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.

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.

Tips For Transitioning To An Agile Approach To Software Development

The agile software development lifecycle is often considered one of the best approaches by industry experts. Studies show that this approach ensures software development teams are 37% faster in delivering products and 16% more productive, which can benefit your company significantly.

Many software development teams follow the traditional waterfall approach, which is fairly straightforward while also being very rigid. With this approach, the design tends to happen all at once up front, with the final product being unveiled at completion.

Such an approach isn’t very suitable for modern markets, especially if you need to develop a complex, large-scale application. Follow along for some tips to help teams that are intimidated by the prospect of transitioning to an agile approach.

6 Tips To Help Your Software Team Become More Agile

1. Make Sure Everyone is Onboard

Agile relies on collaboration between different teams. it will only be successful after a comprehensive implementation involving all departments from executive and management levels to ground teams. That's why it is important to make sure everyone is on board and agrees to adopt the agile approach. Program sponsors must get management commitment in particular to ensure success. Make sure both business and IT sides of your company agree to get involved before working on the transition.

2. Train Staff

The Waterfall and V-Shaped software development approaches don’t require much formal training, but agile is different. It is a little more complex and flexible, which means training can help developers adopt it completely. A few training sessions will ensure your team is familiar with the system and knows how to use it well. It will also ensure your staff doesn’t feel confused or overwhelmed by agile’s more complex workflow. Making the transition easier for a development team ensures your end-product isn’t affected by the change.

3. Maintain Communication

Communication is an important aspect of Agile because different teams working on different phases of the product must remain on the same page. Communication is especially vital when you're transitioning from other systems like Waterfall or V-Shaped to agile.. Teams should work from the same location and report their progress on a consistent schedule to team leaders. This will help you notice any issues with adaption and clogs in the machine early on.

4. Collaboration is Important

Agile places a lot of emphasis on collaboration during software development. Teams that were traditionally isolated from one another must communicate regularly to ensure they move through all phases smoothly. That can only be possible if you encourage a collaborative atmosphere. Agile requires team members to contribute their thoughts, opinions, and ideas to the project. It encourages people from different teams to identify mistakes and share them, which helps improve the quality of the end-product.

5. Create a Plan and Road-Map

Experts recommend creating a plan and road-map for agile adoption. This ensures the process isn't as intimidating for your team. Developers transitioning from Waterfall or other methodologies are accustomed to a rigid, straightforward project structure. Agile is more flexible so creating a plan or road-map can help. This plan will change during the project if needed, but it will still provide some direction.

6. Ensure the Transition is Gradual

Shifting to the agile model abruptly will do more harm than good. A gradual transition gives your team and stakeholders some room to adjust and adapt their work habits accordingly. This also ensures team members don't develop bad habits that may hamper the quality of their work later. 

It is a good idea to bring in an experienced agile coach to guide your team and establish a foundation for the system. This ensures you have a good plan in place and the transition is as smooth as it can be.

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. I f 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.

An Overview Of Software Development Lifecycles

A software development lifecycle is a term that describes all of the tasks and activities involved in developing an application or program. A lifecycle includes everything from initial planning and consultation to final launch as well as ongoing maintenance.

There are different approaches to software development and every approach has some advantages. Many development teams choose lifecycle systems based on their benefits and their particular requirements. Here’s a brief overview of some of the different software development life cycles used today.

4 Popular Software Development Life Cycles

1. Waterfall

This is one of the most commonly used and popular software development cycles because it is so simple. It works like a waterfall, consisting of a linear sequential flow with one phase of development following the other. Developers only start to work on the next phase after the first phase is complete.

This approach to software development offers several advantages. It is easy to explain to other team members so there’s little room for miscommunication. The structured approach ensures the project remains on track more easily. All stages and activities of the project are clearly defined so all of a team’s members are on the same page. Verification at the end of every phase reduces the chances of error.

Unfortunately, this approach has several disadvantages as well. It is rigid and inflexible so developers are more likely to assume that all requirements are locked in. There’s little room for adjusting the scope or requirements of a project. The waterfall approach is much less unsuitable for large or complex development projects.

2. V-Shaped

The v-shaped model is similar to the waterfall model, with an added advantage of an early unit test phase. The model follows the Waterfall process until software plan implementation, after which it moves upward from unit testing to maintenance. Like the waterfall model, this approach is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

The biggest advantage of the v-shaped model is that it has specific deliverables at every phase. Developers create test plans early during the lifecycle, which reduces the room for error and improves flexibility.  The v-shaped model is ideal for small, straightforward development projects with clearly defined goals and expectations.

However, this model is still very inflexible and it is difficult to adjust its scope once a project has launched. It is not possible to generate early prototypes using this model and there is not a clear structure for correcting errors.

3. Spiral

The spiral model or SDM is a great solution for large-scale and complicated projects. This model combines design and prototyping systems, making it more flexible. It still uses the main elements of a waterfall approach as the foundation, assigning different sections for planning, risk assessment, prototyping, and simulations, but offers more options to move backward or forward in the project.

The SDM system has several advantages like more realistic estimates, early developer input, and better risk management.

However, this approach to software development has some disadvantages as well. It can be very expensive and time-consuming. Developers need specialized training to utilize this approach effectively and the system has limited re-usability across different kinds of projects.

4. Agile

The agile approach has become very popular because it offers maximum flexibility and is suitable for all kinds of projects. This approach requires collaboration and movement between different teams as well as phases during the development process. Developers can go back to earlier phases after learning from their mistakes to optimize an application.

This approach has several advantages like decreased development time, time to take input from the team, customers, and stakeholders, and no guesswork. You get high-quality software that fits a customer’s requirements perfectly at the end of the process.

However, agile requires special training and skill which can involve an investment of time and money.

Choosing the right development lifecycle is essential to keep a project on track and ensuring the result lives up to the original specs. A successful software development lifecycle can produce software with the highest quality and lowest cost in the shortest time.

At number8,  our measure of success is delivering working software faster. That's why when it comes to meeting a project's full potential, we believe in embracing the agile development model. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we can help any team adopt the practices, processes, and tools needed to deliver with more agility. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call 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.

How To Identify A Team Player During The Interview Process

March 19, 2020 / in IT Team Player, / by Number8

Most products and business processes require employees to work in teams. Employees need to communicate well with others, collaborate on different tasks, and interact with different kinds of personalities. That's easier said than done and often requires some innate skill. Not all professionals are team players; many can't handle working with others on high-pressure assignments or environments. If teamwork is a vital aspect of your business processes, it is crucial to hire the right individuals for it. How do you know what a team player is and how do you identify one during the interview process?

What is a Team Player?

A team player isn’t just someone who can do their work efficiently while being a part of a team. They go above and beyond to ensure their team is successful. These professionals provide helpful feedback to their fellow team members, ask relevant questions about different aspects of a project, work well with colleagues at different levels, and focus on team success over personal achievements. Identifying a team player during an interview process can be challenging. Most prospective candidates know companies value collaboration and will frame their answers accordingly. Here are some tips on how to identify a team player during an interview process: Look at Past Experiences and Collaborations The best way to identify team players is to look at their past collaborations. Ask them about different projects, teams, challenges, and other such influential factors. Ask how the candidate contributed to such projects and their team. The answer will tell a lot about their working style and ability to be a good team member. If a person dismisses other's efforts and uplifts their contributions, they may not be the right candidate. If they highlight how every member of a team contributed and how much they put in, you may have a winner.

Ask the Right Interview Questions

Focus on questions that rely on behavior and experience instead of personality and habits. Some of the most important questions to ask are:
  • Have you worked in teams?
  • Have you assumed any leadership positions?
  • How do you work with a team on a challenging project?
  • How do you handle failure or mistakes as a part of a team?
  • Are you happier working in a team or alone?
  • What does it mean to be a team player?
Answers to such questions will give you a better insight into the candidate and their ability to work in collaborative environments. Focus on their past experiences, so you have more concrete answers.

Discuss How A Person Will Handle Team Conflicts

No team is without conflict, even if you find the most level-headed employees. Handling team conflicts is an essential skill that every member must master to work successfully. Discuss how your candidate handles disputes between other members of the team. Ask them how they get into or get out of personal disagreements. A person’s ability to diffuse conflicts or step back from an argument gracefully can help them thrive in a team environment.

Can They Work With Multiple Small Teams at Once?

It's common for skilled professionals to contribute their expertise to different teams at the same time. A true player will know how to juggle all teams, different deadlines, and different priorities efficiently. You should determine how they can handle virtual groups or team members they have never met personally. Some professionals are comfortable communicating online while others struggle with it. 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 and we can get the conversation started.  

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