How Executives Can Help Boost Teamwork Among Their Employees Through Team Building Activities

It takes a lot of things to get a job done on schedule and efficiently. It takes time, planning, patience, strategy, and revisions. A job well done takes effort from all parties involved. And in order to excel at a job, teamwork is extremely important. Teamwork allows members to work on a project and carry the burden together. Without teamwork, executives risk burning their employees out by assigning them specific tasks on tight deadlines. With teamwork, employees can work together to meet a tight deadline without overworking themselves. But how does an executive ensure that their employees are working together? How does a higher up know that their employees are capable of efficient teamwork? 

One of the most straight-forward ways that executives can boost teamwork is to create opportunities for employees to get to know each other better. By providing team building activities in which employees can relax and socialize, executives are encouraging them to bond without forcing it. Bonding makes it easier for co-workers to work together as a team further down the road. Today, on the Number8 blog, we’re discussing team building activities that boost teamwork and how executives can integrate these team building activities into their business’ workflow. 

5 Team Building Activities That Boost Teamwork

1. Volunteering as a Team

The founder and CEO of Branded Group, Michael Kurland, swapped out happy hours for volunteer events. This came about after a company-wide survey showed that more employees were not interested in events involving alcohol. In order to keep the team spirit alive at the company, Kurland cut back on events involving drinking and organize volunteer activities instead. In 2018, the company put 250 hours into volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and the teamwork during work hours is stronger than ever.

2. Eating Together

There’s no better place to get to know someone else than at the table. Multiple CEOs of Fortune 500 companies report that hosting potlucks or taking the company out for a meal helps boost morale and teamwork. In hindsight, the meal may seem expensive at the time, but when you’re paying each employee thousands of dollars a year, a $500 pizza order or $2,000 meal to keep your employees happy and working together efficiently is well worth it.

3. Getting Outdoors

Plenty of people have been to work-related team building retreats; however, more and more CEOs are opting for less “cheesy” outdoor activities. Instead of trust falls in the woods, company executives are hosting Olympic-like games for their employees to build camaraderie. Other executives have reported taking their employees on outdoor excursions that require teamwork to succeed like rafting, ropes courses, and field days where they can be competitive in a relaxed and friendly environment.

4. Traveling Together

Business trips are not uncommon, especially for employees that are higher up in the company. Heather Bleases, founder and CEO of SaviLinx, has put a new spin on company travel though. Instead of booking a slew of hotel rooms for her employees, she often chooses to book AirBNBs. The rentals are often homier and put her employees in all sorts of environments. Her team has stayed everywhere from mansions on the Mississippi River to chic flats in Manhattan. Staying in an AirBNB requires her team to grocery shop together and spend hours outside of work together, as well, which makes for a trip that is about business and bonding. 

5. Attending a Sporting Event

This team building activity is a great one, whether you live in a city with a major league team or minor league. Putting employees in a situation where they can root for or against a team and bond over a mutual love for a sports team often creates camaraderie and allows teams to grow closer. Sporting events also give employees something to discuss after the fact which keeps them bonding even after the score is final and the game is done. 

Regardless of the team building activity an executive chooses casual outings that don’t feel forced usually turn out better. Like icebreakers, more typical team building activities can often come off as hokey. But if your team is doing something they truly enjoy then they’re more likely to genuinely bond with each other. And a closer team creates a more efficient workforce. 

At Number8, we participate in team building activities often. From white water rafting to monthly dinners out, our team of developers has a strong bond that comes from these activities. Because of this strong bond, they’re able to work through tasks efficiently and without many internal roadblocks. To learn more about what we do at Number8 or how we can help your company, contact us today by using our online form or calling us at 502-890-7665

7 Tips on How Stay Productive at Work and Avoid Distractions

With the Internet right at our fingertips, it can be hard for those who work in front of a computer all day to not get distracted. From social media, to the news, to online retailers, there are plenty of outlets available that can keep you from working. As online marketing continues to advance and advertising appears everywhere it can seem impossible to escape. However, there are certain steps one can take to stay productive at work and avoid distractions.

At Number8, we have almost two decades of experience in software development. From working with Fortune 100 companies to tech start-ups, we have vast experience in the IT sector. Our project managers and nearshore development team want to deliver the best product and customer service in a timely manner. In order to achieve the timeliness we’re so well known for, our team has to stay productive at work and avoid distractions. We’ve decided to share some tips on how our development team avoids distractions at work when having a world of distractions right at their fingertips.

7 Ways to Stay Productive at Work and Avoid Distractions

1. Unplug from Social Media

Social media is, without a doubt, a huge distraction at work. While you may prefer to pass your time at home scrolling through news feeds, at work it’s not the best use of your time. There are a few ways to go about unplugging. For some, setting a schedule of when they are allowed to check social media and setting a time limit is enough. For others, they need to get more drastic because they can’t stop checking in. There are some helpful extensions that will block social media for you including StayFocusd and WasteNoTime. Freedom is another extension that will block social media sites on your work computer and allow you to stay productive during office hours.

2. Keep Your Desk Organized

A messy space usually reveals a messy mind. By keeping your desk and workspace neat, you remove a lot of distractions. Experts recommend taking 5 to 10 minutes at the end of your day to pick up your desk. Organize your papers, wash your dishes, make sure your calendar is up-to-date, and anything else you may need to do before leaving for the day. This ensures that when you walk into the office the following morning, your desk space and headspace will be ready to get started on the day’s tasks ahead.

3. Break One Large Task Into Small Tasks

It can be easy to find reasons to distract yourself from a large task at hand. Perhaps you don’t have enough time to get it all done before you clock out. Maybe you have a lot of smaller things that will be easier to knock out, but don’t have the urgency of the one large task. When you find yourself avoiding a large task, it’s time to change your approach. One of the best ways to tackle larger projects is to break them into smaller, more manageable tasks. This will help you to not waste time worrying about where to get started. This approach also allows you to take a few days to complete the large project without getting burnt out or overwhelmed.

4. Harness Optimism

Positivity breeds productivity. This has never been a truer statement than when you’re at work. Being positive in the office has so many benefits. Your coworkers will respond better to you when you’re positive. Your positive attitude will keep the stress away. And your optimism will make it easier to stay focused on your tasks because you’ll enjoy them. There are a couple of ways to harness optimism in the office.

One of the best things to do is mentally remind yourself you are capable of doing your job correctly and well. Develop a mantra that helps you focus on this thought. Something as simple as “I am capable” will work. Smiling when you walk into the office also helps associate optimism with your workplace. When you aren’t stressed or sad, it is a lot easier to focus on the task at hand instead of looking for ways to avoid getting your work done.

5. Quit Multitasking

Once, long ago, multitasking was marketed as the bee’s knees of the office world. This somewhat coincided with the mass-market of the home computer. The computer was seen as a tool that could allow you to do multiple things at once; however, in this day and age multitasking can be detrimental to productivity. If you’re looking to be more productive at work, it’s time to focus on the task at hand then move on to the next full task. Going back and forth between projects will only hurt your productivity. And it may show in your finished projects, too.

6. Don’t Neglect Your Health

Just like optimism can make you more productive at work, so can being in good health. Experts say it is especially important to exercise daily, eat well, and get enough sleep to perform your job to the best of your abilities. Exercising regularly and getting the recommended 8-hours of sleep makes it a lot easier to overcome stress. Healthy eating literally fuels your body, so being in good health is important in regards to being productive at work. When you can overcome stress and get through the day without tiring, it’s a lot easier to take on a task at hand instead of procrastinating.

7. Keep a To Do List

For some, keeping a task list at hand can seem like an old fashioned way to manage time. However, starting your morning by taking 10 minutes to write up a list of what you’d like to achieve that day is one way to plan a productive day. Whether you want to write it down so it is with you wherever you go or use an online application, like Do It (Tomorrow), outlining your day will help you to be more productive. Additionally, by having each task laid out in front of you, it will be easier to go straight from one task to another without getting distracted between and losing precious work time.

If you’re feeling less productive at work, the first thing to ask yourself is “what changed?” Did your job take a turn towards something that doesn’t interest you?  Try to focus your to-do list on aspects of your work that do. Are you feeling burnt out? Try getting more sleep and changing your diet. Or are you spending too much time on social media? Try setting boundaries for yourself or using a social media website blocker.

Naturally, your productivity will ebb and flow throughout the year. This is especially true around seasonal changes, but that doesn’t mean it has to stick. If you’re finding yourself easily distracted and less productive, the first step is to acknowledge it and the second step is to be aware of it moving forward. Then you’ll be able to find the best ways for you to stay productive at work and avoid distractions.

How Business Practices in Costa Rica Differ from Those in the United States

business practices in costa ricaBusiness, like language, varies from country to country across the world. From common practices to appropriate communication techniques, there are a lot of nuances to take into consideration when working with someone from another area. In some countries, like Japan, silence is valued over constant conversation. In others, like Germany, punctuality is preferred over flexibility. While some differences are vast, others are minor. When it comes to how business practices in Costa Rica differ from those in the United States, the differences are vast.

Costa Rica could not be much more different than the United State. From the landscape to the climate, there aren’t many similarities to be found between the two. However, both countries have growing populations with even faster-growing interests in web-based work and software development. Because of this mutual interest, Costa Rica is quickly becoming a go-to for U.S.-based companies needing nearshore development. Due to this growing interest centered around international business, it is important to understand business practices in Costa Rica and proper business etiquette.

7 Important Business Practices to Remember When Working with Costa Ricans

1. Appointments Are Always Flexible

Costa Ricans are not known for being the strictest of people when it comes to punctuality. Due to their more relaxed approach to time management, business appointments do not always start right on time. In fact, some websites who cover business practices in Costa Rica recommend bringing a book to your next meeting in case you have to wait for an extended amount of time. Due to this approach, business meetings often last longer than scheduled.

2. Consistent Reminders of Meetings Are Necessary

This differentiation between Costa Ricans and Americans stems from the Costa Rican pura vida lifestyle and their flexibility with time. Due to their busy lifestyles, Costa Rican business partners need constant reminders of pre-scheduled meetings. It is recommended to send appointment reminders a week before the meeting then two days prior to the meeting, with a final reminder going out the day of.

3. Put An Emphasis on Small Talk

Most differences between how business is done in the United States and Costa Rica stem from their pura vida lifestyle. While businesspeople in the United States often get straight to the point, Costa Ricans like to take their time. It’s important to emphasize small talk during business meetings with Costa Ricans. Speaking on topics like the weather, general news, or the latest sports scores are completely acceptable and welcome.

4. Networking is Highly Important

When compared to the United States, the population of Costa Rica is small. With only 5 million people in the country, networking plays a huge role in business growth. It’s important to get out there and discuss current business ventures and possible future business endeavors with the community. The small, tight-knit community can open up partnerships and opportunities with fellow businesspeople that may have gone unnoticed without networking. Due to the closeness of the Costa Rican community, and the importance of networking, it is crucial that you keep your comments respectful and your intentions honest.

5. Business Attire is Still Preferred in Professional Settings

Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches and lush jungles may lead you to think that casual attire is acceptable throughout the country; however, the opposite is true in a business setting. Despite their laid back lifestyles, Costa Ricans still hold looking professional to high regard. Men are often found in dress pants paired with long sleeve shirts. Most opt for a jacket over a tie, unlike businessmen in the United States. Women’s wardrobe choices vary from business suits to more fanciful dresses, with plenty of accessories, depending on the event.

6. Titles Are Very Important To Costa Ricans

Titles are very important to Costa Ricans, especially those that hold professional or political titles. While professional titles are important to businesspeople in the United States, too, the titles of Costa Ricans differ greatly. Costa Rican men use both their father’s and mother’s names in correspondence, but only use their father’s names when introducing themselves. While businesspeople in the United States often have one surname and are fine with being called by their first name, in Costa Rica one must be invited to refer to the other by their first name. It is even seen as rude to call a Costa Rican by their first name without being invited to do so.

7. Negotiations Will Take Time

Business decisions are expected to take longer in Costa Rica than they are in the United States. This is because business decisions are made between all involved parties within the business which means there is a lot of bureaucracy to navigate. Additionally, because of the close community of networkers, business decisions and negotiations are often made over dinner, in a more relaxed environment, which can stretch out the process.

While Costa Rica is not on the other side of the world, business culture in Costa Rica is quite different when compared to the United States. With the more relaxed approach to time management and decision making, Costa Ricans do business at a slower pace. The close-knit community throughout the country means that there is a personal level to the business whereas there is often a strict line between business and personal life in the United States. Despite the differences, partnerships between businesses in the United States and Costa Rica continue to thrive in web-based work and software development.

At Number8, we connect businesses in the United States looking for development work with nearshore developers based in Costa Rica. We focus on assisting companies with improving their internal IT processes to ensure smoother business for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about what we do at Number8, give us a call at (502) 890-7665 today!

Tips on Managing Remote Workers

While it’s ideal in terms of a project’s completion to have a big team working simultaneously around the world, the reality of doing so can make managing a project and a team that much harder.

Here are a few tips to effectively managing a remote workforce and making sure everyone is on the same page.

1. Have clear expectations and instructions.

If you’re not careful, miscommunications can arise quite often in the world of telecommuting. When it comes to assigning tasks it can be most beneficial to first explain the overarching objective of the project and then outline how you wish them to fulfill their responsibilities, and by what date. This can help cut down on timely revisions. Additionally, don’t be afraid to offer constructive criticism. Honest feedback is essential in order for a team member to reach his or her goals and continue to grow in their abilities. 

2. Be aware of the time difference.

While it’s great to have a team that works while you can’t, working with a staff in a different time zone means you have to be patient when it’s their turn to have time off. It’s up to you to walk the line between keeping them accountable by monitoring their use of time, and being realistic when it comes to setting deadlines or waiting for a response to an inquiry. Consider making a schedule everyone has access to so the whole team knows when they can and cannot reach each other, and implement a system for reporting what tasks were done when.

3. Be inclusive and offer incentives.

It’s just as important that your remote staff feels appreciated and in the loop as your onsite staff does. Rewarding them for going the extra mile and getting their opinion every once in a while will ensure that they are as invested in the outcome of the project as you are no matter how far away they are.

4. Keep a standard of professionalism.

Communicating online in today’s world has become increasingly relaxed. However, it’s still worthwhile to communicate with your remote staff in a way that shows leadership and respect. This is business after all and your employees will be less likely to slack off if they are held to a higher standard of conducting it.

At Number 8, we help companies connect with qualified remote employees to help with software development. We also focus on helping companies improve their internal IT processes. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page here!

Unexpectedly Losing a Key Team Member- How to Keep Things Moving Along

It happens to the best of us. Things go wrong in business, sometime the best employees quit, and it can be hard for any team to move on.

Preparing for the loss of a leader is good practice to ensure that things get back up and running as smoothly as as possible, as soon as possible, should such a situation befall your company. Here’s how to handle the unexpected exit of a key employee, and minimize any disruption to the day to day operations.

1. Decide privately who is going to fill what role before breaking the news to the rest of the team.

Take the time to fully evaluate the company’s needs and explore all the options available. Whether you decide to promote internally or take the time to find an externally qualified candidate, having a clear direction and temporary solution in place will help prevent a drop in morale and overall productivity.

2. Tell everyone at the same time so they all receive the same information.

Clear communication is necessary in order to avoid inaccuracies and gossip from spreading around the office and instill a sense of leadership.

3. Remain positive and grateful for the lost team member’s contribution.

While everyone is essentially replaceable, you want your remaining team members to feel valued and supported professionally as well as personally. Exhibiting excitement for the lost employee’s success, even if it’s not with you, not only prevents future turnover, it leaves the door open for opportunities yet to come.

4. Conduct an exit interview.

Even though they are leaving, it’s important to find out why. This is a great moment for constructive criticism. Ask them how they would describe the culture as an employee, and what changes they would make if they could, etc. Gaining such insight allows for your team and company to improve and continue to keep employees that are integral assets.

Lastly, be prepared to offer support to your team as roles change, or take on more yourself to make up for the gap during this transition. Doing so will be key in succeeding with as well as finishing current projects.

At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!

5 Benefits of Stakeholder Interviews

There’s no denying it, for developers and project managers alike, stakeholders can have a somewhat looming presence throughout the duration of a project. It’s only natural considering they are often deeply invested in the project’s outcome and can even greatly influence the development of it. However, simply taking the time early on to interview those who have a stake in the outcome of the project can have numerous benefits. Here are 5 reasons why you should carve out some time in the planning stages of your next project and chat with your stakeholders.

1. Craft a Cohesive Vision

Often there are a lot of key players involved in any given project. What better opportunity than the early stages to come to a common consensus on execution? Chances are there may be more than one stakeholder, so sitting down with each one and shedding light on their own unique perspective can help your team anticipate how they will each influence the process and enable you to drive alignment right from the start. 

2. Set the Right Goals & Priorities

Consider this part of the research stage. Stakeholders can provide much needed context for what the success of a project will look like as they are part of the user audience. Therefore, inquiring about each stakeholder’s goals, agenda, and purpose will provide immeasurable insight in terms of delivering a satisfactory end product.

3. It Saves Time & Money

When you don’t have to rely on assumptions, you save your team from having to do time-consuming and costly rework. Having a conversation with stakeholders at the beginning, is proactive and will help to establish a realistic project plan and scope. 

4. Collaboration

Collaboration and communication is just good business. Having a rapport with your project’s stakeholders builds trust and credibility. The relationship with stakeholders should be viewed as more of a partnership in which each side feels validated and helps drive the project forward.

5. Proactive Problem Solving

Stakeholders are a valuable asset to any project not only through their monetary support, but their ability to voice concerns and identify challenges. Interviewing them from the start is a great way to see the constraints your team may be facing and bring things to the surface now rather than later. Structure the development process like a walk through, and allow them to aid in the decision making process. 

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

6 Reasons Why Agile Software Development Will Remain Relevant for the Foreseeable Future

Every development methodology has its pros and cons. Depending on the size and culture of a company, the structure and plan best used to oversee the process of developing a system can vary. However, it seems that as of late, the Agile Methodology is winning out as the best way of managing a both a company and software development team’s resources. 

Here are 6 reasons why Agile software development will continue to remain relevant, perhaps even as a management approach within other industries.

  1. It’s Collaborative

    The Agile method runs around daily meetings or “scrums” that cultivate accountability and teamwork. During any given scrum, each team member shares their accomplishments from the last work day, announces what they are currently working on, and mentions any possible impediments to progress for the team to help them problem solve. These meetings keep everyone on schedule, and create a cohesive atmosphere where each person is able to work cross-functionally and continuously learn from one another.  

  2. It Offers Flexibility 

    Setbacks are common when it comes to software development. The Agile methodology’s time frame offers flexibility in that it builds in time for future corrections. By embracing the ideology from the start that not everything is going to go to plan, Agile prevents errors from halting a development project by making time for them. 

  3. It Promotes Efficiency 

    With this flexibility comes a sense of urgency because of the level of communication that exists within Agile. Problems are tended to efficiency because of the cyclical like feedback and level of interaction between all team members. The speed at which corrections are made is key in that they save time and resources; allowing a company to stay within budget.  

  4. It’s Adaptive

    As it’s adaptive in nature, Agile welcomes changes in requirements and feedback. This way of thinking is value adding as it encourages innovation and risk taking at every stage of the process. 

  5. It Tests for Quality

    The focus of agile is test driven. Software is developed in a way that continuously tests for quality. Problems are identified early on in order to achieve the best possible end product.  

  6. It Offers Transparency

    Agile is inherently transparent. Therefore, stakeholders and product owners can ensure a proper return on their investment. Additionally, the customer, developer and project manager remain on the same page and achieve a desired level of communication. 

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

 

Meetings At Work – 4 Reasons Why They Are Useful

When it comes to meetings at work, they can either be really informative or drag on past the point of productivity. For those in the IT world who have embraced the Agile methodology, meetings are a daily occurrence called “scrums.” Development teams lead these gatherings to regroup and give status reports concerning their specific projects. Additionally, even when working with remote workers, it can prove beneficial to touch base with them face to face via a video conference, as things can be misconstrued in other formats like email and chat. 

No matter what industry you’re in though, meetings are an essential part of business. In fact, if done right, they can propel a company toward success. 

Just in case you’re not sold, here are 4 reasons why meetings are useful in the workplace: 

The Power of Brainstorming 

Sometimes it takes meeting with your team to get a new perspective on a project or problem. Collaborating collectively allows for new ideas to be shared in a safe and confidential space. Innovation is best nurtured when everyone feels they are heard and have been given the opportunity to contribute.  

Providing Information 

Meetings are perhaps most often used for providing information and dispersing tasks. If structured properly, they don’t have to be the drudge most employees have come to know and fear. These kinds of meetings work best if there is a clear agenda and a leader who is not afraid to interrupt and push forward. To some extent, everyone should be given the opportunity to speak. This is a great time to discuss priorities, air grievances, and gather help from those less bogged down with assignments. Providing information in a meeting is constructive in that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

Strategic Planning 

Usually a company participates in annual strategic planning to set the course and pace for the upcoming year. Planning strategically can be helpful in setting goals and motivating your team to seek action based results. Doing so can also ensure everyone is kept accountable throughout the year. Additionally, meeting within this context gives leadership the opportunity to recognize potential in members who may be interested in taking on more responsibility or growing their role within the business. 

Re-centering

Without meeting from time to time, a company’s policies have a way of falling through the cracks. Convening from time to time just to give everyone feedback and have a general review of the proper procedures can be immensely helpful in keeping a growing business on track. Not to mention it helps to rustle everyone up and out of their respective nooks and show some appreciation for a job well done. 

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.