time tracking software lets us keep an eye on how many hours we’ve worked each day, allowing us to follow our individual progress and fill in the necessary work hours when we feel most productive.
COVID-19 – a catalyst for change
Since I only felt very ill for three days, my team didn’t feel my absence. But COVID and other illnesses hang on longer. Now I can say I was lucky to get through the illness with relative ease. However, this time was full of emotional tension, and I came out of it with changed priorities and eye-opening conclusions.
COVID-19 applied the breaks on the world, but it reminded us about different work formats that may be a key to better work-life balance for many people.
If a year ago remote work was only a trendy perk some employers could choose to offer; now we’re successfully working from home and other places where we feel safe and comfortable.
With the right mindset, who knows how many more life-enhancing things we can accomplish in the near future?
Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels; thank you
The Future of Calendars: Predictions and Trends
We live in a world where online calendars are a part of our daily lives. No matter how diligently you use an online calendar, you’re still benefiting from it. For instance, you might be reminded to send a birthday card online, schedule events or business meetings, or block out your day.
It is important to realize that online calendars are still a relatively new productivity tool that is rapidly developing. As a matter of fact, your online calendar is becoming more of a personal assistant that will advise you on how to spend your time best. But, there is so much more than calendars are capable of in the future, such as the following predictions and trends.
Solving scheduling problems.
“So far, it looks like the reinvention of the calendar will happen in two phases,” notes David Pierce for Protocol. “First, users will get access to a new set of tools, integrated with Google and Outlook calendars but opening up lots of new features.”
After that, calendars will be turned into a standalone service if they prove successful. In the same way, Slack is to email, Zoom is to a desk phone, and Airtable is to Excel, all these companies hope to be to your Outlook calendar, he adds. “Time is money, all these calendar companies will argue to investors and customers, and we’ll save you both.”
“We’re only at the beginning of the first phase, though, and still attacking the first problem worth solving: scheduling. How about one solution? It’s as simple as speeding up the process.
Superhuman, for example, scans emails for dates like “next Friday” and lets users send invitations accordingly. Scheduling is, in essence, an email problem. As a result, it should be available as an email solution as well. In a similar vein, Vimcal, often referred to as “Superhuman for calendars,” is a new app that focuses on speed, and CEO John Li said most people want meeting creation to happen lightning fast.
Calendar is another option if you want to speed up the scheduling process. The Find a Time feature in Calendar allows you to schedule with others quickly. Using multiple calendar users, create events based on their availability and see when they are busy.
Chatbots will be able to organize your meetings.
Professional life has become quite complicated following the pandemic. For example, working remotely from home isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Many of us find it hard to keep up with the increasing demands on our time.
At the same time, the number of American employees working remotely is expected to increase to 36.2 million by 2025. So, we’re going to have to get used to these new working conditions. Thankfully, technology can save the day.
The majority of the time, work involves scheduling meetings and being on time. In order to make your life easier, you can use a chatbot to help you set up meetings. Chatbots can still be useful as an additional meeting planning tool, such as SharePoint calendars.
You can also schedule meetings using Messagely or TARS. It is also beneficial to manage teams remotely and track their time by using a time tracker. It is possible to balance work and life with the help of these chatbots.
Chatbots and software powered by artificial intelligence also show great promise for helping businesses become more productive and profitable. For example, a phone validator app checks the validity, type of line, network carrier, location, etc., of the line to improve productivity.
These chatbots can handle scheduling and organizing meetings while you focus on other important tasks.
Calendars will become even more intelligent.
Smart calendars or intelligent calendars collect every schedule or action to boost productivity and simplify management using intelligence or automation. Using an intelligent calendar will help you establish boundaries between your personal and professional life.
As well as blocking time, you can reduce the time spent on certain tasks manually. Your ideal workweek can be automatically scheduled and managed using a smart calendar. Besides scheduling tasks, you can use an intelligent calendar to increase efficiency and reduce human dependency.
It goes without saying that an intelligent calendar can enhance productivity and save you time. In an effort to streamline meetings, increase event aggregation, and reduce time wastage, intelligent calendars have become a necessity due to the following:
- Notes can be jotted down in the calendar to help keep track of important information and deadlines.
- Synchronize your personal and work calendars.
- It is possible to get information from smart notes that will help you determine what actions to take.
- Organizes all your meeting invitations
- From the app, you can get relevant information about the weather, traffic, and drive times.
With Motion, for example, you can always know what to do next. It creates a day-by-day schedule based on meetings, giving you a minute-by-minute overview. Trevor AI is another AI calendar app that helps you organize your day by keeping track of your lists of tasks to do; this AI calendar app puts one task at a time so that you work more efficiently.
Furthermore, Calendar can provide smart suggestions on when, where, and who to invite when scheduling meetings. It’s not magic. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, Calendar can create a unique scheduling experience for you.
Finally, intelligent calendars can help you become less distracted and more productive.
If you block out 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in your calendar for undisturbed work, quiet time is from 8:30 am to 11:30 am. Your calendar will automatically block out this time instead of creating a recurring event.
During this time, you may find your calendar automatically disables distractions like email and social media notifications. It’s possible that your calendar will determine when you’re most productive as well. As such, if you fade out every 50 minutes, you’ll be reminded to stretch and take a break.
And, that’s just scratching the surface. Considering that the size of the global artificial intelligence market was $136.55 billion in 2022 and is projected to increase by 37.3% from 2023 to 2030, calendars will continue to become more and more intelligent.
The AR calendar will bring your calendar to life.
It’s true that some companies have been using augmented reality (AR) to make plain old paper calendars more interactive for the past several years.
As an example, once you download an app, you just need to point your phone at a calendar image and tap the screen. Using AR, Tengo Interactive created an airport calendar that provided users with a behind-the-scenes view. Other companies have created wall calendars that utilize augmented reality to explain their entire product range.
By 2028, the AR market is expected to reach $97.76 billion. Due to this, augmented reality calendars and marketing opportunities will continue to expand rapidly.
By using this technology, you will be able to walk through a property in virtual reality. From there, you might be able to make an appointment with the realtor if you like what you see.
If you are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, you could experience the destination before booking the trip. Or, you could view local restaurants, salons, or museums. You then have the option to make reservations or book tickets and have them automatically added to your calendar.
Use ChatGPT prompts to manage your time.
On November 30, 2022, ChatGPT was launched, which quickly sent the internet into a frenzy. Just one week after it was launched, OpenAI’s chatbot reached 1 million users. It also gained 57 million users in its first month and is supported by Microsoft’s $10 billion investment in Open AI.
Still not impressed? After two months of launch, ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users, making it the world’s fastest-growing consumer app. And some people have even dubbed it “the best AI chatbot ever released to the general public.”
As a result, it would be remiss of us not to mention ChatGPT. Furthermore, the app deserves its own section due to its popularity.
But, what link is there between ChatGPT and calendars?
In particular, Chat GPT can help you locate open times on your calendar for dental appointments or team meetings. In order to fix this problem, you might write a prompt telling it what your schedule looks like for the week and ask for a reorganization.
As well as scheduling meetings and appointments, ChatGPT can keep track of deadlines and deliverables for event managers. ChatGPT’s natural language processing feature enables event managers to input their requirements and view their schedules on a calendar.
Some of your chores will be taken care of by your calendar.
“Online calendars aren’t merely more useful than their paper peers,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar post. “Today’s top calendar apps can recognize and prevent double-bookings.” Others can adjust meetings across time zones.
But, over the next decade or so, how much more will online calendars be capable of?
“While I wouldn’t hold out for magically tackling your chores for you, there are many more online calendars will be able to do by 2030,” Howie adds. You may see the following upgrades:
As your calendar continues to evolve, your reservations will be made for you. How? Several popular online calendar apps will integrate airlines and hotel services. From the same app, you can decide when and where you want to go.
Scan and plan.
Let’s say that you walk past a flyer or a billboard advertising a local event. Rather than scanning down the information, why not let your calendar app copy it down for you?
Suggest nearby events.
You can use your mobile device’s location tools to find out where you are. Your calendar app will then show you all events within a specified radius when you choose the day and hour. As long as it knows your preferences, it won’t suggest a roller coaster park if you hate them.
Tend to your home.
Google Home and Alexa will soon be able to connect with your online calendar, so you can schedule actions for each device connected to your smart home network.
Maintain your vehicle.
Changing your car’s oil and rotating its tires should be done every few thousand miles. Using your calendar app, you can keep track of your mechanic visits and schedule future appointments. With the help of an app like Google Maps, it will alert you when you have reached your mileage threshold. The app will suggest a highly-rated mechanic if your current mechanic is unsatisfactory.
Published First on Calendar. Read Here.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Samson Katt; Pexels; Thank you!
Top 10 Software Development Companies In Chicago 2023
Finding top software development companies in Chicago is never an easy choice. Chicago is a significant technology hub, and there are thousands of companies that have offices in this region. This makes choosing your partner difficult. But not from now. If you stick through the end of this article, you’ll know the software development companies you should approach whenever you need any services.
List of top 10 Software Development Companies in Chicago For 2023
eSparkBiz is a software development company with multiple decades of experience in serving international and local clients. The company has multiple offices around the globe and offers hiring models that are suitable for customers of all sizes.
It offers services like digital transformation, software development, web app development, mobile app development, AI/ML, Data Science, In-depth Analytics, IoT, and Blockchain development. This company is a one-stop solution for all your software needs, and you’ll get the best solutions from their experienced staff.
eSparkBiz also provides end-to-end product development and maintenance for startups. So, if you’ve got a great idea, give them a ring and get it transformed into a business with their expertise.
2. Forte Group
Forte Group is a large software development company from Chicago with 22 years of industry experience. The company has more than 900 software professionals working on different projects and technologies for their global clients.
The company provides product management, QA, Ecommerce Strategy, and enterprise software engineering services. Forte provides end-to-end product development and maintenance for customers around the world from its ten global office locations.
Highland is another company on this list with multiple decades of experience. It assists organizations in developing, designing, scaling, and customizing digital goods, experiences, and companies that benefit others. It has an extensive portfolio of projects, and till now, it has helped its clients launch over 350+ ground-breaking products.
The company provides innovative business solutions and helps companies with digital transformation and innovation needs.
4. Launchpad Lab
Launchpad lab is a team of digital product specialists who collaborate with you to change your company by using the relevant services, talents, and technology. The company provides a wide variety of services like web app development, mobile app development, UI/UX design, product strategy, and salesforce development.
If you want to work with the best and most futuristic technologies, the team at Launchpad lab will surely help you. Moreover, the company has already built and maintained futuristic solutions since 2012 for companies around the globe.
5. Vault Innovation
Vault innovation is a custom software development company that provides end-to-end software engineering services. It has helped numerous business owners launch their exciting digital products and leave competitors in the dust.
The company provides various development services like Technical architecture, Backend Development, Frontend development, QA testing, and project management too.
Vault innovation also provides flexible hiring models that help you leverage the best while keeping costs in control. Whether you are looking to build an entirely new product or enhance an existing product, Vault innovation has the skilled developers to turn your requests into features.
Neologic was founded in 2008, and since then, it has provided multiple software development and engineering services to global clients. Its services include process consultation, product management, and software support and maintenance over and above the core development services.
It follows a three-step process for software development and helps clients globally. Neologic consultants start with deep research on your problems and understand the core needs. After that, they design the end-to-end solutions and chart out the plans, and begin developing software that helps your business.
Plego technologies is a software consulting company with multiple offices around the globe. It provides services like web development, eCommerce store development, AI/ML products, and many more things.
Plego has been in the software development business since 2002, and by now, it has worked with large corporations like Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Samsung, Intel, etc.
The company offers multiple hiring models, so you can choose the one that provides maximum efficiency for your investments, and you can always change the hiring models as you advance.
8. Atomic Object
Atomic Object is a custom software development and consulting company for all your technical needs. It provides services like web development, mobile development, IoT software, Desktop applications, and Cloud migration too.
The company works with the latest technologies like Android, Swift, Azure, React, AWS, NodeJS, and many others as and when its clients require it.
9. Caxy Interactive
Caxy Interactive is one of the oldest and top software development companies in Chicago. It was established in 1999 and has been based in Chicago since then. The company provides services like web development, analytics, and design for global customers.
SimForm is a unique digital engineering and solutions provider. The company provides services in four main sections such as product engineering, cloud, and DevOps engineering, Data engineering, and Quality engineering.
If you want to build exceptional products with an extensive team, SimForm is the way to go. It provides project management, design, development, performance testing, and app management services. SimForm started in 2010, and by now, it has helped clients of various levels right including startups, public companies, Fortune 500 companies, WHO, and NGOs too.
Whether you are looking for an experienced and reliable solution provider or you are looking for an innovative and experimental software development company, you have all the best options in this list. So clear your requirements, and head to any of these software development companies in Chicago to build the best technological products for your needs.
Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!
Best Moz Alternatives of 2023
Every entrepreneur and small business owner needs to get SEO right if they want to be competitive in both the online and local markets in which they operate.
Making sure your website gets seen by the right people—your prospects—at the right time—when they’re ready to buy—is just the first-level challenge. You also need to make sure your site is optimized for local search traffic and ranking well organically to prospects who are in an earlier stage of the buyer’s journey.
To solve those business website challenges, many owners and entrepreneurs turn to reputable online SEO tools. For many years, Moz has been considered to be at the top of that list.
Moz and What It Can Do for Entrepreneurs
Moz Pro is a suite of SEO tools that includes keyword research, site audit, rank tracking, link building, and much more. One of the first SEO tools to hit the market, Moz Pro remains quite popular with businesses of all sizes.
However, some find Moz Pro to be prohibitively expensive, and many find its value—that is, what it offers in exchange for those high prices—to be less compelling than some of its competitors. While it does offer a free plan, that level provides access to limited features. Additionally, many users find the UI/UX (user interface/user experience) non-intuitive, with a steep learning curve.
These are just a few reasons why entrepreneurs might want to seek a different alternative to resolve their SEO challenges. In addition to tools offered by search engines, such as Google Search Console (a free tool that Google offers to help monitor site performance, indexing issues, and more), consider some of the Moz alternatives we’ve listed below.
Semrush is a comprehensive suite of SEO tools that offers keyword research, competitor analysis, site audit, backlink analysis, and more. Like Moz, it will help you research and analyze keywords, including search volume, related keywords, and more.
Both sets of tools also help you choose keywords that are accessible and competitive, but SEMrush helps you assess how many links you’ll have to build in order to rank for that specific keyphrase. While Moz offers ranking data for results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Search engines, SEMrush only provides Google data.
SEMrush may also provide more help in the field of social media analysis with SM content optimization, management, and performance analysis tools. It offers a free trial, plus a free version with limited functionality as well as three paid plans.
Click here to try Semrush for free for 14 days.
A popular SEO tool, Ahrefs offers keyword research, site audit, competitor analysis, backlink analysis, and more. Ahrefs lets you audit your own site for top keywords and performance, backlinks and anchor text, overall domain performance, and competitive domains.
Many users find the Ahrefs interface to be more simply designed and intuitive to navigate and use. It also provides robust domain data, including estimated domain traffic with the ability to view changes to a site’s performance over time.
Ahrefs will also show you keyword research data for ten search engines, not just Google. Like SEMrush, it lets you know how many backlinks you’ll need to build in order to rank well for selected keywords. Websites can use a free Webmaster tool’s version, or you can sign up for one of four paid plans.
3. Raven Tools
Raven Tools is a suite of SEO tools that includes site audit, keyword research, backlink analysis, rank tracking, and more. Users rank it especially highly for its keyword analysis and SERP (search engine results pages) rank tracking. Unlike some other alternatives on our list, it doesn’t offer a free version, but it does provide a free full-feature trial for seven days.
As part of its suite of tools, Raven Tools gives you access to SEO audits, on-page SEO analysis, SERP analytics, and page speed data. In addition, you can find tools for keyword tracking, backlinks tracking, and paid ad tools. With five paid plan levels from $50 to $480 a month, you can find the package that suits your business site’s needs.
4. Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO provides a backlink analysis tool that yields information on backlinks, anchor text, and referring domains. That’s the primary difference between Majestic and Moz. Whereas the latter site aims to provide a fully featured suite of SEO tools, Majestic is aimed at a narrower slice of the market. It does backlink analysis very well, however, including analysis of top incoming backlinks, tools to help you build more incoming links, comparison tools for your competitors’ domains, and other relevant metrics such as anchor texts and referring domains.
There are no free versions (and no free trial offers either, for that matter). Majestic SEO does offer three paid plans, which doesn’t provide as much choice as other sites we’ve profiled here. However, if you’re looking for help with your backlinks, it’s definitely one to consider.
5. Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a site crawler that helps you identify technical SEO issues on your site. It manually analyzes each page on your site for broken links, duplicate content, missing title tags, and much more. You can also connect it with your Google Analytics account to get the most out of the data your GA account generates for you.
Unlike many of the other Moz alternatives here, which operate on an SaaS web-based model, Screaming Frog is a desktop program for both PCs and Macs. It offers a free version and a single paid version that costs about $260 for a license that must be renewed yearly.
BrightLocal provides a targeted set of tools that help you manage your local business listings, monitor customer reviews, and track your local search rankings. It’s a good choice if you’re looking primarily for local SEO and reputation management tools, with access to local SEO and Google business profile audit reports.
BrightLocal offers a two-week free trial with access to all features, as well as three paid levels to its all-in-one suite of tools. In addition, you can pay-as-you-go for access solely to its Citation Builder tools, starting at $2 per website, including submission to hundreds of sites, removing duplicate listings, and repairing errors in existing listings.
SpyFu is a competitive analysis tool that provides insights into your competitors’ SEO strategies, including their organic search rankings, paid search campaigns, and more. If you’re mostly in search of tools for competitor analysis, rank tracking, and domain comparison functionality, SpyFu is a good alternative to Moz Pro.
SpyFu offers both a free trial and a free version, as well as three paid versions that let you run customized monthly reports.
The Bottom Line
If you need a comprehensive set of SEO tools but Moz Pro is a little out of your price range, or more than what you need, there are lots of Moz alternatives you can choose from. Consider exactly what SEO needs your site is currently experiencing before you choose an alternative SEO tool to try. For example, if competitor analysis is more important to you, look at Ahrefs or SpyFu. If you’re more concerned about local SEO and SEM, consider BrightLocal.
Check for a trial period or a free plan in order to test out the interface and UX generally, since you’ll want to pick an option that feels intuitive to use and that you can navigate with relative ease. Make sure the plan you’re considering meets both your business needs and your budget. That’s the best way to make sure you’re using the right SEO tools for your business and website.
Published First on GRIT DAILY. Read Here.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi; Pexels; Thank you!