Blue light is a harmful type of light that is most often seen in digital screens. When you regularly use devices such as smartphones and computers, this blue light can potentially cause both immediate and long-term damage to your eyes. Additionally, research shows that blue light can affect sleep patterns. The blue light that’s emitted from those screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness and reset the body’s internal clock to a later schedule.
Luckily, Windows 10 has a feature that can filter the amount of blue light coming from your screen and make your display use warmer colors at night to help you sleep better and reduce eyestrain. This feature can be found in your settings menu. If you find yourself working after hours or in low light conditions, you can turn this feature on by:
Go to Settings > System > Display. Set the “Night light” feature here to “On” to enable it, or “Off” to disable it. If you don’t see the Night light option, you may have to check for Windows updates.
The initial impression of the yellow hue might be weird at first, however, your eyes will ease into the change. Once you get used to the hue, you should experience a significant difference in your eye strain.
I think by now, most of our readers know that I am a fan of keyboard shortcuts. My reason? If used correctly, they can increase one’s efficiency and productivity. In the past, we have covered shortcuts that can be useful when working in Microsoft Word. This time around, we are going to cover a few helpful shortcuts for Windows 10.
I have found these shortcuts to be extremely useful while I have been working remotely and without my normal equipment, such as a second screen. The shortcuts listed below, however, are designed to save you the hassle of using a mouse, so you just might find that you want to use them all the time.
Here are my recommended shortcuts:
Window logo key + E – This will bring up file explorer. I find this useful in that I don’t have to leave my file explorer window open, in addition to whatever else I may be using at the time. I can just use the shortcut to access and open what I need.
Alt + Tab – This will allow you to toggle through all your active windows, cutting out the need to reach over and grab your mouse.
Windows logo key + D – This will minimize an open window on the desktop.
Windows logo key + Shift + M – This will restore minimized windows on the desktop.
Shift +Ctrl + T – This will reopen a browser tab that was previously closed. I think we have all been in this situation before where you have multiple browser tabs open and you close one too soon. Just use this shortcut, and you can immediately bring the tab back open.
If you are interested in learning more Windows 10 shortcuts, visit Microsoft’s shortcuts page for more.
It is officially National Lawyer Well-Being Week, so now is a great time to focus on breaking that bad habit of always being glued to your cell phone. Statistics tell us that the typical cell phone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times a day, and half of all phone pickups happen within 3 minutes of a previous one. We also know that the overuse of cell phones can affect our sleep patterns, decrease our levels of productivity and focus, and negatively impact our relationships.
As legal professionals, we are not likely to get away from needing a cell phone, but we can strive for balance and keep cell phone usage in proper alignment with our lives. In honor of National Lawyer Well-Being Week, I challenge each of you to make a concerted effort to put those phones down.
Here is a list of tools you can use to help reduce cell phone usage:
Turn off your push notifications – Turning off your notifications can help illuminate the instant distraction.
Use an app to help reduce screen time – Apps like Moment and ScreenTime can help you set limits on your phone and implement short exercises to manage your usage.
Don’t charge your phone near your bed – Many of the negative effect of cell phone overuse can be avoided if you keep your cell phone out of your bedroom. Also, watching that YouTube video at midnight isn’t as appealing if you have to get out of bed to get your phone.
Put a hairband around your phone – The hairband trick brings greater mindfulness to each use of your phone. You can still easily make phone calls if necessary, but the hairband makes other uses of the phone more difficult because you have to make an effort to move the hairband to use the device. This naturally makes you more aware of what you are doing in the moment.
While I encourage everyone to focus on putting the phone down this week, I hope this is something we will find rewarding at the week’s end and push us to reduce our reliance on our cell phones. One way to continue to work on breaking the habit is by tracking your cell phone usage for 30 days. It is interesting to see how much time one spends on the phone during the day and what that time is spent doing. After the 30 day period is over, use the information to put a plan in place to adjust your habits. For more information on charting your cell phone usage and how to break a cell phone addiction, I recommend using, The Phone Addiction Workbook by Hilda Burke. You can also find self-assessment tools at the virtual-addiction.com
Next week marks National Lawyer Well-Being Week. To align with Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Lawyer Well-Being Week will occur May 4-8, 2020. Participating organizations include the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Practice Division and its Attorney Well-Being Committee, the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Program’s (CoLAP) Well-Being Committee.
Locally, organizations such as the Kansas Lawyers Assistance Program, the Kansas Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, and the Kansas Bar Association will also participate. The aim of Well-Being Week is to raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams. Many organizations have plans to host free CLE programs and online events. Be sure to stay tuned for more information!
Whether or not you are working from home, I think it is safe to say we are all using video conferencing more now than ever before. With that in mind, here are few quick tips to look and sound your best on your next video conference.
It’s all about the lighting—Just like a professional photo shoot, lighting and angle make a difference on a video conference. If possible, avoid fluorescent lights and overhead lights. These lighting sources can cause unwanted shadows. Place your primary source of light behind your camera for the best lighting to make sure the light is hitting your face and not your back. If possible, try facing a source of natural light, like a window. Lastly, here is a pro tip: placing a piece of white paper on a desk in front of you can reflect existing light onto your face, helping to fill in some of the shadows. For angle, try placing your camera at eye level. You might have to place something under your device or camera to get the best angle.
Choose a Neutral Background—We have all heard the phrase "Less is more." The same applies for your background in a video conference. The focus, after all, should be on you and not your family photos hanging in the background.
Dress the Part—First off, please don’t end up like the set of lawyers recently making headlines in Broward County, Florida. One attorney appeared before the court shirtless, and another attorney appeared still in bed and under the covers. When it comes to clothes, avoid patterns, stripes, or plaids. Solid, bold colors work best.
Consider Using Earbuds—When it comes to audio, consider using earbuds with a microphone, if possible. This will capture your voice with much better quality than the microphone built into your phone or computer.
I think it is fair to say that the use of video conferencing has exploded across the country and the globe due to COVID-19 restrictions. Everyone from professionals to our grandparents are currently using videoconferencing to communicate. While vendors like Zoom and GoToMeeting are popular choices, some of us have been using Microsoft Teams as an alternative, especially with the lingering questions surrounding security issues with the use of some videoconferencing services.
If you are not familiar with the product, Microsoft Teams is available within Office 365 business and enterprise plans; it is often described as a collaborative space that lets users easily share files, chat, assign tasks, hold online meetings and share notes. Its videoconferencing features comprise just one aspect of the service. With the use of videoconferencing on the rise, however, Microsoft has decided to accelerate the rollout of some much-needed features to help users conduct meetings.
Last week, Microsoft published an article discussing recent and future updates being rolled out for its online meetings. They describe these updates as ones that are intended to “decrease pain points, increase human connection, and make work a bit more fun.” Some of these updates include:
End Meeting. Last week, Microsoft released the ability for meeting organizers to end a meeting for all participants. To end an in-progress meeting, go to your meeting controls and select More options > End meeting. You'll be asked to confirm. When you do, the meeting will end for everyone right away. Sometime later this month, you should also be able to download a participant report, found in the participation list, that includes join and leave times for all participants.
Raise Hand. Microsoft plans to roll out this feature sometime this month. This feature will let anyone in the meeting send a visual sign that they have something to say. This decreases the risk of meeting participants talking over one another.
Increase in the number of participants appearing on screen. Recently, Microsoft announced that it would be increasing the number of participants who can be viewed on screen from 4 to 9. While this isn’t the 49 you can see on Zoom or the 25 you can see in G-Suites Hangouts or Cisco WebEx, this is a much-needed improvement.
Custom Backgrounds. Microsoft announced it is working towards including the ability to upload custom images that can be used as backgrounds. Currently, their background feature allows you to blur the environment behind you which is helpful when working from home rather than your office. To blur your background, first, start your video from a meeting and then simply click on the Ellipsis icon (…) from the meeting options and choose Blur My Background. To un-blur your video, choose the Ellipsis icon again and select Don’t Blur Background.
Real-time noise suppression. This feature should be released later this year, and will help minimize distracting background noises allowing the participants to hear what is being said. I think at this point we’ve all been in a remote meeting when a participant is loudly typing on their keyboard, or someone’s dog is barking in the background, so this feature ,I am sure, will be welcomed by users.
All-in-all, it appears that Microsoft is responding to the increased need for a solid videoconferencing platform, and they are working towards rolling out new features more quickly than expected. If you are using Office 365, Teams may be a great option for collaboration, not just for videoconferencing, since it uses and integrates many of the current Office 365 applications.
Working from home has quickly become a recommendation to limit potential exposure to COVID-19. For some, working from home will come naturally, but for others this is a completely new experience. You may also find despite being a few weeks into this new normal, you are still in an adjustment period and are working towards figuring out how to be the most productive in your workday. Know that It is natural to find social distancing frustrating and un-motivating. You might even find yourself struggling with your mood throughout your day. To help, we have listed a few tips to help with balancing your own well-being and working from home.
Try and stick to a routine—Keeping some sense of a routine is going to be really important. To help, set clearly defined work hours. If you traditionally have team meetings Monday’s at 9.a.m., try sticking to those normal routines (but virtually, of course). In addition to setting well defined work hours, it is recommended that you try waking up at a regular time each day, showering, and getting dressed. This can all add to your routine and schedule of a working day. Lastly, aim to stick to scheduled times for your meals as well, as if you were in your place of work. Rather than snacking throughout the day, aim to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between when you feel hungry.
Keep a degree of separation between your workspace and living space—As much as possible, try and keep a degree of separation between your workspace and your living space. Setting up a dedicated workspace at home is crucial to your productivity and focus, even if it’s just a space at the kitchen table or a small desk in a corner of your living room. Additionally, if you are working at your kitchen table, consider having lunch in your living room. Clear away your workspace at the end of the day, so there is a sense of the workday ending. This will be key to the next tip.
Set boundaries—This is something that we all more than likely need to work on for our normal working situations, but right now it is even more important to keeping a balance. When you're not in the office, it's easy to slip into habits such as working late into the evening, such as responding to that email at 9 p.m. In order to maintain a healthy balance, put clear boundaries in place so that there is a distinction between the hours you need to work and the time you have to yourself.
Make a to-do list—When you are working from home you are your own motivator. A great way to start each morning is by making to-do a to-do list of everything that needs to be done. There are some great products out there, if you are interested in digital lists. For instance, ToDo and Todoist are some examples. But don’t be afraid to just use the good ol’ pen and paper for your list. If you are having a hard time focusing, try implementing a time management technique that combines list making and allotting specific times to assigned tasks. For some examples see past post on the blog for the Pomodoro Technique and the Quadrant Method.
Use video calling—To ease the feeling of isolation, try using video calling, whether it is for personal calls or work team meetings. There is something comforting to having the ability to actually seeing one another faces. Also, the use of meeting virtually can cut back on the amount of internal emails that are being sent between your and your team. Why email back and forth for 30 minutes, when you can meet for 5?
Exercise and practice self-care—Carve out time each day for exercise, meditation, or other self-care practices. Movement is going to be especially important as we are out and about less and spending more time at home.
Get out of the house—Cabin fever will become a very real fact of life if working from home continues over a long period of time. Sometimes we must force ourselves to do things, even if we don’t want to, like going outside and getting a breath of fresh air. Just remember to practice social distancing if you are going for a short walk around the block. Additionally, while you are in-doors consider spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air. Also, listen to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves, or rainfall. Calmsound, for instance, can be used on your computer in the background while you are working.
Set a sleep schedule—Aim to get around to eight hours of sleep a night to ensure you have enough energy to get through your day. When working from home it is tempting to work late into the evening or sleep in later during the day, however, it is best if you can get in the habit of scheduling your sleep.
You may have heard in the news about a new phenomenon called “zoom bombing”, which is essentially when someone uninvited “crashes” a zoom session by sharing offensive and possibly pornographic content. Typically, this bombing happens when your Zoom conference information is shared publicly and ends up in the hands of someone who decides to hijack your meeting. The FBI has even indicated there have been a number of reports of incidents involving hijackers invading both work and school video conferences. See the story here from PC Magazine.
In order to prevent zoom bombing from happening at your next meeting, here are a few recommended tips:
Do not share Zoom conference links publicly. This includes on your website and social media. Provide the link directly to specific people.
Manage your screen-sharing options. In Zoom, change screen sharing to ‘Host Only.’
It is recommended you also make your meetings private. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
Lastly, ensure users have up-to-date Zoom clients. In January, Zoom rolled out a security update that added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.
Here are a few additional items you can change in your Zoom settings:
Disable “Join Before Host” so people can’t cause trouble before you arrive.
Disable “File Transfer” so there’s no digital virus sharing.
Disable “Allow Removed Participants to Rejoin” so booted attendees can’t slip back in.
To change these settings login to https://zoom.us, then pick “Settings” from the menu on the left, and find those listed above. They are about 1/3 of the page down.
As we all continue to navigate the new normal of working remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might have noticed that email has become an even more relied-upon method of communication. Part of the reason—it is quick, it is easy—and in this day and age, just about everyone has an email account. You might also have noticed, however, that during these unprecedented times, information management can quickly break down when everyone is relying on email as the primary means to communicate.
For internal communication, a solution to this problem can be relying upon other tools to leverage quick and informal communication. These tools allow for constant contact with your colleagues while working remotely. Many include the ability to use chat applications, make unscheduled calls, and conduct video chat with one another. The added benefit is that they can also help reduce the feelings of isolation and email overload.
For those firms using Office 365, Microsoft Teams is an available option. This gives you the capabilities to use individual and group chat functions and video and audio calls. For G-Suite users, you can use the G-Suite Hangout chat feature as an option. If your firm uses neither of these products, other options include using Slack or possibly your case management software. For instance, some case management software applications such as Rocket Matter include built-in chat features.
Using any of these options should help reduce the number of internal emails in your inbox, and hopefully, help you better manage the flow of information.
As a part two of her recent blog post, Catherine Sanders Reach of the North Carolina Bar Association, discussed considerations and guidance on temporarily moving a firm to a “virtual” environment in the wake of COVID-19. She recommends speaking with your IT service provider, whether in-house or outsourced, to understand your options to move your firm to remote work as quickly and securely as possible. Additionally, remember to use what you have and buy only what you absolutely need. Many software applications have freemium (free for basic use) offers, as well as free trials. Before getting a free product, however, check the terms of service to make sure it is appropriate for confidential client information.
In her post, Sanders Reach looks at the following areas lawyers should consider in preparation of moving to a virtual environment: Hardware, Infrastructure, Security, Software/Productivity, Marketing/Communication, Intra-Office Communication, and Staffing.
Here are some things to consider:
Sanders Reach pertinently points out that everyone will need a computer, however, not everyone may have a laptop. Ideally, you don’t want to ask employees to use their home computers due to security reasons. If purchasing new hardware is not option, team members with desktops may be able to pack everything up and take it with in. If the firm chooses to have staff use their home equipment, they will need to deploy a VPN for security reasons.
Keep in mind most remote work will require in internet access. Additionally, a plan should be put in place to ensure your data is being backed up while working remotely.
For law firms using a VoIP telephone system like RingCentral, Ooma, Jive, or others, the system can be set up to be used remotely through apps on mobile phones, through a computer browser, or have calls forwarded to mobile phones. Other VoIP systems through Comcast, Spectrum or AT&T may have similar options. For firms that have more traditional non-internet based phone systems or hybrid systems should check to see if calls can be forwarded to mobile phones. If not check to see if voicemails can be forwarded to email. An additional option may be to use a virtual receptionist service. Ruby Receptionist, for instance, is member benefit for KBA members.
If you will need to participate in video chats and video conferences, you will need a camera. Most newer laptops have a built-in camera. You will also need a microphone and speakers. If your firm uses a file server for shared files or to access on-premise client/server software like your practice management software or time/billing/accounting or other firm-wide software you will need to make that server available to your team remotely. Keep in mind, firms using cloud-based systems and services may have limited need for access to the firm’s servers.
You should determine who in the office will receive the firm’s mail and make sure that the person has the capability to scan and email to files to appropriate parties. Keep in mind, mail forwarding through USPS can take up to 10 business days, so you may alert the necessary parties of your temporary address.
Have strong passwords, using multi-factor authentication, encryption and an VPN are always recommended, and Sanders Reach points out working remotely is not different with respect to employing these methods to work securely.
If your firm saves files to the cloud in an online document storage/sync application like OneDrive, GoogleDrive, ShareFile, Box, Dropbox, etc. then you’ll just need to make sure everyone has the login information and access they need and know how to save files to the appropriate folder. If the firm stores files on a physical server in the office, you will need to set up access via VPN or remote desktop and provide login instructions so your team can access the files. For firms using installed or client/server practice management, time and billing, accounting or practice specific software you will need to set up remote access.
Put a sign on the door of your office telling clients, as well as other visitors, how to get in touch.
Don’t forget to update your website to reflect any changes to phone numbers, fax numbers, or other communication methods. Your firm may also issue a statement through email to current and former clients, on the web and through social media, about how the firm will continue to do business, and measures you are taking to maintain a safe environment and continue to serve their needs.
Email is an easy was to communicate with your team. However, there are more tools available to communicate. For instance, chat tools may be useful. For firms using Office 365 you have Teams for video and audio calls, group chat, individual chat and more. firms using G Suite (f/k/a Google for Business), your firm can use the G-suite Hangout A very popular and freemium chat product is Slack. In the free version, Slack allows your team to chat, hold 1:1 audio and video calls, share files and integrate with G Suite, Office 365 and many other products.
Working offsite may create environments that are difficult to stay on top of tasks and deadlines. If so, your firms can create or share calendars in Office 365 and G Suite. There are also many freemium task management application options available, such as To-Do, Asana, and Trello.
In her recent blog post, Catherine Sanders Reach of the North Carolina Bar Association discussed how law firms should maintain and monitor the current outbreak of COVID19. She opined that while law firms may have a disaster recovery or a business continuity plan, they should be reviewed and updated to reflect a pandemic response.
Additionally, Sanders Reach suggests law firms should review their plans and policies and update them to reflect possible quarantine situations, infected employees, reducing the spread of the virus, and strategies for dealing with a swiftly evolving situation.
With the growing awareness and concern over the spread of the coronavirus, you are likely taking extra precautions, such as washing your hands more often and for 20 seconds. But what about those devices?
As store shelves of cleaning products empty and people hoard sanitizer, I recommend learning how to appropriately clean your devices without damaging them. For instance, most newer phones have screens that can be damaged by harsh chemicals—and you should never submerge your phone in a cleaning agent or spray cleaning fluid directly on the device. In fact, most phone manufactures suggest wiping them down with a damp cloth.
To learn more about how to appropriately clean your devices, check out the following resources:
If you have ever had formatting issues within a Microsoft Word document, you know that these issues can sometimes be a pain to fix. If you find yourself in this situation, using the keyboard shortcut SHIFT + F1 can be helpful. When used, this keyboard shortcut will reveal the formatting within a chosen area of a document. The formatting will be displayed on the right hand of your screen, allowing for easy identification of any formatting errors that may need to be corrected, and hopefully, saving you some time.
The massive, annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is ongoing as this goes to print and already there have been a variety of interesting announcements this year. Not all products announced at CES actually make it to market but quite a few can be expected by the end of the year.
Dell and Lenovo Folding Tablets – Both laptop giants are betting on dual screen, folding tablets for 2020. Dell’s Ori and Lenovo’s X1 Fold open to a 13.4” OLED screen surface when fully unfolded. The devices look and function like a tablet or offer a virtual keyboard on one half when opened partway like a laptop. Dell’s Duet is twice the size offering up to 26” of screen and a detachable keyboard providing an unprecedented amount of screen space in a such small form factor.
Lenovo ThinkBook Plus – The ThinkBook Plus is a truly unique offering with a paperwhite e-ink display on the outside cover of the 13” laptop. The e-ink screen can display calendar, text, and other notifications or act as a notetaking platform. It consumes little power, looks clean and crisp like paper, and nicely supplements the full HD display inside. The ThinkBook Plus will start at $1,200 this year.
Samsung Sero TV – Samsung has recognized how ubiquitous mobile phones are for video and image recording and sharing and the majority of mobile phone imagery is vertically oriented. The Sero TV accommodates this by rotating from a horizontal to a vertical orientation to make full screen presentation more natural – no large black or blurred frames. It may seem like a simple trick but it allows mobile phone imagery to fully fill a large screen and makes for more compelling display. Anticipated to arrive this year near the $1,000 price point.
Hachi Infinite Touchscreen Projector- The short-throw projector from Hachi can display a bright, crisp image up to 26” on any surface and the image will respond as a touchscreen with 10 points of touch. The portable three-pound device includes an onboard battery, microphone for voice command via Amazon Alexa, and dual 5W speakers. It is Android-powered and Bluetooth-enabled to allow wireless screen casting. Shipping is anticipated in March at around $1,000.
Mophie PowerStation Go – Mophie is well-known and respected for its portable power banks and the PowerStation Go adds a new trick – it can jump start your car. In addition to dual USB-A charge ports, the new model adds a wireless charging pad and an attachment that can jumpstart any car or SUV. The PowerStation Go will retail for $160 and should arrive on shelves in February.
IVEA Time-C Smartwatch – Most smartwatch activity trackers only monitor the user’s stats like heart rate and activity levels. The analogue face, steel band Time-C monitors environmental factors as well. It can measure sun/UV exposure, pollution and particulate levels, humidity, temperature, ambient noise, and ambient lighting. This full-spectrum monitoring station on your wrist will ultimately help wearers be more alert to environmental factors on health and well-being. Pricing starts at $500.
Neutrogena Skin360 – The Skin360 app uses your phone’s front-facing camera to take a 180-selfie and then process and analyze over 100,000 pixels to measure skin health. The algorithm evaluates features like smoothness, wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, and dark circles to watch for problem areas and to create a custom skin care maintenance regime (using Neutrogena products, of course). Available now for Android and iOS.
Opte Beauty Wand – Throw away the old-fashioned foundation and concealer because there is a new technology for concealing age spots, sun spots, and pigmentation issues. Sweep the Beauty Wand over your face and it scans the surface of your skin, analyzes spots, and then uses 120 nozzles to spray pigment and moisturizer like an inkjet printer. Demonstrations (in a controlled environment) make it look fast, simple, and effective with no mess. The Beauty Wand should ship this year and starts at $600.
Motion Pillow by TenMinds – Snoring is a problem for the snorer and anyone else within earshot but the Motion Pillow aims to stop it. The memory foam pillow houses multiple air chambers that can inflate and deflate on command. That command comes when microphones in the pillow detect snoring and the pumps activate to shift the snorer’s head on the pillow until silence returns. It aims to provide a gentle nudge to reposition rather than the harsh slap expected from an exhausted bed mate. The newest version will ship this year for $420.
Cosmo Connected Helmet – The Cosmo with glasses provides high-tech safety options for motorcyclists. The glasses offer a full heads-up display of the vehicle’s instrumentation and offer an array of sensors monitoring the environment for potential dangers around the cyclist and signaling on-coming risks. The Bluetooth-connected glasses and helmet cannot execute emergency maneuvers but they can call 911 and emergency contacts for help, providing GPS coordinates if you are down. The helmet and glasses will retail for $300.
Google Assistant Web Page Reader – This enhancement to the Google Assistant will allow users to say, “Hey Google, read this page” and it will read the text of a webpage in a natural-sounding voice. AI is improving such that it will only read relevant text and ignore navigation buttons, ads, and other clutter that infests websites. The Web Page Reader will be a free enhancement to Google Assistant later this year.