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

May 21, 2020 / in IT Trends, Remote Workers, / by Number8

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.

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.  

4 Powerful Tips to Improve Communication at Work

November 7, 2019 / in Job Happiness, / by number8

Communication is one of key pillars for any relationship. It could be a personal relationship, a friendship or a business relationship. People sometimes think that rules for personal communication don´t apply to a work environment but this is not true.  Every human has needs, emotions, hopes, values and dreams. And each person faces situations in their personal life that may sometimes impact job performance. Staff turnover is one of the main challenges many companies face.  While employees come and go, many are less likely to leave if they are in an environment where they feel respected, rewarded, safe and comfortable.  People tend to be happier in work environments where they are confident enough to speak to coworkers and managers about their lives – this includes work related topics and personal ones too. This is why communication is so important in the work environment, both among employees in the office and for those that work remotely. While maintaining good communication with employees who work together in the same place each day may seem straightforward, it is sometimes less obvious how to improve communication with those working off site. As an agency that specializes in connecting nearshore technical talent with U.S. companies, we’ve got some worthwhile insights into this challenge. Follow along for helpful tips to improve work communication, including communication between onshore and offshore workers.

Four Helpful Tips To Help You Improve Communication At Work

1. Employees are human beings, not numbers or metrics.

Many companies focus on growth, revenue and developing new products/services or improving existing ones. Sometimes by doing this, employees start to feel more like numbers, or pawns in a game of chess. When dealing with human resources, emotions play an important role. Employees are much less likely to make sacrifices for companies that make them feel like a cog in a wheel. It is tough to go the extra mile for a boss that doesn’t seem to take interest or care about anything but the bottom line. According to Dale Carnegie, author of the award-winning classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the main thing people care about in life is themselves. Every person wants to feel important, valued and appreciated. Henry Ford surely recognized this back in 1914 when he started paying his employees $5 a day. (This was a big salary increase.) He also reduced shifts from 9 hours a day to 8. By doing this Ford quickly solved a high staff turnover problem that his company was experiencing. This led to notable increases in production. If a company can make its employees feel important, feel that their job matters and that they are important assets for the company, they are far more likely to do the extra work needed to go from good to great, and to take care of the company as if it was their own. While a motivated employee will communicate better, it is an employer’s responsibility to make sure employees know they are free to express what is on their mind.

2. Body Language Matters.

Over 50% of the things we say are non-verbal. Given this, learning body language is an important part of developing more effective communication. If you are a manager, it is essential that you practice your body language skills so that when you speak with your employees you can transmit your ideas in the best possible way and avoid any misunderstandings of what you are trying to convey. Things like maintaining an upright posture, making eye contact during conversation and keeping your chin up will radiate confidence and those around you will see you with respect. Besides using body language to communicate well at work, it’s also important to understand body language signals in others. This might be especially important when dealing with offshore employees that normally communicate through apps like Skype or Zoom.  Knowing how to identify body language signals like face and eye gestures and tone of voice will enable you to read between the lines of the message that a coworker wants to transmit.

3. Make Yourself Available to your Co-Workers.

One of the easiest ways to make yourself accessible to coworkers is to simply tell them that you are available. People want to know they can count on you and the only way they will know this is if you communicate it. People want to know that their colleagues are people that can listen to them and understand what is going on. Sometimes it may be difficult for people to communicate issues directly, especially with a manager. In these times, it can be useful to have a way for people to anonymously ask questions or even express complaints. Having a channel of communication that enables people who are too uncomfortable or shy to speak directly to leaders is a great way for a company to stay informed about situations they may otherwise not know about.

4. Share Something in Common.

Many of the best managers are comfortable sharing something about their personal lives with their coworkers. They might participate in a fun office outing or simply take an interest in the lives of their employees. Something as simple as remembering a birthday can make an enormous difference to a person’s morale at work. This type of leader tends to be one that can talk about any topic with employees, not just work-related things. Often these more informal conversations help to build trust and work satisfaction. They also improve overall communication by making people feel more comfortable and secure. Take the time to develop relationships with your coworkers and create a trusting environment for people to open up to you. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Working Remotely? Try These 3 Things To Cultivate Work Community

Working remotely can present many challenges, everything from resisting the urge to fire up a movie and veg out, to feeling that creeping sense of isolation that comes from sitting alone behind the screen. As a company who promotes remote work opportunities, we’ve identified several ways to cultivate a thriving work community. Below are three tips that should keep your presence so embedded in the office, your coworkers will swear they hear your keyboard clicking away beside them even when you aren’t there. 3 Tips to Cultivate Work Community While Working Remotely

Tip #1: Be open to feedback.

One of the most important parts of forming any close-knit relationship is trust. The person on the other side of that monitor is most likely depending on you to complete a task. To your coworker, they’re placing a lot of trust in someone they can’t see. Put their mind at ease by telling them upfront that you’re open to feedback and willing to work through things. Making this clear initially will help them understand you share the same goal and will make them feel more comfortable as you continue to work together. Build trust by responding to feedback graciously. Every smooth interaction makes way for future smooth interactions.

Tip #2: Be humble.

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s our tendency to overthink things. When you work remotely, it’s easy to convince yourself that it only happens to you. Fear that you’re alone with your thoughts, and pride in your ability to handle things on your own can be a deadly combination that results in isolation! Instead, be humble and reach out to your coworkers with any questions or concerns you have. This goes a long way to cultivate trust. Your coworkers will feel more connected with you when you’re open with them, and in turn, they will be more likely to reach out to you when they have questions of their own. Once you realize you have friends ‘on the inside’ you’ll find it easier to tune out that inner voice that tells you you’re on your own. Remember that you’re in it together.

Tip #3: Get social.

In this age of social media, it’s easier than ever to connect. Find a few coworkers you feel comfortable with and send them a friend request immediately. Becoming connected on social media offers you and your coworkers the chance to put a face to the name that pops up in the inbox every day. Getting to know each other better in this casual manner strengthens your bond and your understanding of one another as you continue to work together professionally. BONUS TIP: Live that meme and emoji life. A true favorite! There is great power in a well-placed meme or emoji when communicating with a coworker. Not only do they lighten the mood, but they also offer visual cues to help people understand your tone and intention, which is a wonderful thing in the absence of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. At Number8, we provide high quality technical talent to businesses of all sizes and sectors. We specialize in application development, custom software, website development, mobile solutions, database design, client/server, web application development and Q/A testing. Learn more about what we do and how to get started with Number8 by calling 502-890-7665 today!

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