Categories
Business Trends

How to Effectively Oversee Remote Employees

The number of remote employees keep on growing each day. In order for them to positively impact your business, it’s important to know a few effective managing tips. Read below for the details.

 

About half of the US workforce engages in some form of telecommuting, and roughly a quarter of workers currently already spend a significant portion of their work week working from home. Outsourcing has grown tremendously as well, with a growing percentage of companies in Europe and the US outsourcing much of their work to businesses and freelancers in other parts of the world.

 

In other words, more companies rely on remote workers today than ever, and it’s likely that the numbers will continue to grow. Yet while many business owners and managers have their own way of working with employees locally, managing remote employees requires a completely different approach.

 

Overseeing Remote Employees

Rather than trying to impose greater control over remote employees or leave them to their own devices entirely, the right approach entails a simple set of rules and tips for:

 

      • Managing communication
      • Measuring and encouraging progress
      • Developing morale and rapport
      • Making the most of what could be an incredibly profitable employer-employee relationship

 

With majority of the workforce now expected to engage in freelance or remote work, these skills are no longer just beneficial, they’re necessary. This guide can help you manage your team more efficiently, while improving profitability.

 

Communication Should Be Easy and Fast 

First and foremost, it’s critical to outline the importance of simple, effective and instant communication channels. While working in an office, you and your workers have the luxury of simply getting up and taking a few steps through the office to engage in a face-to-face conversation. Your in house workers:

 

      • Have the means to communicate with you whenever necessary
      • Schedule appointments when talks aren’t strictly critical
      • Engage in regular team meetings and one-on-one conversations whenever needed

 

Remote employees struggle to feel a part of something greater, or appreciated in any way, unless it’s explicitly made clear to them that they, too, possess some form of access to you and your time/attention.

 

Emails are an obvious and often critical communicative tool for remote workers and their clients/employers, but you need to provide your workers with a faster and more immediate communication tool as well. Choose a professional and reliable instant messaging system, like Slack or Google Hangouts.

 

In addition to communication channels, and when safe from our current global crisis (COVID-19 outbreak), consider having these workers join together in one space monthly or bi-monthly. Renting an event space or coworking option every couple months can help all workers feel a part of the team.

 

Be Respectful and Set Boundaries

Instant messaging and other reliable communication tools are critical, but they shouldn’t be abused. It’s important to instate clear communication guidelines that respect your remote worker’s time and rest.

 

This might mean that, should you live in vastly different time zones, the majority of your communication will occur over email due to the inherent delay (especially if you tend to start your workday around the time your remote worker would be going to bed).

 

If a project necessitates a greater degree of communication and coordination, give your remote worker enough time to plan accordingly and be awake on the hours they’re needed.

 

If you respect your worker’s time, you will get better results. This means no work-related communication over the weekend, no intrusive messages during sleep hours, and reasonable expectations for communication (such as having a 24-hour window to reply to messages and following up only as often as truly necessary).

 

 

Allow Employees to Virtually Connect

Remote employees often do not feel as though they are part of the company they work for, even when formally employed. This is because it’s hard to feel like you are part of a greater team when you spend most of your work hours at a desk at home, alone, with no sense of how your other teammates are doing, or what they’re doing.

 

In order to help remote employees feel like they’re more than just a cog or a business function, but an individual whose presence within the company and the team is felt and respected appropriately, it’s important to develop a place for your remote workers to interact and communicate with other workers.

 

Rather than being a purely professional asset, help these workers remind themselves that there are other humans involved in the work they do. These people have names, personalities, lives, and humor.

 

Establishing channels to promote and encourage virtual mingling can help.

 

      • Slack and other communication software allow teams to create and manage channels, giving you the opportunity to create a virtual water cooler for the sharing of memes, music, and off-topic conversations (helping remote and local workers mingle and establish friendships virtually).
      • Particularly techy companies can take it a step further and schedule fun remote activities, like playing competitive or cooperative video games after work, or on a monthly, event-like basis.

Check In With Your Employees

Whenever your non-physical workers send something in, respond with appropriate feedback. It’s often enough to simply acknowledge (in a positive way) that you’ve seen their work.

 

However, it’s even better to talk about how the clients responded to a specific part of what they did, or what they could do better. If you do offer criticism, be sure to also stress the things they did right.

 

More than anything, managing remote employees relies on giving direction. It’s difficult to motivate oneself for work, especially from home. Feedback can help remind workers that the work they’re doing is valuable to the team and encourages them to continue giving it their all.

 

Focus on Results

It’s much harder to supervise a remote worker and tell exactly how much work they’re doing within any given amount of time. As such, it’s important to forget about trying to control how a remote employee spends their time, or how they put in their hours.

 

Instead, focus on deliverables, deadlines, and results. Even if your remote worker is paid based on a 30-40-hour workweek, consider not how much time they’re putting into their work, but what they’re bringing to the table, and if it’s worth what they’re being paid.

 

If you ask your remote employees to work full-time, then expect results that you would receive from a full-time worker and reward them accordingly. Trust them to put in the time they need in order to deliver as per their expected quota.

 

Discuss Work Goals

Remote workers have embraced the nature of modern work, wherein flexibility is king. Every opportunity to work is also an opportunity to learn a new skill or hone an ability. Many workers no longer aim for stable careers or advancements within a single firm but aim to improve their portfolio by developing new abilities.

 

This happens from taking on greater workloads, to figuring out various types of editing software, to becoming competent at several different types of content production.

 

Encourage workers to set their goals and explain what they would like to develop while working for you. Then, see if you can align their goals with your own, assigning projects to them that would help them grow as workers and individuals, while benefiting you and your clientele.

 

Bottom Line

Managing remote employees requires being empathic and aware of their needs and requirements, even if they aren’t able to voice them on their own.

 

Remember that you are working with humans, and that helping them feel like a true part of the team can do a lot to improve morale and productivity.

 

Read More:

7 Strategies to Run Remote Meetings and Conferences Smoothly

Categories
Work Environment

7 Strategies to Run Remote Meetings and Conferences Smoothly

It’s essential to create a well organized plan for remote meetings. This will not only help everyone be on track, but allow the meeting to be highly productive. Below are a few effective strategies.

 

Meetings are contentious, where some companies vow to abolish them, and others find themselves celebrating the fact that some of their employees are in 14 meetings per week. While it’s true that meetings are estimated to cost the American economy roughly $37 billion each year due to productivity losses, it’s impossible to gauge exactly how much money a meeting makes. Some meetings indeed provide incredible value, while others waste a quarter hour of everyone’s lives.

 

The differences between a great meeting and a terrible meeting are quite subtle, as both involve mostly the same things: a few people getting together and talking shop. But it’s the subtle things that make or break any given meeting, and the key to not losing countless hours a year in unproductive meetings is making the most out of them. Especially today, where a growing percentage of the workforce is going remote, and it becomes critical to remain in touch.

 

1. Don’t “Overmeet”

An estimated 14 percent of remote workers go through more than ten meetings a week, versus 3 percent of in-house workers. While many feel paranoid about what their remote workers are doing, and whether they’re working, all this time spent stuck in meetings is costing each worker at least another hour of trying to get back to concentrating on the tasks at hand.

 

“Overmeeting” is a serious problem that needs to stop, and when it comes to meetings, your company should generally adopt the rule that less is more. One of the benefits of remote work is the freedom to have a much healthier work-life balance, which in turn boosts the productivity of the hours spent working. Pulling them out of ‘the zone’ will impact their productivity significantly.

 

The same goes for anyone. Meetings don’t just take time to setup and execute, but also take time to recover from. Someone who gets pulled into a meeting has to be notified first, which leaves them sitting around for several minutes in anticipation of the meeting knowing they won’t be able to get anything done within the next five to ten minutes. Then leaving them with another quarter hour to half hour afterwards trying to slowly get back into what they were doing.

 

When scheduling meetings, make sure to sort out the technical details once, then send out a consistent schedule to give everyone involved the means to quickly and easily figure out when they need to worry about attending the conference call or head into the meeting room. Consider sending everyone a simple reminder over an hour before the meeting starts, rather than fifteen minutes prior.

 

2. Use Tools Everyone are Familiar With 

Tool hopping can be useful when it’s clear that a set of tools isn’t working for your business, but if your setup does work, don’t try to “fix it.” Stick to tools with multiple functions like:

 

      • Skype’s VOIP and screen sharing function
      • Google Duo app (for quick one-on-one calls)
      • Google’s suite of browser-based cloud document sharing and document editing tools

 

For bigger projects, consider software like Adobe Connect that successfully rolls a suite of functions together. Again, less is more, and the fewer things you and your team fumble with to organize through the meeting, the better.

 

3. Do a Test Call 

Another thing that should be done an hour or so before the meeting is a quick call with each party to make sure the equipment is working properly. This means a camera check, audio check, and connectivity check. You don’t want to set a meeting for 10:00am, only to start sometime around 10:25am due to troubleshooting.

 

Test calls an hour or so before the meeting itself gives you plenty of time to work through issues, while also setting the test long enough before the meeting. Everyone can still continue working or finish up the task they were working on before they have to get ready for the meeting itself.

 

 

4. Consider a Meeting Coordinator (or Several)

Meetings can quickly get chaotic, especially if there is no central voice to heed. Consider assigning a single person to control the pace and direction of the meeting. This is to ensure that things aren’t going into an off-topic or senseless direction.

 

You should consider assigning several different important roles, such as one person to keep track of the minutes of the meeting, one person as meeting coordinator, and having a third person to keep an eye on the clock and remind everyone to finish up roughly five minutes before the meeting ends. These roles can be rotated, so everyone gets a chance to help the meeting move along more smoothly and stay engaged throughout the process.

 

Without anyone to jot down the ideas mentioned and progress made, keep an eye on the clock, and reinforce the direction of the meeting, things can quickly get out of hand. And what was meant to be a ten-minute recap or focused meeting can turn into a half hour team chat.

 

5. Write and Send Your Meeting Agenda Early

A meeting agenda is important. The easiest way to waste time at a meeting is to start a meeting that doesn’t need to happen. Meetings should be an opportunity to go over unclarified details, answer questions, and reinforce tasks. Make sure everyone is spending their time the way they should be, and make sure everyone is on board and updated with the latest information.

 

If you’ve got a reason to call a meeting, jot that reason down and come up with one or two major questions or points you wish to tackle – no more than that. Add a handful of supplementary points underneath that. Send it around, so everyone knows what the point of the meeting is going to be and stick squarely to those points.

 

6. Decide and Send Etiquette Rules to Everyone

Etiquette rules shouldn’t have to be a daily or constant reminder, but it helps to remind everyone every few meetings to uphold a few basic standards, such as avoiding talking over each other, avoiding interruptions, being physically presentable (even if you work from home), minimizing excessive body language (movement can degrade image quality for many webcams and can be highly distracting), and so on.

 

These etiquette rules don’t just ensure that the whole thing stays civilized and on-track, but they help everyone feel comfortable in the knowledge that they’re in a professional working environment. And this reflects how everyone is behaving. Distractions, from background noises to smartphones going off, eating, and off-topic conversations between coworkers can detract heavily from everyone else’s focus as well.

 

7. Use Coworking Locations to Host Remote Meetings

If you’re a smaller business and don’t have the office space, or if most of your workers are remote but in a single city, one great alternative to a remote meeting or conference is a face-to-face meeting in a coworking space. Most coworking spaces have meeting rooms or conference rooms where teams can be separate from the noise and bustle of the coworking place to focus on brainstorming sessions and such.

 

Even with several remote workers in other parts of the country, coworking meeting rooms often still come with the AV tech to run a high-quality conference call between the local team and everyone else in the project. This provides a great alternative to have everyone just hanging out on their laptops for businesses and startups, that don’t have their own meeting rooms and office spaces.

 

Conclusion

Remote meetings can lead to great things when they’re focused, planned properly, and concluded swiftly. Be sure to use the right tools to coordinate your meetings and make them something your team is excited to be a part of, rather than a chore to snore through each morning.

 

Categories
Office Space

How Corporate Coworking Is Improving and Shaping Culture

Coworking spaces come with a lot of benefits such as better productivity. Read below for more on how corporate coworking continues to impact a company’s culture.

 

Recent history has had many contemplating the future of coworking itself, amid fears that high-profile failures and worrying headlines will throw shade on the entire industry. But there’s no need to worry because coworking is definitely here to stay.

 

More than just a fad or an experiment, coworking’s rapid 600 percent growth over the last decade is indicative of a growing thirst for flexible office space, and a move away from the traditional office towards something different. That something better promotes productivity among a workforce that has become increasingly remote.

 

Why Coworking Is Still Growing

For many companies, coworking space is fast, flexible, and disposable. Companies thrive on the fact that they can avoid the commitment and overhead of a brand-new office space by buying into space that is already maintained, organized, and provided with loads of important amenities. Meanwhile, they can continue to invest in their own growth and the success of their product or service, until they mature into an organization in need of its own space.

 

Yet even this traditional view of coworking as a transitory workplace for smaller companies and entrepreneurs looking to cut costs and “make it” is only one small view into the service that coworking spaces offer. Coworking spaces can market themselves to larger and established corporations as a unique type of office space to help remote workers and smaller satellite offices share a collective company culture. This is absent among many workers who, for any number of reasons, are choosing to work remotely.

 

Even larger companies enjoy not having to invest in long-term leases and outfitting new spaces when they can rely on local coworking spots to help provide a short-term main office for their sales force, representatives, or the beginnings of a growing present in a regional market.

 

Representing a Growing Need

The demand exists. And it will continue to grow. Companies both large and small are no strangers to the benefits of a globalized workforce and are quickly continuing to staff talent from all four corners of the globe.

 

But for many freelancers and remote workers who find themselves corresponding with team members across the planet, Slack group chats and the occasional physical meeting at company HQ isn’t enough to really create a sense of belonging, or feel motivated to work effectively at all times. The biggest problem that remote workers report by far is loneliness.

 

Coworking becomes an excellent alternative to working from the main office itself, especially when that becomes prohibitively expensive for foreign or distant workers.

 

Many remote workers and freelancers are enjoying the look and feel of the coworking space, as well, which combines the coziness of a café or inviting home with the buzz and productivity of a busy office space. But more than just a certain aesthetic, coworking spaces are quickly taking advantage of something very important to many workers: culture.

 

Coworking is Transforming Corporate Culture

People assume that culture is yet another corporate buzzword, one meant to evoke images of camaraderie and productivity at work. But work culture is more than just another word for an office’s mood. A company’s culture is an amalgamation of its core mission and values, of the policies it defends and promotes, of its management and their personalities, and of the people it hires.

 

While there are a few metrics to codify what any given company’s culture might be, you can pick any host of characteristics and describe it as part of the company’s culture. This is a representation of who they are when they’re working on supplying their customers or clients with the products or services they specialize in.

 

Coworking, then, presents a unique challenge to many companies because it understandably can cause culture clashes. The better coworking spaces have their own cultures, yet these may clash with the cultures of the companies or teams that work in them. This in turn might alienate single workers who aren’t part of a greater organization. Or remote workers who feel left out, unable to experience their employer’s work culture.

 

 

The Corporate Coworking Impact

Solving the culture question is an important part of making coworking work. And thankfully, coworking seems to be having a positive impact on company culture when handled properly. Rather than negatively challenging a company’s culture, coworking can positively challenge it – putting it to the test by bringing it out into the open among other cultures.

 

Coworking spaces that host a large number of different groups and solo ventures specifically go out of their way to create a culture that harmonizes, and encourages other businesses to play nice with one another. This minimizes characteristics that interrupt other people’s work, while promoting characteristics that lead to greater opportunities within coworking spaces. This includes a healthy balance of adaptability and conscientiousness, collaboration, inclusivity, self-efficiency, and effective or blunt communication.

 

Coworking is a Litmus Test for Company Culture

Company cultures have the opportunity to prune themselves and weed out the qualities that make them isolating, uninviting, or toxic. This is done byy learning to coexist with others within a coworking space. Young companies in particular can thrive by growing alongside other companies in a coworking space.

 

The challenge here, however, is to still be able to retain an individual identity as a company separate of the group. Companies that have a culture that is far too strong will typically not mesh well in many coworking spaces. But they will have trouble finding candidates and talents that feel comfortable within their unique culture.

 

Meanwhile, companies with a more open culture will enjoy the flexible nature of the coworking space. Though, it will be hard to feel proud of one’s company when it simply feels too “samey”.

 

It’s up to the management of a company to determine what they want their culture to be. What sets them apart among a sea of hardworking enterprises, each trying to carve out their own space in their respective niches. It also allows companies to hone in on their truly defining characteristics.

 

Company Culture for Remote Workers 

Remote workers have a hard time getting a feel for the culture of their company, especially when they’re working solo and apart from a larger team in a different, inaccessible location. While coworking spaces provide a respite from the isolating nature of working from home, it’s still a far cry from being able to get a sense of what your employers are like at the office.

 

Coworking spaces can serve as proxy work cultures for such remote workers, giving them a different family to belong to while still working with their coworkers abroad or elsewhere.

 

Conclusion

Because coworking spaces bring company cultures together in a way never previously tested, many companies and groups find themselves immediately trying to distill their unique culture into something concrete they can hold onto to differentiate themselves from the rest. This then leads to greater unity, a sense of pride for one’s work, and a continued appreciation for the company as well as the others within the same space.

 

Categories
Work Environment

Conflict in the Workplace? Here’s 7 Ways to Resolve It

Conflict in the workplace heavily determines your work environment. When tackling conflict that is leading to a negative environment, there are 7 ways to resolve it.

 

Conflict is at the heart of a productive and healthy work environment. Conflict is also at the heart of a toxic work environment. The difference between the two is how conflict is identified, handled, and resolved.

 

When recognized and effectively dealt with, conflict is by far the most effective way for an organization to grow either by improving team cohesion, or by helping an individual improve. However, this same conflict can rot an organization out from the inside, if it’s ignored, allowed to fester, and turn into something unmanageable.

 

Competent managers and leaders must understand when to engage and address conflict in the workplace, and how to foster an environment that actively encourages healthy conflict, rather than trying to artificially maintain an image of harmony where none exists.

 

To address conflict and identify the best ways to deal with it, it’s important to distinguish between the different kinds of conflict in the workplace. Harvard argues that conflict is best split into three types:

 

      1. Task
      2. Relationship
      3. Value conflict

 

Types of Conflict in the Workplace

Each type is common within the workplace, and the three archetypes explain why we decide to engage with others, whether emotionally or respectfully.

 

– Task Conflict

Task conflict is best described by a disagreement on how to go about doing one’s work. Anything related to how business resources are spent – from manpower to hours, money, and physical resources – is task conflict.

 

In a task conflict, one party is in disagreement with another party due to either a personal matter (the second type of conflict) or a professional matter (feeling that resources are being spent inefficiently). The key to addressing this type of conflict is getting to the root of it.

 

      • Is there a personal cause, or is it a purely professional concern?
      • Is it valid, or rooted in a misunderstanding/lack of knowledge?

 

– Relationship Conflict

The second type is the relationship conflict. Relationship conflicts are arguably some of the most common, and are caused by personality differences, and disagreements. These workplace conflicts can arise due to incompatible working personalities, manipulative coworkers, or a bad gut feeling.

 

Sometimes, relationship conflicts are at the root of task conflicts. Ask employees to exercise empathy and try to resolve their own relationship issues together or let a manager act as a mediator.

 

– Value Conflict

The third type can be the most explosive, as it is the value conflict. Here, we find our beliefs and values challenged. These range from deep-seated cultural beliefs and traditions to moral values, political stances, and religious beliefs.

 

While these topics are a taboo at the workplace, certain coworker behavior or company policies may set off these beliefs and force some people to confront a choice between remaining professional or defending their values.

 

Here, employees should exercise mutual respect, and to avoid discriminatory or demonizing behavior, as well as to refrain from exercising judgment on one another for one’s beliefs, but to instead focus on one’s competence and personality.

 

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict

When tackling any kind of conflict in the workplace, it’s important to beware of the basics of conflict resolution:

 

1. Nip It in the Bud

Rule one is to develop a good nose for sniffing out workplace conflict and recognizing it quickly. Don’t let little comments or obvious hints and body language slide. When your gut or your perceptive skills tell you that something is going on at the office, bring it up. Question it. 

 

Let both parties air their grievances out properly and early, rather than letting it fester. Sometimes, one or the other party (or both) are extremely conflict averse yet are clearly in disagreement. By letting this drag on rather than pulling it out into the open, you’re risking their conflict exploding into something completely out of proportion.

 

2. Practice Empathy and Perspective

This is something you must do as a manager, and something you must preach as a leader. Empathy is an underrated business skill, in part because people misunderstand it as wanting to do right by everyone. Being empathic does not equate letting everyone trample over you.

 

You have a job to do, and sometimes, that job involves cutting people out of the company for the greater good of the organization. But in order to accurately determine where the issue originated and how to address it, you must pragmatically employ empathy and perspective to analyze a conflict calmly.

 

3. Compile and Stick to the Truth

When seeking to resolve a conflict that can ultimately only end up in reprimanding and punishing one party or another, it’s important to go on a hunt for any and all possible information. Blaming the wrong person for starting a fight can kill morale and cause you to lose more than just the confidence and faith of a single employee.

 

You need to be sure, and that means being diligent and careful. Always stick to the truth, even if it’s an uncomfortable one. Never, ever allow yourself to play favorites in a conflict.

 

4. Consider Third-Party Mediation

It’s genuinely difficult to be impartial at all times. Sometimes, you need someone else there to mediate conflict in the workplace – especially when you’re part of the conflict.

 

Third-party mediation can play an important role in some cases to help your team effectively navigate towards a healthy resolution, without forcing you to play multiple roles and give into your own biases.

 

5. It’s Okay to Have Different Opinions

You can just agree to disagree sometimes. But the key here is not to mute the conversation into oblivion or simply seek to bury the hatchet for the sake of stopping an argument, but to emphasize a stance of mutual respect based on competence, rather than chemistry or values.

 

You might not necessarily like what your coworker believes in or what they stand for, but they do a good job, work hard, play well with everyone, and it’s important to continue having a good working relationship together.

 

Possessing the maturity to do this can be hard sometimes, but this is a country where people are free to believe a great many things, and live their lives in a great many ways, and that means many of us must accept that the people we work with don’t always have the same views that we do.

 

6. Handle Conflict in Person 

Never try to handle conflict remotely, unless no alternative exists (and even then, at least opt for a face-to-face conference call). It’s important to send a clear message to all parties involved and the rest of the organization that your team takes these issues extremely seriously.

 

You must show that your team will address and resolve conflict immediately, in person, with full focus on finding the best resolution.

 

7. It’s About Workplace Performance 

Once again, focus on what’s relevant. A business exists to meet a demand, fulfill one’s employees, and produce something great, whether it’s a unique service or a product you and your team can be proud of.

 

When conflicts are running amok among you, the work suffers invariably, and performance drops quite significantly. Prioritize resolving conflicts in order to achieve what is most important: a strong, healthy business environment that continues to be a great place to come work at.

 

Conclusion

Conflict in the workplace is key to helping businesses flourish and provide excellent services and goods. While it is a leader’s job to lead the crew and navigate choppy waters, a good leader gives each and every member of their crew the opportunity and time to engage in a productive conflict, offer constructive criticism, regularly disagree (whenever valid), and put forth their own opinions to strive for a better product or service.