Working from home initially presented employees with many struggles, from child care to virtual meeting fatigue. But it has revealed a few upsides, according to a report from Microsoft. Among them: increased empathy for colleagues working from home (WFH).

Overall, 62% of 2,000 remote workers in six countries surveyed by Microsoft reported feeling more empathetic to their co-workers now that they have a better idea of what WFH is like. The response was highest in China, with 91% reporting high empathy, followed by Mexico (65%), the U.S. (61%), Italy (54%), and the U.K. (51%).

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As fall approaches with wet weather, driving on slick, rainy roads can be treacherous. With so much time spent at home recently, a reminder of how to drive in wet conditions is a good idea. Follow this AAA-recommended advice for staying safe:

Plan ahead. Check weather and driving conditions before getting behind the wheel.

Keep a safe distance. Allow extra space for you to stop if a vehicle ahead of you stops or swerves suddenly. Slow down early before coming to intersections or stop signs.

Be patient. Traffic will be slower when rain is falling. Add in extra time to reach your destination so you don’t have to rush.

Turn headlights on. This doesn’t just help you see the road better— it makes you more visible to other drivers. However, avoid using high beams.

Drive slowly. Even at 35 mph, your tires can lose contact with the road, causing your vehicle to start hydroplaning. To stay in control, slow down, avoid sharp turns, and drive in the tracks of vehicles ahead of you.

Don’t use cruise control. Used in wet conditions, it can increase the risk of hydroplaning.

Eliminate distractions. As always, don’t text, talk, or do anything that takes your attention from the road.

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Americans are taking extra steps (get it?) to ensure they stay physically fit these days. The Pew Research Center reports that 21% of U.S. adults wear a smart watch or some other kind of fitness tracker to monitor their physical activity - 18% of men and 25% of women.

Many fitness apps allow the data they collect to be shared with health researchers, which raises privacy concerns for some. Still, 41% of Americans feel it’s acceptable to use information to research the link between exercise and heart disease, as opposed to 35% who disagree, and 22% aren’t sure.

Among people who actually use a fitness tracker, 53% agree that sharing is acceptable, but only 38% of those who don’t use trackers say the same.

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Did you know that September 21st is International Gratitude Day?

I know that I’m certainly grateful for having autumn arrive with cool winds. The nights aren’t quite as warm as they were even a few weeks ago, and stores have already begun stocking everything pumpkin related.

I’m also grateful for something much more traditional as so many people go back to school in the fall: teachers. 

I am appreciative of all the teachers who turn up throughout the course of our lives. Those unexpected teachers come out of nowhere and change us forever. They are the elderly ladies with time to chat, the child who surprises us with insight that most adults overlook, and the average person who takes the time to explain a process, that is specific to their field of expertise, in common terms.

Who are the unexpected teachers in your life? Have you told them that they positively changed you, irrevocably, by teaching you something new? Perhaps this would be a good week to share your gratitude.

A simple card, an unexpected phone call, or even an email would likely be much appreciated by a teacher who made a difference at some time in your life. It might just lead to a larger conversation and a deeper friendship. If nothing else, you made someone’s day with a positive comment by simply expressing your gratitude. After all, one of the first things that we are taught in preschool or kindergarten is to say, “thank you”.

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Although you should try to start your day on an upbeat note, spend some time asking yourself what might happen during the day that you’re afraid of— failure to complete a big project at work, for example, or rejection by someone you’d like to date.

Then think of what you could do to prevent failure from happening. Be on the lookout for behaviors and thoughts that add to your fear, and train yourself to change your patterns of action and thinking.

Finally, pay attention to what you learn about failure as you confront it. Use the experience of facing and overcoming your fear to confront and defeat the obstacles you face every day.

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Working from home? Home office safety isn’t just a matter of not tripping over pets or banging your head against ceiling lamps. Computer security is essential to both your personal information and your employer’s proprietary data. Forbes recommends these precautions:

1. Install updates promptly. Software updates usually include antivirus programs and other security protections for fixing flaws and safeguarding data. Don’t ignore them when you get a notification on your screen.

2. Keep the VPN on. If you access your employer’s network using a virtual private network (VPN), keep it going. A VPN encrypts information flowing between you and your organization, preventing crooks from stealing sensitive data like confidential financial and customer information.
 
3. Watch for scams. Scammers can create an email address that looks like your company’s, or some other trusted organization’s, to trick you into sharing information or lets them gain access to your organization’s network. Don’t open emails unless you know who sent them, and never click on a link or attachment that’s unfamiliar.
 
4. Create strong passwords. Use passwords to protect access to sensitive data. Take the time to devise passwords that can’t be easily guessed. Strong passwords should have 10 characters, including numbers, punctuation marks, and random capital letters.

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Leadership calls for the right perspective on people. The website of the MIT Sloan School of Management shares these words of wisdom from top leaders:

1. Carol Cohen, Cognizant: “Your long-term success is not just determined by what you achieve alone, but also by how you empower, engage, support, and elevate your colleagues and teams in the ecosystem around you.”

2. George Westerman, MIT Sloan: “The ability to envision and drive change is just as important as the ability to work with technology. If you don’t have both, you can’t succeed in this world.”
 
3. Craig Robinson, WeWork: “Creating, aligning, and empowering diverse teams is one of the best ways to discover and develop new ideas.”
 
4. Hal Gregersen, MIT Sloan: “Most leaders excel at thinking, ‘Oh, here are the tasks to be done,’ but they often don’t step back to consider how specific roles are changing and what that means for people experiencing a significant identity shift at work.” 

5. Piyanka Jain, Aryng: “If you’re not going to be able to be data-driven and hold your team accountable from the top, it’s not going to flow down. Leadership is the key.”

6. Doug Ready, MIT Sloan: “Go out on the limb, that’s where all the fruit is. Take a few risks— trust that your people will admire you for doing so. Leadership is a privilege. Embrace it as you build a community of leaders in this new economy.”

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A budding anthropologist, who was completing her doctoral thesis while on location in Spain, proposed a game to some children in a small village.

She placed a basket of enticing- looking sweets near a tree early one morning.

That afternoon, after all the children were aware of the basket - and all of them wanted one of the treats - the researcher told them that whoever got to the tree first could have all the goodies in the basket.

She did not lay out any rules or requirements, nor did she encourage the children to pursue the basket with any guidance at all on her part. Seated nearby, she simply held her notebook in her lap and waited, expecting to observe various approaches and plans from the different children, all trying to obtain the basket for themselves.

When she gave the signal to go, all the children gathered together in a huddle and talked in quiet tones with some interjected giggles, then held each other’s hands and ran to the tree together and worked as a group to pull down the basket.

As promised, the anthropologist let the children enjoy the whole basket of treats, but simultaneously asked them why they’d decided to run together as a group and split the treats amongst themselves. One tall child looked at her and, with genuine confusion on his face, asked:

“How can any of us be happy by taking something away from another person?”

“It is only by winning as one that we all win,” the child proclaimed.

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Although you should try to start your day on an upbeat note, spend some time asking yourself what might happen during the day that you’re afraid of— failure to complete a big project at work, for example, or rejection by someone you’d like to date.

Then think of what you could do to prevent failure from happening. Be on the lookout for behaviors and thoughts that add to your fear, and train yourself to change your patterns of action and thinking.

Finally, pay attention to what you learn about failure as you confront it. Use the experience of facing and overcoming your fear to confront and defeat the obstacles you face every day.

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One essential skill to master when cultivating relationships is listening. If you don’t actively listen to other people, you won’t gain any wisdom from their insights. The Healthline website shares these tips for active listening:

Give people your full attention. Concentrate on their words to the exclusion of everything else. Don’t plan your response while they’re still speaking, and don’t use a pause to steer the conversation around to another topic. 

Use positive body language. Your body communicates just as much as your words do, if not more. Make sure you’re fully facing the other person.Relax your body, but lean in slightly to show interest in what they’re saying. Nod to show you’re listening and that you understand. 

Don’t interrupt. You may be tempted to jump in with an idea or solution. Restrain the impulse. Instead, wait for the other person to stop talking before asking questions or offering your point of view.

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