Work Environment

How to Give Constructive Feedback Over Video Calls

As a leader, it’s imperative to give constructive feedback to your employees in order to solidify a strong foundation for business success. But what’s the best way to do this through a video call? Follow the tips below.


While many of us have taken the necessary steps to adjust to the new day-to-day, some difficulties may remain – particularly for those among us who are still working from home. Communicating effectively with your coworkers and employees can be a serious challenge under normal circumstances, and unfortunately, we are still far from normal circumstances.


Adaptability is a key skill for any business aiming to thrive during this crisis. And overcoming the challenge of communication is an important first step towards acting more cohesively and avoiding the pitfalls of remote work. This includes increased burnout and miscommunication.


This is true for management and workers alike, as every member of an organization must learn to communicate effectively with their teammates and coworkers to ask the right questions and give the right answers. Miscommunication remains a big issue as many of us continue to rely on technologies that we might not be completely familiar with.


But when conversations are particularly sensitive, clarity is of the utmost importance. When aiming to provide feedback to an employee or ask for feedback from an employer, there can be no room for uncertainty or miscommunication.


Here’s how you can improve on your feedback, and make sure it comes across as intended.


Make Sure Your Tech is Working


The fundamentals are important. You can’t have an earnest conversation with someone when there are ten walls between you two in the form of terrible mic quality, audio lag, video stutters, or far more egregious issues such as a muted mic or broken camera.


An important video call isn’t something you should start with a troubleshooting session.


Always do a test call beforehand, calling a friend or family member to make sure that everything is going smoothly and that there are no major issues on your end. Check the video feed, check your internet connection, and check your mic quality. Test the delay between saying something and it being heard by the other party.


At this point, you should have a decent quality microphone, especially if video calls are a frequent business matter. Be sure that your words are coming across clearly and without any stutter, echo, or significant distortion.


Establish Etiquette for Video Calls


Just as there should be a basic standard for the quality of your equipment, there should be a basic standard for video calling etiquette. It’s all fine and good to enjoy some of the perks of remote work, such as the ability to work from home in your PJs.


But when we let all pretenses of professionalism break down completely, it can become difficult to distinguish between work and personal life, let alone friend and employee.


Putting a little effort into your presentation on camera (and asking the same of anyone working with you or for you) also shows that you care. Next, it also helps you avoid camera issues that might come across as unprofessional, intimidating, or embarrassing, including poor posture, angle, and lighting.


Sit up straight, face the camera head-on, speak clearly, and hopefully find a corner of the home where you can be alone without any significant background disturbances.



Figure Out Your Core Message


Before scheduling the call, it helps to sit down and figure out exactly what it is you want to address. Boil things down into simple sentences and keep them on-hand for whenever you feel that the conversation is trailing off.


You can even go so far as to write up a script for how you’d like the conversation to go. However, even if you plan on just having an organic face-to-face, it’s important to keep your agenda in mind (and on hand).


Make Your Intentions Clear and Schedule the Call 


One of the important keys to providing constructive feedback is honesty, and by extension, trust. To that end, this isn’t something you should spring on someone. If you’re planning to schedule a call to provide feedback over a recent project or someone’s performance over the past few months, make it clear upfront that this is what you intend to do.


It doesn’t have to be threatening or intimidating. Managers often feel that they’re harsher with their employees than they really are, and they fail to realize that employees typically welcome constructive criticism more than praise. That isn’t to say that recognition is overrated – but criticism is more helpful, especially when it provides information that helps employees do better.


Give Honest Feedback 


One of the worst things you can do when offering constructive feedback is coating it in praise and positivity. This so called “compliment sandwich” ends up muddling the message by taking away from the key point (helping an employee improve) by confusing them with talk about how they’ve been doing so great.


Separate recognition and criticism. There’s a time for praise, and a time for reflection and re-evaluation.


Hear Them Out as Well


Constructive criticism is much more effective when you have a better handle on your employee’s situation and turn the call into a two-way exchange. A manager’s job isn’t to squeeze blood from a stone, but to help individuals thrive at work, so the whole organization can thrive together.


That means listening to your employees, and maybe getting a better feel for how current circumstances have been affecting them and their performance, and how you might be able to help them perform better at work.


If they’ve been struggling with the latest project because of a personal problem (such as a sick spouse), you could offer to give them some time off for a few days so they can focus their energies on taking care of things at home, so they can come back ready to rededicate their attention to work. Criticism isn’t just about telling someone that they’ve been slacking (they likely already know that) – it’s about finding ways together to improve their performance.


Follow-Up is Critical


It’s an easy mistake to make, but never assume that criticism or feedback ends with a simple one-and-done video call.


End the first call by scheduling another in a few days’ time, and expect to check in on your employee at least a few times over the next few weeks to monitor their progress and make sure that your message has come across – while giving them ample opportunity to communicate with you and let you know what they might need to do better for the company.


By scheduling a follow-up immediately, you let them know that this is an ongoing process that you’re willing to dedicate time to, and that your professional relationship (and their career) is something you find important enough to invest in, rather than just giving them a simple warning (before eventually letting them go).

Read More:

How to Run a Productive Virtual Meeting

Work Environment

5 Ways to Boost Employee Wellbeing Remotely

Working from home has its benefits, yet can also be a little too stifling. And in order to be productive, we need to be sure we are in good mental and physical health. Read below on different ways to boost employee wellbeing.


Remote work has been growing in relevance for years, but it remained relatively niche in 2019. Then COVID-19 gripped the world, and for the past few months, over half of the American workforce spent most of their workdays getting things done from home.


Though not an ideal showcase of the benefits of remote working, surveys have been able to capture how this spontaneous and sudden shift in working conditions has affected productivity, wellbeing, and more.


80 percent note that they’re better able to handle and manage interruptions from coworkers. 80 percent like being able to spend more time with family. Two thirds feel more productive. Two thirds also say they still prefer the office (or any workplace, like a coworking spot) from the casual atmosphere of home.


While the freedom to choose to work remotely has been a big perk for millions of Americans in the past few years, it’s not any easier or harder than working at the office. It is, however, substantially different. COVID-19 has thrust millions of Americans into a position where they and their managers had to work together quickly to adapt to a completely new set of circumstances and continue to serve clients and customers.


As a result, many have been working longer hours while struggling with loneliness and isolation. In turn, companies have stepped up to the plate to improve their employees’ wellbeing remotely.


Here are a 5 ways they have been doing so.


1. Promoting Physical Health


One of the best things to do for the mind is to take care of the body. While most American workers aren’t as physically fit as the surgeon general recommends, they were still getting more exercise in the pre-COVID-19 days as a result of frequent commutes, walking through the office, taking the stairs, and having access to the gym. Easier access to fresh food and produce via farmer’s markets and supermarkets also meant an easier time eating healthy.


Ever since COVID-19, however, the likelihood of relying on online food delivery services (particularly takeout food) has greatly increased. The combination of poorer food choices and far fewer options for movement and exercise help contribute to the isolating and negative mental effects of lockdown.


Some companies have taken the necessary steps to encourage their employees to get active with at-home alternatives, offering workout regimens (with stat tracking for competitive employees), and online yoga and HIIT classes, as well as helping employees organize online grocery purchases and share recipes.


2. Frequent Breaks from the Screen


For every hour of productive work, take a quarter hour of time off. That rule of thumb only serves as a broad guideline for how to make effective use of breaks, but it’s common knowledge that people don’t work through their entire shift remaining perfectly focused, but instead break their day down into a series of tasks with a few minutes spent “refreshing” between tasks.


Rather than refreshing on a Slack channel or on Facebook, however, managers would do well to encourage their workers to take their breaks away from the computer and phone – looking out a window, taking a short break to walk around, exercising, grabbing a snack, or just taking a few minutes to read something or stand on the balcony. If you enjoy working in shorter spurts, take shorter breaks.


If you’re taking a break every 90 minutes, consider taking a few more minutes off. The key to being productive with a break is to clearly separate work and break time. And to learn to “turn on” and focus solely on the tasks at hand whenever break time is over.


3. Minimize “Presenteeism” By Assessing Employee Needs Individually


Presenteeism is a phenomenon typically described at the office, where a worker shows up for work but is barely “there.” They may be distracted by problems at home, or by mental or physical discomfort, or by a sense of disenchantment with the work they’re doing.


To minimize presenteeism, maximize communication. Managers and leaders can consider taking the time out of their day every few weeks to communicate individually with each employee, and get an update on how they’re doing, whether they’re bothered by something at work or at home, and whether they need help in any shape or form.


Not only does a personal conversation with the boss help show employees that you care, but it also serves to give you a better sense of what every member of your organization needs to perform better.


4. Offer Comprehensive Telehealth Services


Research shows that mental telehealth services can be just as helpful as face-to-face conversations and therapies in cases of depression and other common mental health issues.


As workers face an increasing risk of developing stress-related problems as a result of the sudden shift towards quarantine and total isolation at home, many will continue to need both physical and mental healthcare, and telehealth services are often a great way to help workers deal with their most immediate issues.


5. Create an Environment for Organic Watercooler Talk & Virtual Happy Hour


Another way to combat isolation, loneliness, and boredom outside of work is to create an environment for virtual interaction. Established teams won’t have a hard time switching to a virtual way to communicate and stay in touch, through collaborative and communications tools like Skype and Slack. Teams that have just been formed during the COVID-19 days can still network via organized online events, such as a Friday night quiz or a virtual happy hour.


Final Employee Wellbeing Tip


There are other ways to boost employee wellbeing and morale, including basic gratitude and recognition. Many strive to feel like they’re part of something greater, and it’s harder to do so remotely. By awarding recognition individually and encouraging other managers or leadership within the organization to take special interest in every one of their employees, you foster a culture that shows it understands the role every employee plays in making a company’s success possible, and recognizes the value of every team member.


Office Space

6 Tips for Balancing Work and Family at Home

Balancing work and family in the same space has become the new normal. But if you’re seeking tips on how to manage the two in the best possible way, then read below for some helpful details.


Research indicates that remote working is not only a great way for companies to save space and reduce costs, but it tends to improve worker productivity. However, this is may be due to an added caveat: many employees who work remotely tend to work longer hours, as well as odd hours. This hints at the darker side of remote working, which is that it’s incredibly difficult to manage one’s time properly without outside structure.


However, this problem can be addressed by imposing some structure of your own. Remote workers can be just as productive or even more productive than their in-office counterparts and maintain their productivity over time. It will take some planning and a lot of proper time management.


By balancing work and family at home, remote workers can learn to have the best of both worlds, remaining productive while spending time with their loved ones and making a little time for themselves. Otherwise, the benefits of remote working can be cut short by an increased risk of burnout and overall stress.


1. Set Real Boundaries


As hard as it may be, it’s important to consistently and clearly distinguish between work and home – even when both take place within the same four walls. Set aside a room, a corner, a desk, or anything you can to designate “the office.” Set a schedule where you should not be disturbed.


With kids in the house, this can be very difficult. If you live with a partner or a spouse, coordinate with them to find the best three to four-hour window for you to get most of your concentrated work done, so the rest can get done intermittently between breaks. Put up a sign or lock the door or use headphones to put yourself in a different space.


Both physical and temporal boundaries are important for your mind to distinguish between work and home living. To that end, it’s also important to be away from work when you’re done with work. Stop checking emails or responding to messages after a set time and be sure your clients and/or employers know exactly when that time is. If needed, you can make exceptions for emergencies, but it’s important to discuss and properly define an “emergency.”


It might not seem like a big deal to be aware of what kind of communication you’re receiving from work while not technically working, but whenever you respond to an email or go over a coworker’s comment you are in fact “at work.” And being at work constantly is a detriment to your work-life balance.

2. Create a To-Do List


When at work, you’ll want to get as much done as possible. To eliminate the guilty feeling that accompanies being distracted and stuck on tasks while working from home, you need to set up a step-by-step process for each daily task and work through your responsibilities incrementally.


To-do lists are helpful here, as they let you quickly plan out the goals for the day, allot time for each step, and execute it without having to go over what you’ve done and what you need to do every hour or so. This will also help you jump right back into work if you’re in an environment with a lot of distractions or forced breaks, like home. You’re not always going to get your three hours of peace and silence – but if and when you do, a to-do list can help you capitalize on that time.


3. Start Work Very Early (or Very Late) 


If your sleeping schedule is inherently flawed nowadays, you might as well take advantage of that fact and figure out a good way to capitalize on the time you’re spending awake while everyone else is asleep.


Either pick the graveyard shift or wake up much earlier to get started with work while everyone else is still asleep. This way you can knock most of your tasks off your to-do list early on in the work day, then get to the tasks that don’t require quite as much focus throughout the rest of the work day, as everyone else is waking up.



However, don’t underestimate good sleep. A good night’s sleep is absolutely critical for mental performance, and research shows us time and time again how underrated sleep can be, and how even a little bit of restlessness can cost us cognitively.


If you’re waking up early to get an extra hour or two of quiet time in before everyone else is getting up, make sure you can get organized to go to bed an hour or two ahead of everyone else as well. This is easier said than done, and you will need some support from the rest of the family depending on how everyone’s household tasks are divided.


4. Elicit Help for Chores 


When working from home, one of the tougher challenges is juggling work life with the need to keep the home clean and tidy. If you and your partner are both working from home, the logical answer is to split the housework, doing a little more or a little less depending on which one of you is busier. Some weeks, the workload is heftier than other weeks. Some days, a work task might take priority and require a little overtime. Remaining flexible for any variation in schedule is important here, so don’t get too stuck on who’s job it is to do what.


If you have kids, find age-appropriate chores for them to complete. Young children can learn to practice cleaning up after themselves, fold clothes, bring used clothes to the hamper, and organize their rooms. Older kids can do laundry and the dishes, keep the floors and windows clean, and help in other ways.


5. Find an Effective & Healthy Way to Wind Down 


The “quarantini” has become a trend for a reason, but don’t get too attached to coping styles of that sort. They’re called “maladaptive” coping mechanisms for a reason. Finding a form of “me time” that helps you relax and is good for you can be somewhat of a challenge but is important when working from home.


It can be anything therapeutic from working with your hands (a little baking or stitching) to working with your mind (sudoku, puzzle games, online video games), or letting off some steam (yoga, boxing, exercise).


Pick a handful of simple half-an-hour to one hour-long activities that you can rely on to cap a day off, either after work or after spending time with your family and make them a priority. It might seem selfish to spend time solely for yourself when there is probably plenty else to do, but you need some way of staying sane.

6. It’s Okay Not to Be as Productive 


Given the context and the news around the world, as well as the sudden and abrupt shift to remote working for many, these are still extraordinary circumstances.


As we inevitably shift more towards a remote work environment and the continuing growth of the work-from-anywhere trend, it will be important to get used to circumstances such as these and manage an effective rhythm from home.


But for now, cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to take a little time to adjust and figure out the best way to organize yourself in chaotic times like these.


Work Environment

How to Shape Your Current Office Space for Agile Working

The aim for agile working is important now than ever before as people are currently working remotely. But what does this mean exactly? Read below for more details.


Despite being ubiquitous in development and office management, “agile” is a term with several different conflicting definitions. “Agile working” refers to neither agile development or agile project planning, both of which employ different methodologies to enable efficient and timely projects. No, agile working refers to a flexible and “agile” work schedule.


What is Agile Working?


What does a flexible work schedule have to do with office space and “agility”? A lot. Fully employing a flexible work schedule means embracing a more fluid office space that sees some employees working from home and some employees working from the office.


Rather than a chaotic hot desk philosophy or the strict and stringent rules of a traditional office, agile working policies require an office design that matches the flexibility of their worker’s schedules. This means having both open office spaces with plenty of collaborative furniture and a forward-thinking design (filled with sunlight, color, and plenty of nature), as well as closed-off and quiet private spaces for smaller teams and individual professionals to seek refuge from the social interactions of the rest of the office and get a solid hour or two of concentrated and focused work done.


Agile working, as a philosophy, aims to capitalize on the productivity research done of the last years. We know that workers can generally only concentrate on a single task for a short amount of time and that their productivity, creativity, and focus is improved by giving them the ability to interact with nature, daydream, and spend time with other workers, as exemplified by productivity and creativity gains seen in coworking spaces.


The Benefits of Flexible Working and Telecommuting


We know that flexible work schedules and work-from-home opportunities lead to happier workers, greater job fulfillment, lower turnover, more hours worked, and fewer breaks are taken.


By giving workers the option to work from home or the office, companies can also give their workers the freedom to choose their path toward productivity.


Better yet, opening to remote workers everywhere greatly increases the available talent pool. A company that has access to this reduces their costs and overhead by allowing them to cut down on office space and energy costs.


Flexible work schedules and a work-from-anywhere attitude is also greatly valued by workers everywhere, especially in a post-COVID-19 world where the value of telecommuting is more obvious than ever, and a study shows that nearly a half surveyed workers are willing to take a 10% paycheck cut to be able to work from home.


Remote work will only grow in prevalence and importance from here on out, but for many companies, the key doesn’t necessarily lie in going completely remote. Going 100% remote works out for many smaller businesses who don’t have the space to open up a physical office, but for other businesses with access to coworking spaces or office space of their own, adopting work-from-anywhere policies might be best instead.


Prioritize Quiet Spaces


When creating an open office, it’s important to balance the fine line between improvement and chaos. If there is no workspace available, workers can’t be productive. If they spend a considerable part of their morning finding a good place to start working, they’ll be wasting time.


Agile working offices need to be intuitive and must learn to blend open spaces with widely available private spaces. This is possible through remote work policies. More office space is freed up to those who prefer to work from the office rather than working from home.


Make sure to prioritize quiet spaces, such as smaller conference and meeting rooms or private offices, to give workers a space to retreat to when they cannot or do not want to be interrupted, and don’t have the time to entertain new ideas or conversations. These spaces should be available to workers who need to put into action what they’ve devised and talked about in open spaces.



Design for Open Collaboration


Collaborative furniture can help naturally bring workers together to discuss ideas and interact. Intersect collaborative furniture with natural elements to incorporate the restorative benefits of real nature and nature-inspired design, from indoor plants to a view over a park.


Workers should be naturally incentivized to cycle between the different areas of an office to work on ideation, brainstorming, planning, and execution – with each stage of development beginning and ending within the open and private spaces of the office.


The collaborative spaces are where this all begins, so they must be designed for comfort and productivity, with easy access to charging ports, plenty of tables and seats to provide space for every worker’s essential devices, and nearby planning spaces such as whiteboards, task boards, markers, and post-its.


Plan Ahead for the Incidental


Bigger companies can leverage an open design by creating spaces for departments to blend and interact. While marketing and production/development might be working on different floors, creating interactive spaces where workers are encouraged to take a break away from their offices (such as cafes, napping stations, and inter-department break rooms) allows for “incidental” collaboration, as workers from different stages of the business meet and talk about their gripes and ideas.


This is like the effect generated in coworking spaces, where professionals with different skillsets tend to come up with new or unique ideas via collaboration due to different backgrounds.


Compensating for the Cons


It’s no secret that there are many benefits to reap from giving workers greater freedoms and the ability to pitch more ideas and receive recognition for truly innovative concepts.


But there are certain drawbacks to remote working, the greatest of which is the lack of control over one’s work-life balance. Ironically, working from home often leads to a person having difficulties separating work from home. They begin to work longer hours and take fewer breaks because it becomes harder to “break out” of that mentality.


Workers may spike in productivity while working from home, but to keep that productivity going, companies need to help their workers better manage their time, by preparing them for a transition into working-from-home through at-home work schedules, encouraging downtimes (i.e. no calls after hours), and encouraging workers to take breaks in and out of the office, to go get some water, stretch often, or just grab some fresh air for a few minutes.


Offices might also encourage local remote workers to check in every few days, on days of their choosing, to keep workers from getting stuck in a rut, and to help combat a growing issue of loneliness. A stronger sense of community in and out of the office – enforced by a positive company culture for remote and non-remote workers – can help too.


Others manage their time more effectively, seeing the benefits of remote work without its cons – but for those who find themselves trapped in a working mentality, helping them create tangible boundaries between work and home while at home can help preserve a worker’s mental health and value in the long-term.




Agile working aims to capitalize on these facts by giving workers the ability to work from home, from coworking spaces, or the office – and adapting office spaces to mimic the open and collaborative nature of a coworking space.


Business Trends

The Current and Future Trends of a Remote Workforce

Enforcing a remote workforce has continually been a growing trend despite our current global pandemic. So what does this mean for the future? Let’s dive deeper into this below.


Whether companies are ready for it or not, the world’s remote workforce is growing rapidly. Easy access to a variety of telecommuting tools and collaborative digital suites as well as the continued growth of coworking and the gig economy means that workers and employers around the world are pivoting towards an increasingly dynamic way of working.


Companies are waking up to the benefits of allowing certain parts of their workforce to work remotely, and employees continue to look for remote working opportunities as a serious perk to allow greater flexibility. Among current and future trends, some that stand out include:


  • Growing confidence in the remote work model
  • Development of better telecommuting tools
  • Rising coworking industry
  • More interest in flexible work schedules
  • Greater opportunities for fulfillment via remote work


Remote Work is Simply More Popular


Some companies are composed nearly completely out of a telecommuting workforce, eliminating the overhead needed to lease and set up a traditional office and giving companies the opportunity to draw from a larger talent pool.


Perhaps the biggest trend is the paradigm shift toward accepting remote work as not only an inevitability of an increasingly digital world, but a serious boon in more than a few different ways. The major obstacle preventing bosses from investing in a remote workforce was always fear – fear in a loss of productivity, fear in a loss of control, and fear in wasting time and energy on a workforce with no oversight.


Over the years, however, research and experience has shattered these fears by pointing towards countless examples of industries and professions where the ability to work from anywhere has led to increased productivity at a lower cost.


And even in cases where productivity has remained largely the same or relatively unchanged, remote work provides a host of other benefits including the need for far less office space, time spent commuting saved, and improvements on a company’s carbon footprint. But this does not mean remote work should occur haphazardly, or without proper prior conversation.


In the Face of a Pandemic


Despite its morbid nature, the most significant current trend affecting the growth of remote work has been the coronavirus. COVID-19 has caused over 200,000 deaths and has left millions unemployed, and to curb its progress, governments have imposed strict lockdowns and social distancing rules.


While nearly the whole world is under lockdown, SMEs and large corporations alike need to continue to find ways to keep the lights on and provide services, essential or otherwise, while minimizing the risk their employees face.


As such, many businesses have turned towards telecommuting through applications like Slack and Zoom to continue to work on projects and fulfill orders while at home, coordinating over the Internet. Not all workers are able to do their work remotely, and many essential services, from medical care to delivery and essential retail, continue to employ workers in-house to help people get access to medicine, food, and emergency care.



Affecting the Remote Workforce


Where remote work has been possible, it has quickly revealed a host of challenges. Poor or overloaded internet connections can make certain meetings and calls unbearable. There are limits to what a camera and microphone can capture. And sometimes, an email or an instant message aren’t expressive enough to bring across a specific point.


Furthermore, many who are unfamiliar with a suite of telecommuting tools may feel overwhelmed by the many options and features currently available through collaborative tools like Google Docs.


Some jobs lend themselves quite easily to remote work, and are perfectly suited to it, from programming and writing to data entry and analysis. Others, however, find remote work to be less than ideal, especially when their jobs rely on interpersonal communication and cooperation. It’s difficult to offer qualitative face-to-face therapeutic care or evaluate an employee’s performance over a broadband connection.


While the pandemic has punched several holes through our everyday status quo, one of those is our general unpreparedness for a complete switch to remote work. That does not make remote work any less valuable – but it reveals that companies need to prepare to implement it effectively, and that it’s more effective for some workers than it is for others.


Remote Work and Coworking Spaces


Another trend contributing to the present and the future of remote work is the continuing growth of coworking. While halted by COVID-19, the coworking industry will continue to play an important role in providing a host of features for small and large businesses alike, including:


  • Lowered overhead and continuous costs for smaller businesses
  • Networking opportunities for freelancers and small companies alike
  • Increased productivity and collaborative opportunities
  • Greater cost-benefit for larger companies looking for satellite offices


Coworking and remote work exist in symbiosis. While the benefits of working from home include reduced costs and time saved, the lack of separation between a home and the office, as well as a fluid schedule, can contribute to growing rates of burnout and problems with work-life balance. People begin to spend more time at work, mentally and physically, when they should be spending it on themselves or with their families.


Coworking spaces provide a transition point between a full-fledged office and a home office for those who do not work well from home, but are still seeking an alternative for increased productivity or want a different, more stimulating environment than what their office offers.


A Growing Focus on Proper Work-Life Balance


As the remote workforce will continue to grow, more time and resources will be spent trying to retain the productivity benefits and cost-effectiveness of remote work while minimizing the dangers of a fluid schedule, including a lack of balance between one’s professional life and one’s personal life.


Workers will need to be reminded to set clear boundaries to separate their work from their normal life, from setting specific rituals and cut-off times, to having a designated home office and office attire, versus working from the living room in a set of pajamas.




Businesses need to work on preparing themselves for an increasingly remote workforce by investing in the tools and infrastructure needed to support their remote workers and facilitate seamless communication and collaboration between the remote team and the in-house team, to avoid grinding gears and glaring inefficiencies.


There will be an ongoing trend to promote remote work as the future, but it will be accompanied with convincing businesses to take the steps needed to allow the transition to happen without frustrating setbacks, or else be left behind by the competition.


Business Trends

The Best Virtual Resources to Grow Your Business from Home

With the current crisis leaving many companies seeking remote solutions to coordinate with workers and continue providing crucial services to their existing and growing customer base, now is a better time than ever to reorient yourself as an entrepreneur or small business owner, and consider how best to utilize virtual resources to grow your business from own home. 


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

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.



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.


Gig Economy

5 Challenges of Working Remotely (and How to Counter Them)

Far more than just a new management fad, teleworking has become a necessity, but with this new style of work comes new obstacles. Here are the five most common challenges of working remotely, and how to counter them.


As office space is becoming increasingly expensive, commutes are growing ever longer, and the needs of companies are ever-expanding, departments and startups are looking at telecommuting workers to fulfill their auxiliary and even primary needs while coordinating from somewhere else.


Remote working is also a product of continued globalization, as companies throughout the world are scouting countries everywhere for talent that they can hire and leverage without having an office in the area.


Are There Challenges of Working Remotely?

Remote work does not come without its own fair share of challenges, and many remote workers struggle with them on a daily basis.


Many of the challenges of working remotely revolve around isolation, differing time zones, and the blurred lines between life and work. We’re going to go over some of these challenges and how to counter them.


1. You’re Always Available

The Challenge:

When working from home, or anywhere else that isn’t your company’s office, it can get hard to tell when it’s time to start working and stop working.


Many remote workers and freelancers coordinate and work with customers and coworkers all over the planet, which can lead to teleconferences at 2am, deadlines at 3am, and a quick chat with a client around 5am. It’s easy to get lost in it all and find yourself pulling 12 hours shifts, quickly burning out.


Not only is this unhealthy, but it’s incredibly unproductive. The brain needs rest from work to really get the creative juices flowing – both in terms of sleep, and actual time away from the computer.


The Counter:

Set clearer boundaries. Timing yourself isn’t enough. It’s easy to work past 9pm and just tell yourself that you’ll only be on for another hour. Commit yourself to daily tasks that force you to prioritize your work and get it done by a specific hour mark, so you can be up and about at 5 or 6pm each day.


It might be a daily workout routine, a daily walk to get your steps in, or just a quick swim. If you can’t commit to an activity outside of your home, get a friend or partner to step in and ‘discipline’ you – tell them to check in and call or text at a set time each day, to remind you to be off from work by then.


2. You Must Rely on Self-Motivation

The Challenge:

One of the challenges of working remotely is that it can sometimes be hard to get anything done. There are tons of distractions (especially if you don’t live alone), you might not have a great way to block out noise surrounding you. Others might not necessarily respect your work boundaries and barge in on your during an important task, or you find yourself quickly losing three to four hours a day on Wikipedia articles and Reddit binges.


On top of that, you likely have several pressing deadlines pressuring you, and all that anxiety can build up and lead to the most devastating curse any remote worker could suffer from: chronic procrastination.


The Counter:

Join a coworking space. Many of these problems come from an inability to sit down and just work alone. That doesn’t mean you need to forego the benefits of remote working. If you struggle to motivate yourself to get things done in a timely manner and prioritize your work, you might just really miss the office environment that used to get you going.


Coworking spaces are a great compromise that provide a place for freelancers, remote workers, and small companies to work together on separate projects and tasks, while networking and sharing a single work environment.

3. It Feels Impossible to ‘Unplug’

The Challenge:

You might be off your computer, and you might have finished working on all of your projects for the day, but that likely isn’t stopping you from checking the team Slack, checking progress on Trello, refreshing your emails, or Skyping with the new client. You might even be in bed, trying to sleep, but still focused on that project you’re working on. While passion is great, staying ‘plugged in’ for far too long can burn you out quickly.


The Counter:

Go offline on the weekends, and at specific hours. If one of your clients is at their busiest in a time zone when you should really be getting some shuteye, either work things out with them that you’ll communicate nearly exclusively through email and coordinate projects with a few hours delay, or choose between working with a remote client for some extra money and your own sleep hygiene.


Again, you must set your own boundaries here. Have a certain time on the clock each day where you don’t work and forbid yourself from checking your messages or refreshing that Gmail account. Put your phone away by 10pm and try to get some much-needed sleep.


4. Time Management

The Challenge:

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is a bout of procrastination. Procrastination is usually a sign of deeper problems than you might first realize, and if you’re stuck in a serious rut, you should consider asking yourself whether you’re just feeling a little lost and need an adjustment period, or whether you’re deeply unmotivated because you’re unhappy, and potentially need help.


If it’s the former, then one way to adjust to remote work is to start learning to play with timers, deadlines, and self-set expectations.


The Counter:

Productivity hacks and timers. A full day’s work can be a little intimidating at times, so start by breaking each task down into individual chunks. Create quick and simple daily to-do lists, or even better, create a morning to-do list and an afternoon to-do list. Then pick out a reliable playlist or radio station, set a timer, and start working on your daily tasks.


There are plenty of apps and devices that help you keep track of how you’re spending your working time. Just make sure to take breaks when you’re feeling spent, either to grab a little water, go for a quick little stretch, or just reward yourself with a little downtime if you were exceptionally productive.


5. Loneliness

The Challenge:

We’re social creatures, and we’re not really built to spend the majority of our time with just ourselves. Even when we’re interacting with our family at home, it’s very easy to go completely stir-crazy, especially if you’re often too busy to spend more than one or two hours a week out and about, meeting up with friends or strangers.


Even then, the odd hour or two a week definitely isn’t enough to make up for dozens of hours spent completely on your own. Isolation and loneliness are often the biggest challenges of working remotely, and it can completely shut you down over time.


The Counter:

Hangout with other workers. Coworking spaces are perfect for this, because they provide plenty of opportunities to interact with other workers, and help you strike the balance between a productive environment, and a social environment. In fact, if anything, coworking often helps workers be more productive, and far more cooperative.


Coworking is a godsend for many remote workers who want the coffee shop experience melded together with the feel of an actual office. It’s still a little different from plugging in at a dedicated office space, because you can come when you like, leave when you like, interact with workers from different industries and specialties, and develop far more interesting and diverse networks.



There are challenges of working remotely, but like everything in life, you can roll with the punches and adapt. The remote working life might not be a great fit for everyone, but if you’re someone who likes being flexible and typically experiences bursts of extreme productivity rather than a continuous stream of 9-5, then you can make remote working work for you.


Research shows that workers are happiest when they can choose to “work from anywhere” – whether that’s home, a café, a coworking space, or their cubicle. We all need a change of pace sometimes, and by expanding your options besides simply working from home, you can boost your productivity and happiness, lower your stress levels, and keep a minimal carbon footprint.

Office Space

Does Teleworking Increase Productivity?

More people are teleworking more than ever, yet contrary to what most might think, working from home or in a creative office is not a compromise but a boon to productivity.


The data shows, time and time again, that giving employees space and allowing them to work wherever they choose to (often at home) can lead to:



There are several potential reasons why telecommuting can have serious benefits for a worker’s productivity, many of them tying into time management and the distractions of a busy office environment.


While it seems like an employee’s dream to be able to make a living and earn a steady income in one’s pajamas, and an employer’s nightmare to try and imagine their employees spending most of their work time not with the team, the general truth of it all is that remote workers are less likely to be interrupted, and more likely to get work done while on their own and at a place where they feel inspired.

What is Teleworking?

Telecommuting is when employees work for a company, but they do so remotely. In this day and age, there are many places a person may work rather than their employers’ office. They may work from home, in a coworking space, a local coffeeshop, or anywhere else.


As just one example, a 2-year Stanford experiment involving 500 employees at one of China’s biggest travel agencies showed that teleworking generally:


      • Boosted productivity
      • Led to fewer sick days
      • Amounted to over a full day’s worth of extra work done


Despite fears that teleworking might affect their ability to work, it seemed that overall, a net gain in productivity was seen – not to mention saved expenses on office space, commute, company lunch, and a lower carbon footprint in the company’s name due to a cut commute.

1. Short Commute, Less Stress

The commute to and from work is one of the biggest reasons workers wish to work remotely. A sizeable percentage of people surveyed have explained that they would give up several different privileges in order to avoid their commute, and many have stated they would agree to a 10 percent pay cut if they could work closer to home. They claim the expenses of getting to the office, preparing or buying meals, and getting back home outweigh that 10 percent, in terms of time and money lost.


People hate the commute and depending on where your companies are situated and where most of your employees live, that commute can take anywhere from 20 minutes a day to over an hour to, and over and hour from. Census data shows that American workers in congested cities spend over 500 days of their lives getting to work and going back home – that’s nearly two years of a person’s lifespan dedicated to just transitioning from home to the office, and back.


By completely eliminating that commute, you not only give your employees several hours of their lives back, but you also give them the opportunity to turn those hours into a much more productive time at work.


Instead of showing up at the office at 9am and clocking in after a quick coffee and playing catch-up, your remote workers are likely at their desks and caffeinated by 8am, or even earlier. Homes are typically smaller than large offices, so it takes less time for them overall to get around, take bathroom breaks, brew up a fresh pot, etc.

2. Remote Workers Take More (Short) Breaks

Remote workers tend to take more breaks, but take shorter breaks – which, as other research has suggested multiple times, is actually a boon to productivity and allows workers to more effectively recharge their batteries and prepare for new challenges ahead. Instead of long breaks that completely take one out of the proper mindset for work, teleworkers can inadvertently boost their productivity by working hard – for about an hour or so, before taking a short break. Followed, of course, by more work.


Remote workers are not the only ones thriving this way, and short, frequent breaks are the hallmark of a more productive employee (provided that the time they spend working between their breaks is spent exclusively working, that means no distractions, no social media, no conversations with friends or coworkers).


Frequent breaks don’t mean frequent dips in productivity, especially if they’re used to recharge after a longer period of time spent entirely focused on the task at hand.

3. Working Where They Choose Offers Less Distraction

This might seem strange, but despite less oversight, working from home, or another location of their choice, actually offers fewer distractions than working in an office. At home, particularly in a private room like a study or a home office, workers are completely free from any and all inadvertent interruptions and distractions.


They can still distract themselves – and admittedly, many do – but working from home eliminates being distracted by rowdy office behavior, a sudden interruption from a coworker, or anything else that might break concentration and pull one out of one’s work.

4. Teleworkers Can Still Interact and Cooperate

One of the worries of recommending more workers to work remotely is that it would lower employee engagement and lead to more employees feeling distant from the company. While this may be true for employees who are totally isolated from their company, most teleworkers are not.


Those teleworking still check in with their employer, attend meetings through conference call, and thanks to modern teleconferencing technology, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to call face-to-face. Remote workers should nonetheless be encouraged to stop by the office every now and again, and many do.

5. A Millennial and Gen Z Attitude 

Expectations are different among younger and older generations when it comes to workplace flexibility. As millennials currently occupy the largest demographic in the workforce, with Gen Zers being their immediate successors, it’s important for companies to recognize that many have grown accustomed to having telecommuting as an option, and recognize both the personal benefits and productivity benefits of being able to work from home – or anywhere, for that matter.

The Cons of Teleworking

Yes, teleworking is not for everyone. Some people need the structure and camaraderie of an office and working from home simply makes them miserable. However, there’s more to remote working than just working from home.


In fact, a study by the Harvard Business School showed that, instead of simply working from home, allowing employees to work from anywhere at all led to an even greater rise in productivity, and helped them address issues that began to crop up among people who exclusively worked at home (including feelings of isolation, and higher levels of anxiety than their peers).


More research would serve to better clarify the benefits of allowing teleworking and encouraging workers to work outside of the office and decide for themselves when and where to work, whether from the comfort of their own bed, to the local coffee shop, or an entrepreneurial co-working space.

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