Remote Work Digest: December 31, 2020

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

Why remote working and working from home aren’t the same – and how to accommodate both options | Jason Aten, Inc, Businessinsider.com

Too often we confuse remote work with working from home. The two aren’t the same. It isn’t just semantics, either. The words we use, and the way we talk about things is important. It communicates what we value, and using the wrong words can not only cause confusion, it can devalue your team members and the way they work.

Working from home is a temporary thing you do every once in a while.

It means that the work you usually would do in your office at your desk, you do from home for a day, or maybe two. In many companies, working from home is what you do on Thursdays because you don’t have any meetings, so you figure you’ll get caught up on the presentation you’re working on without the interruption of a colleague stopping by your desk.

Remote working is not just a circumstance, but rather a way of working.

If you work remotely, you don’t have a desk at your company’s office somewhere. Instead, you’re probably responsible for providing your own desk in your own workspace, usually somewhere in your own home. 

When you work from home, you still use the tools and technology your company gave you, you just log on to your own internet connection. It’s OK if you don’t have everything you need at home, because you’ll be headed back to the office tomorrow anyway.

That’s not the case with remote work, and it requires a completely different set of tools and systems. Often, you have to create your own systems, and the place you work gets a lot more attention since it’s likely what your colleagues will see every time you log on to Zoom. Don’t underestimate the level of stress that goes into having the perfect background — or at least, one that isn’t cluttered with toys and laundry and pets. Or, as we call it at our home, real life. 

It also means having a different set of skills. Setting your calendar and agenda for the day is different when you work remotely. Productivity and accountability look different as well. It’s time we start treating them that way. 

X Misconceptions Related To Employee Tracking | Bhok Thompson, Greenprophet.com

Not too long ago, time tracking was time consuming.

While tracking time has been widely accepted as a viable way to improve productivity, filling out lengthy Excel sheets has commonly been viewed as an additional task.

As a result, the practice of time tracking has been known to face a lot of resistance in corporate scenarios.

However, things have changed. Today, there are specialized time tracking software that automate the part of time tracking that feels like a “task”.

Time Tracking Leads to Micromanagement

Many employees dread the idea of time tracking because they believe that it will lead to micromanagement. Now, there is no denying that there are many examples of micromanagers in almost all organizations. Be that as it may, if a manager isn’t someone who likes to micromanage their team, a time tracking software is not going to change that.

In fact, after the initial adoption period, employees can use their own historical time tracking data to justify a realistic workload and make realistic commitments to their managers.

Time Tracking Leads to Employee Burnout

This point is especially worrying to many nowadays when remote working is becoming popular. With blurring boundaries between homes and offices, the rigid office timings are also blurring and many professionals are reporting working well beyond their ‘normal’ working hours.

Contrary to popular belief, time tracking can help organisations and individuals solve this problem. With time tracking, employees can stay productive during the actual office hours and set boundaries that allow them to have personal time. At the same time, organisations will be able to ensure that their employees are giving their best during their official working hours.

Employees Will “Forget” Tracking Time

Nowadays, time tracking is automated to a large extent. Therefore, there’s not much left to ‘forget’.

Moreover, it is important for employers to communicate the individual benefits of time tracking to their employees. This way, they will be more motivated to keep track of their own time and the ‘forgetting’ incidents will be limited to a minimum.

Conclusion

The fact that there are so many misconceptions surrounding time tracking has been a significant deterrent in the adoption of this awesome productivity technique. However, we hope that this article will help you see the benefits of time tracking and implement it in your organization.

Checklist: How to effectively lead your remote employees | MYRECRUITMENT+, Smartcompany.com.au

How to lead remote employees effectively is a question on the minds of many SME owners. HR, managers, and executives control a workforce that exists mainly through virtual encounters, and must reassess operations and procedures to ensure efficiency is embedded in every process. 

To assist you in your learning to lead a remote workforce, here’s a checklist for you to use as a guide in revealing where your strengths are and where you can improve.

Communication

  • Do I implement a seamless communication system?
  • Do my colleagues have someone else to communicate with if I’m unavailable?
  • Even when I’m unavailable, do my colleagues know how to contact me in case of an emergency? 
  • Have I implemented scheduled hours? Why/why not?
  • Have I confided in my colleagues and employees whether they are content with the current communication channels?

Collaboration

  • Is there any tension between colleagues that I’m aware of?
  • Do I receive regular feedback from colleagues/employees? 
  • Does the business provide the appropriate tools & resources for efficient collaboration? 
  • Have I put daily/weekly exercises in place for team bonding (thus more effective collaboration)? 

Training

  • Do I have standardized training material?
  • Do I have a procedure in place to ensure the new hire receives training material specific to their department? 
  • Do I have a system in-place that allows full transparency so I can view who has completed their training, and who hasn’t?
  • Do I have a system in-place that allows full transparency so I can view which employee is up-to-date in the latest training material, and which employee requires more training? 
  • Do we take advantage of an LMS? 

Why is this checklist relevant?

Communication

It’s the key to running a remote workforce. 

If employees have a question, they must receive answers within a suitable time frame. In order to overcome misunderstandings, you need to eliminate processes that encourage miscommunication. 

A strategy for this? Ensure all employees have contact numbers and someone they can contact at any time (in the working day) for immediate assistance. You, as a leader, must act as the glue that keeps your team well bonded and functioning holistically.

Consider using tools that provide you with a 2-way bulk sms and email communication channel. This will allow you to quickly and efficiently provide stakeholders with recent updates.

Collaboration

Regardless of the company’s location (remote or in the office) teamwork is crucial for productivity. Employees that are motivated have higher job satisfaction, thus higher productivity.

So, how do you incorporate company culture to a workforce that is spread over states, and perhaps even the country? 

Organize weekly meetings, perhaps a Monday morning (to talk about weekly goals), and Friday afternoon (to discuss achievements). Make it compulsory for everyone to attend. Whilst working from home allows flexibility, don’t forget that working your standard 9-5 job comes with requirements and responsibilities, so don’t be afraid of maintaining compulsory activities.

Training

The global pandemic has resulted in consistent updates regarding operational regulations and restrictions. In order to be compliant with these regulations, your employees must be up to date with training of current workplace procedures.

This includes hygiene practices, wellbeing exercises, operational restrictions, social distancing strategies etc. The consequences of being noncompliant (internally or externally) results in large fines, and an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Business owners should consider investing in a LMS system so new hires and existing employees receive identical training material. This promises consistency in knowledge and expectations.

Communicate, collaboration and training are closely entwined, and are the three main components to be considered when deciding a strategy to lead remote employees due to the dire consequences of overlooking their significance.

15 Ways to Maximize Your Productivity and Earnings | Kim Porter, Dollarsprout.com

Though you might use an eight-hour workday to benchmark your productivity, research suggests workers are only productive for about three hours during that time frame.

Here are 15 ways to boost your productivity and earning potential.

  1. Find your most productive hours.

To find your golden hours, listen to your body to get a sense of when you feel focused and motivated to tackle big projects. Plan your day so you’re doing the highest-priority work during your most productive hours, while routine tasks can be done when you don’t need as much concentration.

2. Figure out which office lifestyle is best for you.

Some people work best independently, while others thrive in an office setting. “In my experience, introverts really tend to enjoy working from home because they are energized by alone time,” says Alexis Haselberger, a productivity, time management, and leadership coach. “Extroverts tend to have a harder time working from home for the opposite reason; they are energized through time with others.”

3. Track and limit time spent on each task.

After a few months in the same role, you probably know how long it takes to complete your normal, routine tasks. When you need to schedule one, allot a reasonable amount of time and aim to get it done within that time frame.

4. Schedule your week.

Racheal Cook, business strategist and productivity expert, says she creates a weekly Google Calendar and first blocks out time for family, friends, and fun. She then blocks out major work tasks during defined hours to help create boundaries between work and her personal life. If you don’t make time for both, “then work can quickly take up every available moment in your week,” Cook says.

5. Give yourself periodic breaks.

Working at 100% capacity at all hours just isn’t sustainable. “If you don’t take regular breaks, you risk burnout,” Haselberger says.

6. Make time for personal and career development

Career development could include attending a training course for the next step in your career, watching a self-development seminar, or reading a book. Investing time in yourself might mean skipping billable client work now, but it boosts your earning potential over time. And focusing on personal goals can help you round out your work-life balance.

7. Avoid meetings if possible.

While meetings can be an efficient way to collectively brainstorm ideas and create solutions, more than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings, according to one estimate. But if you must have one, Haselberger offers these tips:

  • Ensure every meeting has an owner. This person schedules the meeting, sets the agenda, and facilitates the discussion.
  • Only include necessary attendees. Information can be disseminated to others on a need-to-know basis via other means.
  • Always have an agenda. The owner sends the agenda to all attendees. It should state the objective, items for discussion, and any relevant materials to prepare attendees.
  • Define the goal for the meeting. If you don’t know what you hope to accomplish, don’t schedule a meeting.
  • Decision vs. discussion. Decide whether the purpose of the meeting is for decision-making or brainstorming and discussion.

8. Outsource or delegate work if you can.

Whether you’re running a business or part of a large project with co-workers, everyone has a strength and a role. Delegating or outsourcing work means “letting others do what they can do, so you can do what only you can do,” Marshall says.

9. Avoid time wasters.

Distractions can torpedo your workday. These come in the form of household chores, co-workers or kids, and emails and notifications. “Most people check email on average 37 times a day,” Haselberger says. “Every time we are interrupted or distracted, it takes, on average, 23 minutes to refocus.”

10. Create your own work processes.

Creating resources like processes, checklists, and pricing structures allows you to do the thinking and the work just once. Having the documentation will also help if you plan to grow your business in the future, Marshall says.

11. Automate tasks when possible.

Collaborating with project management tools, using accounting software, and scheduling social media posts are some other ways to automate tasks.

12. Exercise regularly.

Exercise does so much more than lower your blood pressure and help you fit into your jeans. In one study, employees who visited the gym said they were more productive, managed their time more effectively, and had smoother interactions with their colleagues. Exercise can also:

  • Boost your concentration, memory, and creativity.
  • Help you learn faster.
  • Lower your stress levels.

13. Take time to rest and recharge.

Rest will look different for everyone, but here are a few ways to make it happen:

  • Block off at least one day a week where no work is allowed.
  • Practice self-care, which generally means sleeping enough, eating well, and exercising.
  • Take a “mental health day” if you need it.
  • Make time to visit friends and family. But don’t be afraid to say “no” to social visits if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

14. Get enough sleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. What’s considered “enough” varies by age and person. But generally, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, the CDC says. Here are some ways to help that happen:

  • Save caffeine for the morning, and cut it from your afternoon and evening.
  • Get into a consistent sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, including on weekends.
  • Don’t use smartphones and other devices right before bedtime. They emit light that can mess with your circadian rhythm and ability to fall asleep.
  • Avoid exercising and eating close to bedtime.

15. Make good food choices.

While any food generally fuels your body, some types of food are better at promoting productivity. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Have healthy food choices available. In particular, fruits and vegetables have been shown to promote curiosity, motivation, and engagement. Nuts are also a healthy option.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. A meal full of protein and complex carbohydrates gives your body the energy it needs to get through the day.
  • Graze. Hunger can lead to lower levels of productivity, so have a steady stream of healthy snacks on hand to eat throughout the day.

Learning strategies to harness your focus and energy will help you use your time more meaningfully and efficiently.

This list serves as a starting point for taking care of yourself, setting goals, and squashing the time wasters that don’t contribute value to your work or personal life. You can start with one or combine a few into a more comprehensive strategy. Whether you’re freelancing or pushing for a raise at your full-time job, one thing is true: greater productivity equals more money in your pocket.

Remote Work Digest: June 20, 2019

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

5 Tips For Working From Home With Kids | Anthony Caruana, Lifehacker.com.au

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In this era where working from home and freelancing from a home office is common, there’s a new challenge to overcome. While working from home can help with the work/life balance, there are times when the kids can tip the scales away from work at exactly the wrong moment. After almost a decade of working from home with kids around, and after speaking with a few similarly challenged friends and colleagues, here are some of our favourite tips.

Establish some ground rules
Set some ground rules and stick to them. For example, if the kids see you with headphones on, they need to know that means you’re on a call and can’t be disturbed unless it’s urgent.

Communicate
Firm communication that teaches them about your work day and commitments is key. For example, while I was working yesterday, both my step-sons were home from school. I explained to them that I had an important call and that for those 30 minutes I needed them to keep a little quieter than usual.

Schedule time for work and kids
It may be a work day but if the kids are around you need to make time for them. Plan your day so there’s a mix between work, play and other activities. For example, schedule meal breaks and allow for time every hour to chat, organise an activity or to join in with play time.

Be creative
If you’re planning to work from home, have a list of different activities you can use to keep the kids busy. Mix up the indoor and outdoor play – six hours of iPad time is not a good way to encourage healthy life habits.

On the work side, if you need an escape hatch with some quiet, why not take calls and process email in the car, where it’s quiet, while it’s parked in the driveway and the kids are playing outside.

Involve the kids in your work
When you plan your work day, look for opportunities to involve kids in your work. For example, when I think about story ideas I sometimes ask the kids what stories they think are most interesting and why. I get them to read some of my work and ask them to write about things that interest them. That way, we’re working together.

How to take a Working Vacation That Actually Works | Serenity Gibbons, Thriveglobal.com

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Not all “workations” are created equal. A productive one takes planning and balance: Too much work and too little vacation (or vice versa) can defeat the purpose. But done correctly, working vacations are an opportunity to experience the world without having to worry about falling behind.

Ready to try a working vacation? Before you book:

1. Get your team on board.
Remote work may be a staple at many companies, but not all of them are used to team members taking working vacations. Make sure everyone knows you’re not totally unplugging; you’re working intermittently.

Once your team knows you’re not going AWOL, determine your priorities together. Outline what you want to accomplish while you’re gone. Even if you’ll have access to phone and email the whole time, account for times when you won’t be strictly available, such as on flights.

2. Choose the right destination.
Your working vacation should be somewhere you actually want to go, of course, but that shouldn’t be your only consideration. Think about the factors that might influence the work you’re doing and how productively you’re able to do it.
Wherever you go, make sure the place you stay at has internet, phone service, and anything else you need to get work done. Get an international cell phone if you frequently take calls. Pay for a hotspot if you’re worried about Wi-Fi reliability.

3. Plan your workplaces.
Cafes and libraries aren’t always what they appear from online photos. That coffee shop might be so busy you can’t find a seat. The library might only offer Wi-Fi to library card holders, and you may need a local address to get a card.

Plan for those moments by creating “always,” “sometimes,” and “never” lists. You might have a nearby friend, for instance, whose house has Wi-Fi you can always use. Starbucks is another good option for your “always” list. Local coffee shops and grocery stores should be “sometimes” choices.

4. Give yourself some breathing room.
A working vacation should still be a vacation. Give yourself at least three free hours during each workday, and plan at least one day when you don’t work at all. To give yourself stress-free time away, productivity site Calendar suggests communicating those hours to your second-in-command.

We all need vacations to feel relaxed and satisfied with our lives. When we overwork, we steal from our future for the sake of the present. Taking a working vacation is the best way to balance the two.

8 Side Hustles You Can Use To Supplement Your Remote Work | Abdullahi Muhammed , Forbes.com

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Getting a side hustle becomes a necessity from time to time. With no guarantee of a paycheck if you are freelance, you have to keep money flowing in. The key is finding something that works with your schedule, and is lucrative enough to shore up your income when you need it. As you start exploring your options, consider the following eight side hustles.

1. Consulting
With consulting, you take your existing skills and use them to help other businesses. There’s a great market for this as so many businesses need help, but aren’t able to bring on full-time staff. So no wonder that consulting is a $250 billion industry.

2. Running an ecommerce store
E-commerce is a low-cost, low-barrier way of starting your own business. You can set up shop online, and sell products from all over the world. Thanks to dropshipping and other schemes like Amazon FBA, you don’t even have to purchase stock or manage inventory/logistics. Even better, you set up your online store quickly and easily with the help of Shopify marketing experts.

3. Teaching and tutoring online
There’s a growing market for online education. Students and their parents need help from skilled tutors. Others are seeking alternatives to formal education when it comes to developing skills they need to get ahead. If you already have the in-demand expertise, and an ability to break concepts down so they are easy to master, teaching and/or tutoring online might be for you.

4. Flipping websites
Not every entrepreneur wants to build a website from scratch. Others prefer to take existing sites, and turn them into profitable ventures. You can get in on this by flipping websites on the side. There are loads of websites that no longer serve their owner’s interests, or have been abandoned altogether. As a website flipper, you find these pages, purchase them, and sell them at a profit.

5. Affiliate marketing
If you have an active blog or website, affiliate marketing is a natural next step towards building a passive income stream. With just a little effort, you can market the products and services you like to others on your website.

6. Writing an ebook or creating other digital assets
With digital products you create something once, then sell it multiple times. You can share your expertise with an eBook, provide your target customers with templates, even use your own photographs to sell as stock images.

7. Real estate
Real estate is both the most popular and most lucrative side gig that can pay up to $90/per hour. This could be due to the fact that you have so many options for entering this niche. You can take a course and obtain your real estate license, and work selling properties on the side. You can pool your money with other investors to purchase and sell properties.

8. Working as a translator/interpreter or voice tester
If you’re proficient in two or more international languages, you can make good money off of that. You can offer translations services on freelancing websites or join a company like Para Plus Translations where you get the opportunity to work on exciting projects involving translation or interpretation services.

There’s no need to enter the world of full-time employment to enjoy the benefits of good wages. Instead leverage your skills and flexibility to land a side gig.

9 Ways to Stay Productive When Working from Home | Sophia Bernazzani, Learn.g2.com

morning routine

It’s easy to assume working from home leads to less productivity, but in reality, it’s usually quite the opposite. Keeping remote employees engaged and on track isn’t impossible. In fact, it can help boost productivity. As 52% of employees work from home at least once per week, remote work is beneficial for a reboot and recharge while maintaining a strong work ethic away from the office.

To help you with time management and remain optimally productive, we’ve compiled this list of 9 ways to stay focused when you’re working from home.

1. Find an optimal space to remain productive
It’s important you have a space that signals to your brain that it’s time to focus. Plus, it’s equally critical you save spaces like your bedroom for relaxation, so you can continue to have good work-life balance. Otherwise, you might find yourself checking your email from your bed at 9 p.m. because you haven’t mentally left the office.

2. Keep a consistent routine
To ensure productivity, a time management tip is to kick off your day with the same routine you’d use if you were heading to the office. Make some coffee, take a shower, and put on a pair of jeans rather than staying in your bathrobe and slippers. Maintaining a morning routine helps you to mentally prepare for the day and get in a productive state-of-mind.

3. Stick to a schedule
When you’re working from home, there are often other demands you need to pay attention to: cooking, taking your dog for a walk, picking a child up from daycare, or switching laundry from the washer to the dryer, to name a few. To maintain focus throughout the day, it’s crucial to set a schedule and stick to it.
For instance, if you’re most productive first thing in the morning, try tackling your most difficult tasks right when you wake up. Later in the day you can complete easier tasks, like responding to emails or editing a blog post while you multitask on some of those other non-office-related responsibilities.

4. Eliminate distractions
If you think casually checking email or quickly opening Facebook isn’t a big deal, consider this: research from the University of California, Irvine found that the typical office worker spends only 11 minutes on a task before getting interrupted, but once interrupted, it takes them about 23 minutes to get back on track. To ensure long-term productivity, implement strategies to ensure you don’t get interrupted in the first place.

5. Take breaks
To ensure you’re consistently making wise professional decisions, take breaks to mentally refresh. While it might seem counter intuitive, regular breaks can actually make you more productive, particularly if your breaks include a form of exercise.

Additionally, breaks can help prevent decision fatigue. A study found Israeli judges were more likely to grant parole to prisoners after their two daily breaks. As decision fatigue sets in, however, the rate of granting parole dropped to nearly zero percent because judges resorted to the easiest option – just saying no.

6. Be transparent about when you’re online and offline
You’ll be more productive if you set clear online and offline boundaries. If you need to take your dog for a walk, set an “Away” status on your Slack. At 5 p.m. (or whenever you choose to be done working for the day), don’t respond to any more emails, so coworkers know you’re unreachable until tomorrow. If possible, incorporate those times into your Gmail calendar so when you’re offline, your coworkers will know why.

7. Make a to-do list
Checking off a to-do list is one of the simplest pleasures of a work day. When working from home, it’s necessary to have specific goals you need to meet to ensure you stay on track when Netflix or your bed is calling your name.

8. Have a set end time
To ensure proper balance, try setting up a logoff routine at a reasonable end time each day, regardless of how much you’ve finished. Jot down a to-do list of tasks you want to tackle the next day, set an away status on your messaging apps, and put your work supplies back away until the morning.

9. Maintain relationships with coworkers via messaging or video conferencing software
Working from home could hinder your ability to catch up with coworkers and form those deeper bonds like you would if you ran into them in the office kitchen. To combat this, it’s vital to maintain connections with them through internal communication tools like Slack or video conferencing software tools like Zoom. Set up regular 1:1 virtual meetings simply for the purpose of catching up so you’re never out of the loop.

Remote work is hard work
Even though you might have the luxury of sitting on your sofa while working from home, it doesn’t mean you’re not working. The work you do from home can be as productive – if not more productive than your time in the office. Don’t second guess yourself!

Remote Work Digest: December 23, 2017

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

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Image from Getvero.com

Working from home? Four excellent ways to make it count | Tania Ngima, Sde.co.ke 

The holidays are around the corner. Are you one of the few people going to be fortunate enough to be off work with no demands on your time?

The idea of no dress code, ad hoc meetings and the liberty of walking into the kitchen to fix a snack whenever the need arose seemed like a dream.

The reality, though, is a bit starker. Say you work from home and the usual interruption come knocking. A phone call from a family member – they have an emergency and need help.

Or a friend has a crisis at work and needs a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. If you’re working from the office, it is very easy to say no, albeit apologetically.

When working from home though, it is much harder because you, in reality, could drop what you’re working on and help. But the question is, should you?

Set work hours

Block up a chunk of time to focus on your work. A time that doesn’t allow for other activities.

Grace Saunders, a time management coach says blurring the lines between your work time and personal time is a dangerous precedent. Other research shows that the way the human brain is wired is that if you have work related tasks that need to be completed, especially those that have deadlines, they will be constantly taking up space in your consciousness.

Create structure

Structure your day for success. First, avoid meetings or conference calls during your most productive hours.Most of us know when our most high energy levels are. Use these to work on reports, do analysis and respond to the very important emails.

Disable the notification that comes with your emails and chat messages for this period of time. Become deliberate about what time you sit to work, when you take breaks and when you have lunch.

Set boundaries

Be clear that you’re not simply at home but that you have a task list and need to get work done by the time you knock off.

Stay out of sight for the whole time you are working so it is understood that you’re not game for a quick chat or to play, especially if you have kids.

Be responsive

Working from home may be seen as shirking work-related responsibility.

For this reason, you will need to be available for the conference calls or meetings you have committed to, as well as on email or for important phone calls.

If you do not, the out of sight out of mind adage may apply and lead to you being seen as a less than effective team player.

Yes, You Can Run a Successful Business with a Remote Workforce | Andre Lavoie, Business.com

Distributed teams are difficult to manage – especially with employees in different time zones. Also, collaborative projects and team-building exercises are tougher to accomplish with remote workers.

Even so, success is possible with teams distributed across the country, or globe. Here are three steps to achieve it.

1. Overcome a lack of trust

When you’re not able to physically see employees working, it’s easy to assume they’re slacking off. When you don’t get immediate responses to questions, you can’t tell if the message was received.

Overcome this challenge by encouraging brief but frequent check-ins throughout the day. These can be as simple as a brief status update. Even notice of snack breaks and the like will let you know that the employee is online and connected.

Investing in the right project management software can also help you overcome any trust issues. This software allows workers to see their own tasks and how their personal work factors into the overall project completion. Many platforms also allow you to leave notes and questions to promote frequent communication with employees.

2. Place a priority on communication

Beyond work conversation, it’s important to help remote workers feel connected on a personal level. Don’t overlook the importance of small talk. Online chat platforms allow employees to post thoughts and funny photos, and also notify fellow team members about brief interruptions (lunch breaks, dog walks).

While immediate feedback isn’t always possible with distributed teams, you can still schedule one-on-one project update sessions at least once a month. Connecting in this way creates a greater sense of belonging and loyalty.

3. Be creative with team-building opportunities

It’s difficult to get a distributed team in the same place at the same time. However, that doesn’t mean team building has to suffer. You just have to be creative to keep remote workers connected.

For instance, schedule virtual holiday functions or social video chats. It’s important for employees to see each other and interact on a personal level, rather than an atmosphere of strictly business all the time.

Other fun ways to stay connected include shared music channels and innovative challenges or games. This prompts conversation about preferences and encourages workers to let their guards down.

It’s possible to embrace the growing trend of remote work while still making productivity and inclusion priorities in your company. Through frequent communication and creating an atmosphere of camaraderie, your distributed workforce will feel connected to each other as if they were all in the same office.

Exactly How To Work From Home Without Losing Your Sanity | Christine Chen, Thriveglobal.com

A quick checklist of  things you’ll need before you see if you’re cut out for it.

1. Great Internet – When it comes to that all important video conference with the CEO on your first day working from home, you need your upload speed just as much as your download speed so pay attention to this. It’s worth paying that little extra for FTTC+ rather than scrimping on ADSL and hoping nobody ever calls you or needs you to do anything. You’re not hiding away; you’re boosting your productivity.

2. Space – Prepare yourself a comfortable workspace. This doesn’t have to be an office – though it could be. The dining table is not in use during the day or even your bedroom dressing table could be turned into your workspace with the right amount of tweaking.

3. Collaborative Tools – Something to keep you in touch with the people in the office effectively. This could be anything from Skype to Slack to WhatsApp. Your business needs to or already has made a decision to what they use for communications, this just needs to be extended outside of the office.

4. Cloud Storage – It’s no good being accessible if all your hard, collaborative work ends up stored on your laptop where nobody else can see it. Onedrive, Sharepoint, Dropbox and the likes provide the rest of your organisation access to work on the document you just slaved over all day and gives your boss a clear view of the amount of work you’re doing.

5. Breaks – Go out for lunch if you want to, pop to the gym, walk the dog. It’s just as important to balance your work / rest when you’re in your home workspace as it is when you’re in the office to avoid burnout.

6. Reliable Equipment – Finding the correct office headphones is one of the most significant things that every proficient businessman will need. Selecting the right headsets for desk phones that deliver clear audio and can be used lively is exceptionally essential if you want to uphold high standards and look professional. Selecting a headset for desk phone may appear like a straight forward procedure but with a number of varieties obtainable it can simply become an intimidating task.

7. Dog – Right, maybe not a dog but you will need something to keep you sane. There will be days where you don’t hear from anybody and are fully focused on completing that project with the tight deadline. This could be a really good Spotify playlist, the radio, your secret knitting hobby.

8. Cookery Skills – If you don’t want to be buying food when you’re working at home and know you’ll get fed up with beans on toast everyday then work on your cooking skills.

9. Windows – Imagine looking around in distraction as you remove your eyes from the screen and seeing nothing but walls, notepads and coffee cups. Fresh air and a little scenery go a long way.

10. The Right Company – The company you work for needs to trust that you can be left to your own devices (literally) and help you on that journey. The company you keep in your workstation is crucial. If the thought of making conversation with your parents all day is mind numbing then working at your parents’ house is not for you. Perhaps having your friend over from another company would get you through the day – you’ll find the perfect fit eventually.

How to Discourage Workaholism in Your Remote Workforce | Greg Kratz, Flexjobs.com

In order to avoid this problem, managers should take steps to actively discourage the development of workaholic tendencies among remote employees.

Here are a few suggestions to help discourage workaholism among your employees:

Set clear and reasonable expectations.

Talk to your remote employees about their goals and the company’s plans. Assign tasks and projects that will let them grow, develop, and stretch themselves, but that won’t require them to ignore their personal lives and focus only on work.

Establish regular working hours.

This may be tricky, since remote workers sometimes put in time outside of the normal 9-to-5. It can also be complicated if your virtual team is scattered across different time zones across the country or around the world. Despite the challenges, make the effort to clarify when you expect them to be “on” and available.

Communicate effectively and frequently.

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings via video conference, so you can both see and hear each other while you talk. Be available via email, instant messaging, and online portals, as well. Figure out how they prefer to communicate, and use that method most frequently.

You must be in close contact with them if you want to make sure they’re succeeding, but not tipping over into workaholism.

Build a support system.

Create online chat areas for your team and encourage office personnel to engage their remote coworkers in conversations. It may also help to bring those remote employees into the office for a week or two now and then, to further strengthen those bonds. Not only should this help virtual team members engage with others, but it also could give them friends who will help them fight against workaholic tendencies.

Encourage both short and long breaks from work.

With no external influences nearby, your remote workers may get so engrossed in a project that they work for hours without taking a break. Or, even worse, they may work for weeks and months without escaping for a few days of vacation. Again, this might seem good from a productivity standpoint, but the reality is that people need both short and long breaks from work to relax and recharge.

Offer wellness programs.

Make sure your remote employees can get equivalent benefits, whether that means membership to a local gym or counseling sessions with therapists near them. When you meet with your virtual team members, check that they know how to take advantage of those benefits, and encourage them to do so. Physical and emotional health will help them stave off workaholism.

Pay attention to warning signs.

Do your remote workers seem to be frustrated more frequently? Are they quick to anger, when they were always calm in the past? During your conversations, can you sense they are becoming disconnected from family or friends? Are they starting to turn in sloppy work or miss deadlines? Do they look tired when you’re communicating via video? If you notice any of these things, investigate. Ask about their work habits, and make sure they’re not overdoing it.

Remember that one of your responsibilities as a manager is to make sure all of your employees have the tools and assistance they need to be as productive and successful as possible. While you may think a short-term boost in productivity as the result of sliding into workaholic behaviors is a positive thing, it won’t last. By following these suggestions, you can help your remote workers avoid that problem and build healthy behaviors that will keep them engaged and effective over the long haul.

 

Group Chat and Collaborative Work: The Future of Online Job Interactions

collaboration_group_chatThe Internet has made many things possible across the world. People from the opposite hemispheres can chat in real time consistently and constantly. However, the real revolution is how the Internet makes it easier for people to work together. Companies can hire global freelancers and even set up whole businesses based online. Of course, a company can still live with using different silo tools to handle their collaboration, such as using Skype for text and voice chat, join.me for screen sharing, gotomymeeting.com for full-blown team meetings,  Asana for project and task management, Google docs for document sharing. The list goes on. The more technologies a company employs, the more pressing it has become to maintain, search and collaborate on the dispersed information in an effective way. A new breed of application has emerged to take on such challenges presented by trend of dispersed work locations, variety of devices and wide range of SaaS tools used. These products almost all started with the cornerstone capability, Group Chat. But as things evolve, there have become much more advanced than group chat and now encompass a spectrum of functionality ranging from video conference to interconnectedness of all relevant apps. The grand vision is to provide everything you need to get your work done. For businesses that need to bring their collaboration to a whole new level, here are some of the best such collaboration suites. Continue reading