Remote Work Digest: October 13, 2017

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

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Image from Goodhousekeeping.com

5 Key Practice Of Successful Remote Work Teams | Daniel Newman, Forbes.com

Nowadays — as more people continue to work remotely — leaders must find new ways to unite employees who are spending an increasing amount of time apart.

Studies show nearly 40% of today’s employees work offsite on a regular basis. While that’s great when it comes to saving on company overhead, it does present some challenges for leaders in terms of creating a singular culture that all employees—regardless of location — can rally behind. Indeed, as I wrote in my article Digital Transformation Cannot Succeed Without the Right Culture, culture and vision are what hold companies together in times of change and perceived chaos. Ironically, digital transformation is also making it increasingly difficult to build those bonds. Luckily, there are things leaders can do to foster a strong culture, despite differences in location and time zone. The following are just a few tips:

Use The Technology Available
As a leader, it’s important for you to “walk the walk” and take time to use new technology like telepresence robots, chat apps, video conference, and other unified communication channels to get your team on board with communicating this way in their daily lives.

Make Time For Homeroom
Even with many remote employees, you can still create consistent communication standards throughout the enterprise. The purpose of homeroom was to allow everyone to connect, discuss the day’s goals and capacity issues, and ask for help where needed. The best part: teammates were empowered to call their own homeroom meetings if needed, throughout the rest of the day. It doesn’t matter if you call it homeroom, all-hands, or daily update — the point is, consistent communication is a must.

Be Clear About Availability
It’s possible to allow for flexibility while also establishing clear virtual “office hours” for remote employees so your in-house workers know they can rely on their entire team to be available via chat or telepresence when needed. Doing so will help establish trust and consistency across all departments.

Get To Know Employees as People
It can be easy to forget to involve your remote employees in impromptu onsite conversations, or to forget that they also have lives, interests, and strengths outside of their initial job functions. Take time to get to know your remote employees as people, rather than just task managers.

Meet Face to Face
There’s nothing better than putting a face to a name — no matter how much easier it is to text, email, or chat about what we need. I know of at least one company that has established “unplugged” days where people are required to speak in person rather than via technology whenever possible. You’d be surprised how many people who worked in the same building ended up meeting one another for the first time.

Even companies with all employees working onsite experience challenges creating effective employee culture. And though it may be difficult, it is not an insurmountable task. Involve your employees in the process. Empower them to use their voice to make a difference. Use the tools available to you. That’s the way of the future. That’s the only way your company will succeed in a mobile working world.

Managing Your Schedule Like a Boss: Tips the Experts Never Tell You | John Rampton, Entrepreneur.com

Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.

But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.

Create a routine.

Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.

Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all.

Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week. 

“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.

“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”

Add time buffers to manage your schedule.

A buffer is something like this:

You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.

Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule your calendar like a to-do list. 

If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.

For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.

Use batching and time-blocking.

Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.

Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.

Optimize time for different meeting types.

Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:

  • 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
  • 15-minute daily standup if you’re a startup or leading an engineering team.
  • 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.

Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.

Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival

7 Creative Ways to Show Remote Workers You Care | Jennifer Parris, Flexjobs.com

In a remote work environment, showing your workers that you care can require a little more effort. The good thing is that it’s easy to make your remote workers feel special, no matter where they are working in the world.

Here are some creative ways to show remote workers you care:

1. Talk to them.

Schedule a check-in with your remote workers at least once every six months or so to see where they’re at in terms of work and also their personal life. It gives your employee the chance to air any grievances, clear the air, and also reconnect with you and the company if he’s starting to feel a little disengaged.

And, as an employer, you can address any issues and find out a little more about what your employee is experiencing, both at work and at home.

2. Reward their work.

What worker doesn’t want to feel that their hard work is appreciated by the organization? Even for the most introverted of employees, you can include a “rock star of the month” award to spotlight your employees’ efforts in the company newsletter.
Acknowledging employees who went above and beyond the call of duty is a great way to show that you both recognize their hard work and appreciate their contribution to the company.

3. Make it memorable.

Make it a point to keep track of your workers’ important dates, such as work anniversaries, birthdays—even their wedding anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. You can send flowers or a gift basket for the big ones, and just jot off an email to wish your worker a happy anniversary or happy birthday to a child.

That little bit of extra effort can go a long way towards making your remote worker feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

4. Include their partners.

Let’s say that you’ve organized a meet-up for some of your workers who live near each other. Don’t just limit the invite to employees, though.

Encourage them to bring along their spouses and significant others, just as they might if it were a traditional office get-together.

After all, your remote employees might feel awkward if they’re meeting each other for the first time, and having their loved ones there can help break the ice. Plus, it shows that the company cares not just for them, but for their sweeties, too.

5. Support their outside endeavors.

As a part of their company culture, some companies are very supportive of their workers’ outside interests. That might be their humanitarian work, their contributions to their communities, and so on.

You can mention their work in the company newsletter or even reward them for their outside work. Offer a small stipend for any volunteer hours worked as a way to encourage their humanitarian efforts.

6. Be empathetic.

Don’t let the distance of a remote work environment create distance between you and your remote employee. Instead of being sympathetic, try to be empathetic and relate to your remote worker. Not only will it build stronger bonds between the two of you, it will show that you truly care.

7. Look for ways to create new opportunities and experiences for them.

Sometimes, you can show your remote workers that you care for them by giving them more work! No, not the kind that makes them feel bored at work, but the kind that they really want. Find ways to reward their work by giving them the work they really want to do, whether it’s in the form of a plum new assignment or a shiny promotion.

Showing your remote workers that you care for them should be a big part of your management style. It will help retain the top-level talent you already have, and become a natural part of your company culture that will help you attract new talent to your organization.

10 Ways to 10x Personal and Organizational Productivity | Deji Atoyebi, Business2community.com

Being productive is all about doing the best quality work within a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer that to become a successful entrepreneur or an employee, productivity must be your strong suit. It’s equally important for managers to strive at improving employee productivity in order to grow their business. In view of these, this article will walk you through 10 pragmatic ways to increase both personal and organizational productivity.

#1. Use a Standing Desk: 

Standing is assumed to aid productivity through various ways. First, it improves health and provides energy bu reducing back and neck pain, burning calories, among other things. Second, standing decreases one’s tendency of falling asleep while working. Also, there are claims that it generally helps to increase creativity.

#2. Take Occasional Breaks: 

Taking occasional breaks while working is a good way to stay productive for a relatively longer time. Breaks tend to rejuvenate, rekindle attention and restore motivation. They can also prevent “decision fatigue”; in fact, a ‘walking rest’ is considered to help prolong memories and improve learning.

Don’t overwork yourself when you could avoid it; take a break as soon as you start finding it difficult to focus on the job at hand. Managers should also schedule appropriate break sessions for employees.

#3. Delegate When Necessary and Possible: 

To boost your productivity, you must learn when to let go of and prioritize work. Delegate tasks that you’d be better off not doing and trust those to whom you delegate them.

Don’t be a multitasking control-freak!

#4. Tidy Up Your Workspace:

A clean work space would most definitely make your focus more on the job at hand by freeing your mind of potential distractions that could sway you away from your work. Things like your mobile phone and random documents are good examples of such distractions.

In a nutshell, reduce the clutter and save yourself from being overwhelmed.

#5. Use Effective Analytic Technologies:

Businesses with relevant, large enough datasets and effective tools for manipulating them are more privileged than those without. But in what way does analytics boost productivity, you ask? Simple.

Well-analyzed data makes it easier to make good business decisions and even fastens the process. Without these data, it’s amazingly easy to gloss over necessary facts and delay the execution of a project.

#6. Use Time-Management/Tracking Software:

Although there are various options to help in tracking and managing time, special software for such a purpose are usually the best way to go. A good time-tracking software will make it easier for you to determine the period in the day in which you’re most productive and the type of work you’re generally faster at doing. Therefore, it’d enable you weigh your options and ultimately improve your productivity.

#7. Prioritize Knowledge Acquisition:

You need to strive for a better knowledge-base either at the personal or organizational level. A manager who provides effective training programs for employees would be turbo-charging their confidence and making them more productive performers.

#8. Get Enough Sleep:

Getting enough sleep improves memory, strengthens focus, increases energy and facilitates quite a number of things that soars productivity and which sleep deprivation naturally impedes.

#9. Make Use of Effective Collaboration Tools:

There are tools to help facilitate collaboration and thus aid coordination. A good example is Github, which is primarily a platform for software developers to jointly work on software and commit changes, independently. Some other general-purpose collaboration tools that aid work-flow are Slack, Trello, Google Keep and a host of others. They all have the potential of making you more productive in your daily work.

#10. Minimize Face-to-face Interactions:

Even in a not-so-crowded workplace, there’d be times when you, as an employee, would have to put your job on hold in order to talk to someone who needs help for something quite trivial or who just wants a tête-à-tête. This scenario can be frustrating and more frequent than normal.To avoid this, it’s reasonable to avoid things that could lead to face-to-face interactions while working. Many software developers are known to wear headphones for this purpose.

 

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