Remote Work Digest: April 14, 2016

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

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Image from Zliving.com

Simple Ways to Add 2 Hours More to Your Day | Laura Vanderkam, Fortune.com

Easy ways to reclaim two hours to spend on the good stuff.

If you free up two hours to spend on the good stuff, that’s the next best thing to manufacturing time. Here’s how to escape the ceaseless ticking, according to Laura Vanderkam.

1. Plan you days
Figuring out what’s most important keeps you from losing hours as you blindly respond to whatever comes in. It also encourages investing time in high-yield activities such as mentoring new employees. By thinking through your days, you can also match the right kind of activity to the right time. Deep focused work is best done when you have a lot of energy.

2. Manage distractions
Between social media alerts, emails, and drive-by visits, people can be distracted dozens or more times per day. One study found that people take 25 minutes to resume interrupted tasks (after dabbling, on average, in more than 2 other “work spheres” in the meantime), pushing distractions to predictable times can easily save hours. One study also found that people spend 47% of their time on the internet procrastinating.

3. Don’t do what others can do (or that doesn’t need to be done)
If you’re in upper management, you can easily spend 50% of your day in meetings, which comes out to 4 (or more) hours a day. If 25% of those meetings didn’t need to happen – a conservative figure based on surveys, and how much people despise meetings generally – killing them would buy you an hour per day right there. It is also hard to rescue the time once a meeting starts, and many people are so busy going from meeting to meeting that they don’t triage their schedules ahead of time. The solution is getting in the habit, on Friday afternoons, of looking at your calendar for the next week and asking what can be skipped or killed. Five minutes can buy back hours.

4. Change your schedule
Chances are, the reason you want more hours in your day is that you’re too busy with work and family obligations to tackle your personal priorities. But most people, even busy professionals, have leisure time. The problem is that much of it occurs late at night when people are too tired to do anything but watch TV. The solution? Go to bed earlier, and wake up earlier. Most people feel more productive in the morning, so turning the TV off earlier turns unproductive evening hours into productive morning hours.

5. Telecommute
To be sure, even in most information jobs, working from home daily won’t fly. But once or twice a week buys back massive time on those days. It’s not just the 50 minutes of average daily commuting telecommuters save on the days they work from home.

10 Secrets to managing remote teams | John Doyle, Finextra.com

The secret to successfully managing remote teams is in recognizing that it’s more a leadership role than a manager one.

Too often, managers try to manage remote teams as if they were locally based and it doesn’t work. Remote teams need to have more attention and more support than locally based teams. You have to compensate for the lack of interaction with other colleagues and you must see your role as their manager as a supporting one.

Managing remote teams is a full-time job, not just a task and it needs to be addressed that way. Here are John Doyle’s suggestions for the 10 things that you need to do to successfully manage a remote team are:

1. Have clear expectations upon deliverables. What this means is that when you assign a remote team member a task, you need to be clear about what you want them to do and what the deliverable will be.
2. Set accountability parameters. Be clear about accountability with remote teams as they don’t have the opportunity to pop their head round the door and ask you for advice when they have an issue. Encourage your team to tell what they’re doing and share the results of their task.
3. Lead your team. Don’t manage, lead. Leading is about providing the team with a vision they can follow, understanding their role in achieving that vision and then providing the support they need to succeed.
4. Celebrate personal and work achievements. A good leader will always take time to connect with team members on a personal level after all, that’s when you really understand people.
5. Instigate team meetings. Team meetings are vital to success, but they’re much more than reporting mechanisms. Try not to use them to report, that you can do on a one-to-one as part of the daily process of keeping in touch.
6. Have away days. Every 3 months at least, an overnight away day is essential to rekindle friendships, restate common goals and objectives and generally bond. Makes them feel that they’re a part of the whole.
7. Provide them with the right tools. The remote worker doesn’t have colleagues in the next room or a stationery cupboard or an IT department. If you want them to do a good job, you have to provide the right tools.
8. Encourage collaboration wherever possible. Remote workers, more than anyone, need to have ‘engineered companionship’ and they respond to the idea of a joint venture with enthusiasm.
9. Provide them with the right information. Most remote workers are the type of people who like a brief and then they get on and deliver. The disappointment they feel when they’re told it’s not quite what was wanted is palpable. It’s fine that they do the research, but if you can help you should do so.
10. Have a rolling feedback model and regular reporting. With remote teams this is much more difficult as specific calls need to be set up and you focus instead on milestones rather than being involved in the whole process. Regularly checking in with the team is vital to your joint success.

Obviously the talents of a successful remote team manager are different, but they ultimately call for an empathy and caring approach to managing people.

Your Ultimate Work-From-Home Productivity Guide | Rachel Grumman Bender, Learnvest.com

No morning commute. No open floor plan that makes it challenging to focus on your work. No boss looking over your shoulder or co-worker who insists on showing you photos of his cat every morning. The sweet freedom of working from home can seem like a dream come true for some—and the number of people doing so is growing.

Although statistics indicate that the trend is picking up steam, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to work from home successfully. Whether you’re telecommuting to a full-time job or running a home-based business, there are distinct challenges that come from merging your work and home lives.

To help you tackle the specific work issues you’re likely to face, Rachel Grumman Bender of Learnvest.com tapped three work-from-home experts for their tips on how to maximize four key areas of home-based office life so you can boost productivity and success.

Work-From-Home Tip #1: Turbocharge Your Space
Whether you’re working at the corner table next to the couch or have an entire spare room to devote to your home business, it’s important to create a space that helps get you into work mode and keeps your attention there.

A little separation is a good thing: If you can, carve out a designated space in your home as an office where you can keep your work organized.

Get your (organizational) act together: Having an orderly desk helps you stay focused, boosting productivity so you don’t lose precious time looking for that critical contract—or whatever it may be—under a messy pile of papers.

If your office is the kitchen table one day and the back porch another, consider putting your work projects in separate boxes so you can grab the one you need at that time, and then put it away when you’re done.

And remember, there may be tax benefits to creating a home office: Whether you rent or own your home, if you use part of the square footage regularly and exclusively for business, you may be able to do a home office deduction on your taxes, according to the IRS.

Work-From-Home Tip #2: Stay Connected
If you telecommute, it may be easier to set these boundaries with a work email that’s tied to your main office. If you have a home-based business, it can be trickier.

Customize your communication: Instead of handing out your primary personal email for work-related matters, create a second custom work email address, such as jane@yourcompany.com, for a more professional touch. To better manage your inbox, there are tools that let you schedule emails so they’re sent during business hours, rather than when you’re burning the midnight oil. You can also use apps to schedule texts to go out when you want, rather than pinging someone when you’re working on the weekend.

Streamline your phone system: Many small business owners have ditched their land lines and exclusively use a mobile phone for business. But if you use your primary number for work, it can be hard to gauge whether that incoming call is personal or business when you’re on—or off—the clock. If you’re using your own home phone or cellphone for business and don’t necessarily want your personal number out there, try using Google Voice, which lets you choose a brand new number from Google.

Work-From-Home Tip #3: Create a Schedule That Fits Your Life
If you’re telecommuting, your hours may be set by your boss. But if your office is flexible or you run a business out of your home, one of the perks is setting your own hours. While there’s freedom in that flexibility, it’s also easy for work-life balance to get really out of whack.

Block out your days with a hard stop: Morgenstern, , time management expert and author of Time Management From the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule—and Your Life, recommends thinking of your day in three blocks of time—morning, afternoon and evening—and factor in how much energy you have in each time period. “If you’re more productive in the morning, then get up and do your work then,” she says. You should also factor in what time you typically need to interact with co-workers and clients, as well as your family’s schedule.

Be realistic about your time: Anyone can write a to-do list, but completing every action is another feat entirely, especially if you’re overly optimistic about what you can reasonably accomplish in a day. Instead of creating a never-ending task list, Morgenstern advises asking yourself three questions: What do I need to do? How long will that take? When will I do it? Keeping in mind your deadlines for each, prioritize and block out your schedule to tackle these responsibilities during a time window when you can maximize your attention toward them.

Don’t forget to schedule breaks: In general, whatever schedule you choose, aim to work no more than 90 minutes at a time before taking a quick break. The combination will keep you productive and give you time to clear your head.

Work-From-Home Tip #4: Know That You Don’t Have to Do Everything
It can be overwhelming when you are your own tech support, accountant and executive assistant while working from home. So how do you make sure you keep your business running?

Get your go-to people in place: Luckily, this is easier than ever since there are plenty of businesses geared toward home-based workers that offer tech support, such as Support.com, and billing services, such as FreshBooks, at reasonable prices.

Go virtual: A virtual assistant can help with various tasks, such as bookkeeping and following up on outstanding invoices, creating a monthly newsletter or doing research for a work project. Having a virtual assistant saves you from getting bogged down in mundane tasks, allowing you to spend more time focusing on building your home-based business and reaping the rewards.

Four ways to improve security and productivity across a small business IT network | Paul Yung, Itportal.com

With business networks increasingly vulnerable to security breaches and constant pressure to increase office productivity, IT managers have a responsibility to ensure employees’ PCs and laptops are not a hindrance in these areas.

Here are Paul Yung’s four main considerations that will help ensure employees are protected in small businesses and new machines are future-proofed.

1. Update Windows
The benefits of keeping refreshed with the latest updates are three-fold. Firstly, many updates include security patches that plug potential security flaws in Windows and its components that may render the computer vulnerable to malware and/or hackers. Secondly, updates often fix any bugs or glitches in the operating system and thus help improve its stability and remove any annoying issues. Lastly, updates can sometimes include new features or functionality that benefit end-users.

2. Install anti virus
For most small businesses, Microsoft Security Essentials, which comes with Windows, will fulfill their initial needs. As businesses grow in size however, the need to have an enterprise-grade AV solution becomes necessary to protect multiple computers from a centrally managed console and benefit from additional features, such as more sophisticated scanning and rule creation and detailed reporting tools.

3. Maintain a healthy and optimized network
Proactively optimizing PCs now means reduced IT support costs in future, as well as happy employees as they work on fast, efficient machines.

4. Get a suite which suits
In today’s collaboration-focused business environment where cloud-based technology, SaaS products and file sharing tools are commonplace, some small businesses may see Microsoft Online alternatives suiting their needs. Free SaaS solutions, such as Google Docs, or open-source software such as OpenOffice are created with the basic productivity needs of businesses in mind, including word processing, spreadsheets, email and presentation builders. There are a few premium alternatives, such as LibreOffice, which also include drawing applications and database tools.

When making decisions on the tools available to small businesses, make sure to consider the nature of the business, its level of compliance and any regulations it must adhere to. Although online products offer increased flexibility, there comes attached a higher element of risk as documents are accessed via a password. While high productivity and collaboration are important to businesses, it should never be a trade-off for security.

7 Industries You Need to Keep an Eye on in 2016 | John Smith, Business2community.com

It can be quite daunting to keep a tab of this ever evolving world. To keep your feet on the ground, here are John Smith’s list on few industries you need to keep an eye on in 2016. Let’s check out on them.

1. Telemedicine
According to the experts of the industry, telemedicine is capacitated to improve the health status of patients by enhancing access to medical care as well as offering real-time responses at low costs.

2. 3D Printing
The experts predict that this industry has the capacity to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. You need to keep an eye on 3D printing this year.

3. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
VoIP is best to be used by the businesses that need to make international phone calls as it brings down the cost. The expense of the local calls has been brought down by 40% whereas that of the international calls has come down by 90%.
With internet usage increasing every year, it does not appear at all surprising that most people would prefer to switch to VoIP.

4. Remote Staffing
Several companies have given the verdict that the companies of today need to give up restricting themselves to local talent pool in case they plan to keep pace in this fast moving world. You can expect this sector to take off with the demand for remote work escalating.

5. Gamification Service
Several companies have given the verdict that the companies of today need to give up restricting themselves to local talent pool in case they plan to keep pace in this fast moving world. You can expect this sector to take off with the demand for remote work escalating.

6. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is all set to be bigger than mobiles and apps.
“Our entire way of learning, communicating and how we experience our existence with one another is going to take 3D form with virtual reality. Also, people won’t care what model phone you have — it’ll be what goggles you wear.”

7. Solar Energy Development
With the push for alternative sources of energy high, we can expect solar energy to make it big this year.

Now you know the industries that will make it big in 2016, which industries do you feel will rule in the next 5 years?

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