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.

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.

3 Tips For Conducting Remote Job Interviews

Conducting a remote interview can require a bit of an adjustment if you haven’t done one before. There are a few guidelines you can follow that will help you streamline the process and get the most out of your interview. Here are 3 tips for conducting a remote job interview.

Choose the Right Technical Setup

One key part of a successful remote job interview is selecting optimal communication and collaboration channels. It’s important to choose the right setup based on what you want out of the job interview. For example, if you want a face-to-face mode of communication along with the ability to look at specific elements of websites and documents in real time, you might use a tool like Zoom to incorporate video chatting and screen sharing. You would have a much less efficient interview if you tried to coordinate the same activities by phone. Overcomplicating your interview should be avoided as well. Too many tools that aren’t being used will only cause confusion and create barriers to getting to know job candidates. Overall, you should pick the tools that will best align with your goals for the interview. 

Establish Expectations and Give Directions Ahead of Time

The best way to allow job candidates shine is to give them clear expectations before interviews. This is especially important with remote interviews, where technical setups can add layers of complications. Some of these expectations can be purely practical. You might want to ask candidates to position themselves in a quiet space so you can hear them clearly. Or, if there are multiple steps involved with getting into a virtual meeting space (like in Skype or Zoom), you may want to give detailed instructions for these steps and ask candidates to go through them prior to the interview. This can help avoid issues and delays due to platform updates, device incompatibility, and lack of familiarity with tools. If you want candidates to conduct any work before the interview as part of the process, these same ideas apply. Make sure you give instructions on preferred file types and how to upload or share documents before the interview. 

Prepare for Multiple People in an Interview

If you are conducting an interview with multiple people at the same time, either with your team members or multiple interviewees, this is all even more important to get right. The more people who are involved with the interview, the greater chance there will be a technical difficulty that could hinder progress. It can be helpful to establish a point person on your team to handle any setup and technical difficulties that may arise. Provide their contact information to candidates to help streamline communication. They can also be the go-to person for everyone internally. If you take the time to go through these steps, your interview will be well on its way to success!  As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to hire remote workers. 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.  

What They Don’t Teach You About Project Management

March 12, 2020 / in Project Management, / by Number8

Project managers juggle several tasks at the same time. They communicate with all teams, make sure everyone is reaching their targets, keep an eye on the budget, and much more. While most project managers get project management training or formal education in the field, they learn several skills on the job through hands-on experience. Here’s a brief look at some of the skills you learn on the job as a project manager.

Project Management Skills, Explained

Delegating

Project managers must learn the fine art of delegating if they want to keep a project on track. People fresh out of school or working on their first few projects find it very difficult to delegate important tasks. They don’t trust their team members or even understand their competencies enough to delegate effectively. Experienced project managers eventually learn how to delegate important tasks to people who will get things done effectively or on time. They also know how to hold people responsible and determine whether a team member deserves a second chance if they make mistakes. If a project manager doesn’t know how to delegate, they won’t be able to grow as a team leader.

Choosing the Right Project Management Team

Project managers rely on their team to get work done. They need to select people they can trust to do a job well. In most cases, project managers break work down into sections, determine what kind of skills each section needs, create an employee profile based on that, and then recruit. Most experienced project managers know that this approach, while useful, is often limiting. A more direct approach of hiring as many competent, talented, and qualified individuals for the project as possible provides more flexibility. In this approach, project managers aren’t restricted by their employee profiles and can recruit more versatile candidates with multi-disciplinary skills. These people end up bringing more to the table on a project, which has a positive impact on the results.

Communications

Most school courses place a great deal of emphasis on communication, but it is still something project managers learn on the job. Every manager develops their method of approach when it comes to communication. They learn how to express their expectations, issue reprimands without discouraging team members, and praise good work without making others feel left out. Project managers with excellent communication skills also know how to remove people from their teams if necessary. This can be quite challenging for those new to project management because firing people is never easy. Most inexperienced professionals linger over the matter for weeks, or even months without acting on it. That can slow down a project or also harm the final results.

Negotiating

Where there is a team full of competent individuals, there’s bound to be some form of conflict. People have different opinions, approaches, skill levels, and temperaments. These can clash and create conflict in a team, which ultimately affects a team’s overall productivity. Someone with good project management skills learns how to handle different personalities and negotiate between them. They know how to read a situation and diffuse an argument without looking like they’re taking sides. This is an important skill to develop as it ensures your team remains productive. Conflicts will happen regardless of how carefully you choose team members, especially in the initial stages. People who have just started working together will take some time to become comfortable and adjust to different personalities. It is a project manager’s job to ensure everything goes smoothly. Managers must also be flexible enough to handle changes in project priorities, goals, and targets. They need to come up with ways to alter their plans smoothly, add more people to the team, and ensure everything keeps moving without any significant disruption. 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.

5 Stakeholder Questions To Ask Before Starting the Software Development Process

Software development is an intricate process that requires skill, planning and team effort. There are several stakeholders involved in the project, from company executives to various departments within the company. It isn't possible to satisfy all of them completely, but you can take their concerns into account before working on the project by asking the right questions. Doing so can help you understand their priorities and plan the development process accordingly. Here's a list of 5 questions to ask before starting a software development process:

  1. What is the Product?

    Projects tend to get out of hand if you don't have a clear vision in mind. Software developers need to understand what the end product should look like before they even start planning for it. For example, does the company want an app that will help users find the best online deals? Does it want a software program for its HR department? Stakeholders can provide a list of features or ideas for the end product to make things easier for a development team. If there's any dispute about the final product, this will be the best time to resolve it. Make sure everyone is on the same page before proceeding.
  2. What is Not a Part of the Product?

    Developers can sometimes go overboard and add features or elements that aren’t necessary. That happens if they don’t know what should be excluded from the final product. For example, if a website is only delivering to the US, there’s no need to include a feature to convert prices to other currencies. In many cases, stakeholders assume their development team is going to deliver something, but the latter is unaware of it. It is essential to establish what you will and won't deliver.
  3. What is a Successful Product?

    Software programs are tools designed to achieve a specific goal or purpose. A company creates a website if they want to establish a presence online. They design an app if they want to build a robust and long-term customer base. They develop a software application to make daily processes easier. If the product fulfills these goals, it is considered successful. The end goal isn't to deliver a good product; it is to provide a product that succeeds in the market. There's a clear difference between these two goals. For example, a website can be beautiful and functional but still not provide all the services the target audience needs. Stakeholders should define what a successful product means to them at the start of the project.
  4. Do We Have a Single Point of Communication?

    This is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. The project starts with one team and one client, but eventually, a large number of people start becoming part of the process. The IT guy must approve one aspect of the design, the other should please the marketing expert, and so on. If these people start offering suggestions or requesting changes, the project can quickly get out of control. It is crucial to establish a single point of communication between stakeholders, clients, and development teams. You can maintain a smooth flow of information while keeping track of numerous requests.
  5. What are the Potential Roadblocks or Problems?

    No one likes to discuss problems before they work on a project, but you need to address it. Gather all stakeholders together and ask them about possible hurdles. Can the project run out of money? What happens if some temporary contractors don't live up to expectations? What if the client changes their mind in the middle of the project? If you know about possible hurdles, you can develop systems to counteract them. These questions will help a team start their project on a firm foundation. Don't hesitate to ask questions to stakeholders; the answers will help improve the quality of your end product.
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.  

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