How To Create A Positive Remote Work Culture

August 6, 2020 / in Remote Workers, / by Number8

In these times of uncertainty, many teams and companies have gone remote. Because of this, many people are making big transitions. Going from working in an office, which is typically a controlled environment focused mainly on work, to working from home, where there can be many distractions and less support from coworkers, presents unique challenges. However, there are simple ways to create a remote work culture that supports coworkers and is conducive to productivity. When working with others remotely, there is a heightened need for communication and trust. In order to build a remote work culture that includes both of those things, there are certain measures that many remote workers find useful. In this article, we will look at some ways in which you can create a positive remote work culture for you and your team.

5 Things You Can Do To Make Remote Work Culture Better

Whether you are a business owner, manager or team lead, you likely already know the important role a positive work culture has on the ways employees and clients perceive you and your company. While it may sound overly simplistic, happy employees and happy customers are often at the heart of any successful business. Creating a positive work culture at the office during face to face interaction may present different challenges and opportunities than the current remote work environment. Follow along for five ways in which you can build a positive remote work culture for yourself and your team.

1. Communicate the goals and mission of your team clearly

When a team is working remotely, especially if this is a newer development, listing out your short-term and long-term goals, as well as clearly going over the mission of the team is very important. This gives everyone a sense of being on the same page and allows everyone to understand exactly where they are headed. Developing purpose and maintaining a sense of order are more important than anything in these uncertain times.

2. Keep an open line of communication

Being available and openly communicating with your team makes all the difference. Whether it be an email thread or a group text message, or even daily or weekly Zoom calls, being there and discussing matters at hand is important. It will not only keep productivity levels up, but it will also encourage your team to come together and work as one.

3. Establish a schedule that works for everyone

Whether your remote team is all working in the same city or from different parts of the world, having a set schedule that works for everyone is crucial. This shows your team that everyone matters and they are equally involved. Now, it may be a bit difficult to do, but even if everyone has different schedules, try to compromise week by week. Make sure everyone feels that their time has value.

4. Set clear expectations and lead by example

Working remotely has its perks, like a more flexible schedule. But make sure that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them and then lead by example. Keep up your end of the deal and follow through on your promises.

5. Make sure to leave some time for fun

Celebrate victories with a virtual cocktail party or host a virtual game day. Something that shows your team that you care and you want them to enjoy their work. Building a positive remote work culture is crucial for the success of any company. Your team must feel unified, even from afar. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end, this will be relevant. Practices for remote team building will likely continue to be of great interest to many businesses. We are an information technology company with years of experience. We have helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Safely Reopening the Office: James Ludwig’s TED Talk Insights

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the structure of businesses all over the world. Companies have scrambled to create temporary fixes, from work-from-home options to layoffs to total shutdowns. With no end in sight, uncertainty pervades the workplace. Recorded June 16th, this new TED talk could not be more relevant. James Ludwig, vice president of global design and product engineering at the office supply company Steelcase, engages in conversation with TED curator Chee Pearlman about the long term future of organizations. Here are some notable insights into the talk and James' perspective on the future and potential reopening.

3 Insights About The Workplace Illuminated By The COVID-19 Pandemic

1. This is a massive technological shift and generation-defining moment

Ludwig proposes the idea that there is “now, the near, and the far” for companies. We are only just beginning to understand and approach the “now”, which is to remain safe within the pandemic. The near is how companies will return to the physical workplace, if ever. The far, long-lasting impacts of this crisis are not yet conceptualized. Ludwig refers to this time as an “experiment” for companies, and in a sense, it is. It is a test of resiliency at all levels, from employees to CEOs. But, it is also an opportunity for change.

2. People need to physically collaborate and connect to sustain most workplaces

Ludwig makes the claim that it’s simply unsustainable for most companies to stay remote forever. He emphasizes that being together as a team shapes the culture of brands. Competitive advantage is formed through this culture, through interpersonal connection and cultivation. For many businesses, Zoom meetings and emails can’t recreate the ecosystem of a good team. Connecting as individuals, pushing each other and learning from each other, sharing food and humor, growing and adapting together—this is what makes a good workplace.

3. Now is the time to see what is truly essential for offices when reopening

Taking a step away from the cookie-cutter workplace allows the opportunity for tremendous positive change. We can delve into individual-focused design that supports employee wellbeing both physically and mentally. Companies have the chance to be creative and strip away redundancies that hinder productivity and safety. Additionally, how businesses respond to future crises is contingent on how workplaces are shaped right now. To follow up with this point, Ludwig lays out what is essential to the generations of now and the future. He sees a technologically-rich, human-centric environment with strong values that connect individuals as key. Ludwig claims that after the pandemic is over, people will continue to lean into what is authentic and fulfilling in the workplace. After spending months in lockdown working from your couch, you get a better grasp of what is really necessary to be productive and what you sincerely miss about your office. A high-walled cubicle or private office may now seem constrictive. So, looking for the insights during this unusual time seems to be a good strategy for organizations. While quarantines and forced remote work scenarios have challenged many, this time also presents unique learning opportunities.

Questions to Consider

Here are just a few questions to think about as you work to gain greater insight into the impact COVID-19 has had on you and your work. What redundancies can you identify in your work processes that may slow down productivity? Also, are there things you miss about working in an office environment that you previously took for granted? What components of your work flow are most important to keep you productive, organized and happy? Are there long term changes would you like to see implemented at your company or on your team, that were inspired by this pandemic? Plus, what does a thriving office culture look like after reopening? Asking these questions will help ensure a strong organization, and safe reopening if and when the time is right. We are an information technology company with years of experience. We have helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Common Misconceptions About Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation has become popular in recent years. Being a new concept, there are certain things that people don’t understand about it. Simply put, staff augmentation is a way that a company fills the gaps between the skills they possess and those that they lack to complete a certain project by means of hiring temporary help. Companies often try to just redistribute workload to cover the area that is missing. However, by doing this, they are only taking away from the regular tasks they have and often won't get the end results that they want from the new project.

Answers to 4 Common Misconceptions about Staff Augmentation

Why do companies choose to flounder instead of looking for outside help through staff augmentation? Many people still have misconceptions and don’t exactly understand the idea, or they are simply unaware of the concept entirely. Continue reading to hear about the truth behind these misconceptions.

“It is a waste of money or more expensive than permanent employment.”

Many employers believe that since augmented staff is often paid by the hour rather than salary, it comes out to be more expensive. Some also believe that it does not save the company any money to contract someone just for one project. Looking at the comparison of the augmented staff’s hourly pay compared to the salary of permanent employees can be deceiving because this does not look at the whole picture. In reality, hiring augmented staff can help bypass in-house costs that it would take to search for, hire, and train a new member of the team. “There is too much risk and no long-term benefits.” Teams sometimes think hiring augmented staff is risky. They may be hesitant to relinquish power over certain projects. Or, they might not believe that someone working remotely will follow through on their promises. They may even be worried about work quality. However, staff augmentation teams are specifically trained to acclimate to different environments. This includes effectively working with varied teams and types of people. After all, this is their job—to work on one project and then move to another company or team. They are used to adapting and achieving goals within deadlines.

“Communicating and managing an augmented staff is too difficult.”

Because augmented staff often works remotely, many people believe that communication and management is more difficult. However, if you can keep open communication by way of email, phone calls, or virtual meetings, everything will be fine. Augmented staff expects to be very responsive and communicative, looking for opportunities to align with teams and increase efficiencies and productivity.

“Technical support is just as constructive.”

While technical support can be helpful, staff augmentation fulfills a different role. Staff augmentation actually brings in another person and skillset to help with a project. In contrast, technical support aids people already on the team with technical issues. Staff augmentation can provide benefits to many different types of businesses and teams. Companies can approach projects in a more dynamic and successful manner. They can meet more aggressive deadlines and objectives. Really, the questioning of staff augmentation isn’t about whether or not it is a good idea. It's about who provides the best services for the specific skillsets you are seeking. Not all staff augmentation services are equal, though. You have to find experienced staff augmentation companies with successful track records in a given sector. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Tools for Transitioning to a Remote Workspace

In recent months, many companies have moved from the office to working from home. Working remotely can be great, but it’s important to be aware of how to create a remote workspace conducive to productivity. When we work from home we have many distractions that weren’t present in the office. Distractions from your day to day home life may impact your workday, which can make it a bit difficult to concentrate on everything you need to get done. When working remotely, there are several things to take into consideration. One is the space in which you are working. While you may not put much thought into it, this is something that can truly make or break your work from home experience. Some people believe that working remotely means that you can work from anywhere in the house such as the kitchen table or even your living room couch. However tempting that may be, you are more than likely not going to get as much work done on your sofa as you would in a well thought-out office space.

5 Tips To Make Your Home Work Space As Productive As Possible

Do you need to create a home work environment that is as conducive to work as possible so that you can get all of your work done easily and in a timely fashion? Follow along for some tips and tools that you can use when transitioning to a remote workspace as an office.

1. Keep your remote workspace clean and free of clutter

This is an important tip because the less clutter there is in your workspace, the less distraction. Also, many people find it much easier to concentrate when they are working in a clean area. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Cluttered spaces have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep”. Given this, you can easily imagine how having a cluttered workspace would affect your productivity.

2. Select tools that will help you feel comfortable

Whether it is a nice chair to sit in while you work, or even a standing desk, ensuring that you are comfortable in your remote workspace is vital for productivity. Furthermore, your space should be efficient. Have everything you need close to you so that you do not have to constantly get up and look for the stapler or a pen. You should have a comfortable place to sit (or stand). Additionally, your laptop should be eye level so that you are not hunched over all day. This will make for a much more enjoyable work day.

3. Make sure you choose a quiet remote workspace with enough light

When working from home, especially if you live with family or other people, there can be many distractions. Resist the urge to shut yourself in a closet—your workspace should be comfortable and have enough light so that you do not strain your eyes while working. If you have a spare room that you can equip with a desk, or even put a desk in your bedroom and shut the door during your workday, then you are more likely to get things done. Having people in and out all day can be quite a distraction, so for your work’s sake, keep it quiet.

4. Establish clear boundaries with family and friends

Just because you are at home does not mean that you are always going to be easily accessible if you are trying to work from home. It is important that you communicate clearly to loved ones, family and friends, about your needs and expectations while trying to work from home. Ongoing interruptions can really cost you a lot of time and lead to frustration. Finding ways to limit these distractions with a plan and forthright communication is at the heart of a successful remote workspace.

5. Create a beginning and an end to your work day

Depending on the type of work that you do, it is possible to experience a work from home environment as never-ending. You can fall into a rut of always being “on call” and never really feel like you are at home or at work fully. Given this, it makes sense to establish a beginning and an end to your work day, with clear rituals that help you make the transition. Sometimes simple things like a cup of coffee, or organizing your desk, can help get you ready for to begin or to wrap up a work day. When transitioning from the office to home, it can be quite a big change. However, many tips and tools like the ones shared above can help make the experience positive and productive. There is not one right way to create a home environment that is conducive to work. Try various approaches to find the right one for your situation and personal effectiveness. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Do’s and Don’ts for Virtual Meetings

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted every business in the world in one way or another other. While people practice social distancing, many businesses are encouraging or even making work-from-home mandatory for their employees. This has led to an exponential rise in the use of various digital systems and tools, including video conferencing for virtual meetings.

It may seem convenient to jump out of bed at 8:50a.m., and after hurriedly washing your face and brushing your hair, get onto that virtual meeting scheduled at 9:00a.m, However, you should refrain from doing so. Even if you are experienced with online meetings, giving yourself ample prep time to set up and log on sets you up for a much more productive meeting experience.

As a company that has engaged in virtual meetings for years, Number8 has picked up a few things along the way. Follow along for some helpful tips on how to get the most out of virtual meetings.

12 Tips Every Business Professional Should Know

While preparation for a virtual meeting may vary depending on the context, here are some basic tips that can help you get the most out of the experience.

Do’s

  1. Test your microphone before the virtual meeting.

    You can simply conference with one of your colleagues to make sure it's working as it should. Low volume and poor audio clarity can impact communications, especially if you are discussing something crucial. Speak clearly and slowly when you are on the call so that none of the participants miss anything you say.

  2. Be aware of the video settings on your computer.

    Check if you have muted the microphone before delivering a monologue that no attendee will hear.

  3. Be prepared to share your screen.

    While this may be unlikely, if screen sharing is a possibility, you should make sure you are prepared. Shut down or hide other programs like email and unrelated browser tabs, and ensure your computer monitor is ready for sharing.

  4. Try to be in a space with the best internet connection possible.

    Virtual meetings are sometimes full of delays and frozen screens. It is advisable to do what you can to limit the type of distraction this creates. Set up your computer in the best location for connectivity, and limit your movement while on the call, as this can interfere with the quality of your connection.

  5. Wear appropriate attire.

    While you aren’t necessarily expected to wear regular formal office attire while attending virtual meetings, you should always wear professional and clean clothing.

  6. Make sure that your room is appropriately illuminated.

    It can be extremely disconcerting to speak with someone that sits in a dark and poorly lit location. It's best to sit in a place with side lighting. Consider positioning yourself near an open window or switch on an overhead light to brighten up the space.

  7. If you are sitting next to any décor or wall-art, make sure it’s work-appropriate.

    The surroundings should be clean and not cluttered or messy, even if you live alone. If you are sitting at your desk, ensure it isn't covered with trash, dishes, or coffee mugs.

  8. When you are in a group call without any video, introduce yourself before you begin talking.

    Most programs send notifications as to who is talking, but conference line numbers do not. Therefore, it’s advisable to take the extra time to introduce yourself, depending on who is in the meeting and how well the participants know you and the sound of your voice.

  9. Whenever you are talking, look straight into the camera rather than looking at yourself talking on your computer screen.

    It helps others on the video call feel like you're fully present and engaged.

Don’t

  1. Forget to mute your microphone each time you’re not speaking.

    Follow this even if you are alone in the room. Background noises can be an annoyance and distraction, and impact the meeting’s flow.

  2. Position the camera too high or low, or hook it onto a different monitor.

    Strange camera angles can be unflattering and distracting during video conference calls. Set the camera at eye level and on your monitor before getting onto the call.

  3. Read or check emails or read articles when on a video call.

    Do not do any other work while on the call. The rest of the participants can easily tell if you are distracted, and that is disrespectful and unprofessional.

Keeping these helpful tips in mind is an essential part of maintaining professionalism when you are participating in virtual meetings. You should plan ahead as much as you can. There are always unexpected interruptions that can challenge the quality of any meeting.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

How To Increase Your Tech Team’s Off-Site Productivity

Many IT companies have started to allow employees to telecommute on a part-time or full-time basis. People can work from home, cafes, or even parks instead of commuting to work every day. While this has several advantages, it can also hamper a team’s productivity if it isn’t handled correctly. There are several ways to help teams be more productive when they are working off-site. Here are some tips that can help:

1. Invest in Technology

Technological challenges can hamper a team’s productivity and make working from off-site locations a frustrating experience. It is important to make things easier for employees by providing them with tools to keep things organized. Use efficient conferencing or messaging applications like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts to ensure everyone can communicate without interruptions. Additionally, there are several project management and tracking applications available online, including Asana, Airtable, Trello and Todoist. These tools can help managers, teams, and temporary staff remain connected.

2. Implement Regular Check-Ins

Check-in with your team on a regular basis to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This doesn't have to be a long or drawn-out process, but it can help people remain connected with team members. It can also help people switch to work-mode when they are at home and navigating household distractions. A simple call or a video conference that discusses daily priorities, tasks, goals, and targets will help people start on the right track. It is easier to maintain productivity when team members have a clear agenda at the start of the day.

3. Track Work

Several applications allow managers to track just how much time employees spend working on a particular project. These applications give a very board view of an employee's working routine and help managers identify people who are falling back. For example, some employees work better during evenings or nights and may put in more hours during this time than during regular office time. If you track work, it is easy to see such a pattern and adjust their schedule accordingly. Off-site work can be very flexible and convenient if handled correctly.

4. Provide Emotional Support

Employees that work remotely are prone to occasional feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially if they don't maintain a proper work-life balance. That can lead to depression, burn-out, and a serious dip in productivity. Managers must help remote teams remain connected and offer some form of emotional support. In-office workers socialize, engage in conversations over coffee, joke around when there's no work to be done, and blow off steam. This helps them maintain emotional equilibrium and stay productive. Home, libraries and coffee shops don't offer this kind of social stimulation, which can take its toll over time. Encourage casual conversations and schedule video conferences dedicated solely for team members to reconnect with their coworkers.

5. Reward Good Work

Reward good work with positive feedback and praise. People working remotely can’t feel the general air of triumph that most on-site teams feel when a project is completed. That’s why it is important to reward good work with verbal praise regularly as it helps team members feel accomplished. A simple text or email with a few encouraging words about meeting targets and completing tasks on schedule can help.

6. Encourage Proper Work-Life Balance

Keep an eye on how much time team members spend on work. It is easy for work to take over life if there’s no separation between the job and personal life. It is important to establish a good work/life separation early on. Make sure your team works for a specific number of hours every day and limit all communications for specific times. Don’t call or message after hours unless there’s an emergency.

Teams that strike the right balance between flexibility and maintaining a proper schedule are most successful at off-site work scenarios, while maintaining high levels of productivity.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

The Future of Remote Work in a Post-Pandemic World

During the current coronavirus pandemic, businesses across the world have had to adapt in myriad ways as in-person services and office spaces have been disrupted. Some businesses have not found ways to adapt and remain closed, while others have been able to change on the fly and continue to operate. Remote work has become a new norm for many. But what does all of this mean for the future? In a post-pandemic world, will remote work infrastructure need to be available indefinitely to prepare for future disease spread? Will some workers simply stay remote?  Let’s take a look at the future of remote work. 

The Future of Remote Work in a Post-Pandemic World

Initial successes and issues during the pandemic

As mentioned, some businesses were much more prepared for adapting to remote work than others. Many tech companies that already had significant numbers of remote workers and work from home policies have found it easy to go remote with office teams. However, industries like manufacturing, where in-person work is essential, have not been able to take the same approach. Many have had to adapt on-site operations to meet social distancing guidelines. Further, many other factors like access to computers at home, employee tech proficiency, company culture, and unaddressed security risks for remote workers have prevented some companies from fully adapting, regardless of industry. 

Where remote work may become essential

There are some industries where cultivating remote work in our newly changed world may be a key to survival and growth. Educational institutions have had to adapt to online learning and working quickly. Many universities have switched to online courses for their current semesters, and some may be moving towards doing the same in the fall of 2020. With potential future outbreaks following the current situation, it’s very possible that remote working and learning may become a new norm at least some of the time for universities.  Healthcare is another industry where remote adaptation has been essential for some. For those healthcare providers deemed non-essential during the pandemic, telehealth has become a lifeline to an otherwise inaccessible portion of their patient bases. Therapists, primary care physicians, dentists, and others have launched remote care options to continue treating and advising patients. During continued shifts in disease spread in the future, this may be the key to making non-emergency care possible.

Disparities in access to remote work

As alluded to before, access is a key part of making remote work systemically possible. Many employees do not currently have the equipment needed to work from home. They may not have the training or familiarity to efficiently work remotely either. Companies that can work to address these disparities may be able to make remote work accessible to more employees.  Additionally, remote work itself is accessible at different levels to different groups of people depending on their industry. While information workers are much more likely to be able to work remotely, service industry workers have a much harder time given the structures of job duties. Macrosocial disparities also impact who gets access to remote work. When you add in just the layers of educational attainment and class, the disparities in the data grow even more. Many workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher have the option to work from home. Those with less educational attainment have the option at a much lower rate. Higher wage white collar jobs often tend to skew towards remote accessibility too. High wage employers are often more likely to offer equipment and training to make it possible.  As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Distributed Teams: What You Need to Know

Distributed teams have been commonplace in many industries for years. With the recent uncertainties faced by companies in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, remote work has become a necessary adaptation for even more organizations. As many teams adapt to a distributed model in the short term, it’s helpful to consider some of the pluses and minuses involved. Fortunately, there's a lot to learn from teams do distributed work. Here’s what you need to know about distributed teams.  

What is a Distributed team?

A distributed team is a team that works together remotely across any distance. Unlike in traditional office models, they do not share physical office space. People in a distributed team can be located anywhere- they may be in the same city, or all over the world. 

Challenges

One of the most challenging parts about distributed teams is relationship cultivation. Without regular and spontaneous physical interaction like in an office space, it can be hard to develop and maintain rapport as a team. This can have a negative impact on spur of the moment clarifying questions, feedback, and general information sharing. One way to mitigate this is to schedule regular check-ins through a communication channel. A daily or weekly meeting can really help curb unnecessary delays in communication or misunderstandings.   Another challenge for distributed teams is related to boundaries. When people are working remotely, there is no shared sense of physical space and time. As such, it can be difficult to navigate expectations of when work should occur, where it is occurring, and the like. It can be especially tough to set boundaries between home life and work life for teams, especially if they are working at home. Further, if team members are working across time zones, work overlap can vary drastically.  It’s important for everyone to discuss time boundaries for working and communication. The relative degree of flexibility or rigidity required for different teams and team members should be explicitly defined up front. When everyone has a clear sense of their role, they can better adapt to challenges as they arise. 

Benefits

Despite the challenges, there are a few notable benefits of distributed teams. For one, if the team is distributed over time zones, around-the-clock work may be reasonable. If planned for properly, this can help lead to extremely efficient work timelines.  Remote work also allows a large degree of flexibility for teams. Team members may be able to easily work at times they normally wouldn’t in the office. This can lead to both high productivity and the ability to meet challenges on the fly. With the right balance of team overlap and individual flexibility, a team can truly thrive when distributed.   As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to build distributed teams. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

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