First steps to remote working

It can be daunting going “office-free”, but it can also be liberating. You take control of your work life and make it work for you.

  1. Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean working from home, if you feel that you would be more productive at your local library, in a co-working space, in the garden, sitting in your local coffee shop or wherever, you’re free to do that, providing that you are not beyond reach if your work involves regular contact with a manager or colleagues.
  2. Make sure that you’ve got everything you need to do your job – computer/laptop, WiFi, notepads, a headset with a decent microphone if you’ll be doing a lot of conference calls etc., any software or VPN access that you might need.
  3. Be ready for distractions – at least when you first start working from home it can be hard to focus on your work. Whether the distraction is your kids, pets, neighbours mowing the lawn or the availability of a television…try not to let these take over your working day and treat it as if it were a normal day in the office.
  4. Get dressed for work – embrace the opportunity to wear more comfortable/casual clothes but make an effort to actually get dressed and if you’re going to be taking part in conference video calls, make an effort to look presentable.
  5. Set your hours and stick to them – it can be easy to overwork when you don’t have to take your regular commute home at the end of the working day but it’s important to put these boundaries in place from the outset, you can always look at changing them later.
  6. Invest in a proper home-working area – if you don’t have a home office, consider buying a desk and setting it up to work from, we guarantee you’ll find it harder to concentrate in the long run if you work from your bed or kitchen table.
  7. Try different tools and software and see what works for you – there are countless apps and tools out there, we’ve written about some of our favourites here, but see what works for you (and your employer).
  8. Stay connected with your team – however you do it, via daily or weekly catch ups or software like Nowbridge, it can get lonely working from home without the ongoing buzz that happens in an office, so stay connected.

 

A look at remote working in New Zealand

We’ve spoken a lot about how and why we created Nowbridge but something you might not be aware of is that we’re a Kiwi company. We do quite a few posts about remote working, so we thought we’d have a look closer to home and see what we find.

According to a recent article, despite being internationally well known for their commitment to having a good work-life balance, 75% of New Zealand CFOs expect stress levels to rise significantly over the next few years, citing business expectations, increased workloads and underdeveloped IT infrastructure as reasons for this.

To try and alleviate workplace stress, some of the measures that an incredible 93% of Kiwi CFOs are taking are:

  • Redesigning/refreshing the office space
  • Encouraging staff to give regular feedback
  • Offering flexible working hours or remote working
  • Wellness schemes

A study by Massey University and AUT of 1700 staff across 50 Australian and New Zealand organisations found that 89% of staff worked remotely for at least some of the working week and more than half worked from home at least one day per week.

So it seems that a lot of New Zealand companies are following, or at least intending to embrace the remote working trend. However, an article in the NZ Herald from last year explains that there is no governmental body responsible for promoting this area of the digital economy and that subsequently, many organisations do not have formal policy for remote working, despite being aware of the potential benefits it could bring to the company and the staff.

Hopefully this will change over the coming months as technology continues to change the business world. We’ll be ready when it does!

Have you tried Nowbridge yet?

Tips for staying well when you work from home

We often talk about the benefits of remote working:

  • It’s easy
  • It saves money
  • It helps save the planet
  • It can increase productivity and focus

…and we have covered the difficulties of working remotely, but something that is also coming to the forefront of discussion in the workplace and the wider world is mental health awareness. While remote working does come with lots of perks, it can lead to feelings of isolation and make it hard to switch off between your work and personal life.

Take a break

Just as you would during your working day in an office, it’s important to take regular breaks both from the screen and from sitting down. Take a short walk, make a cup of tea, meditate for a few minutes etc.

Take your lunch hour

We’re all guilty of working through our lunch break but it can become a slippery slope into blurring the lines between working and having a personal life.

Take a sick day when you need one

If you were working in an office, it would be normal to take a sick day for physical illness or mental health, the same applies for remote working.

Take your annual leave

Working remotely doesn’t mean that you work any less hard than in-office staff. It’s important to take a break from work every now and then, to recharge your batteries, to spend time with friends or family etc.

Talk to people

Although you work alone, you aren’t. There’s a whole remote working community out there! Whether you join other remote workers on social media or use a live-chat or similar (like Nowbridge) to keep in touch with your in-house colleagues, it’s good to talk. Also, schedule dinners with friends or gym classes for after work so that you’ve got some real human interaction in your day.

Turn your computer off 

Okay, this sounds obvious but we don’t just mean your computer. Set some expectations with your colleagues or clients about what your working hours are and when you will and will not be replying to messages. This will help you mentally switch off as well as physically.

There are lots of well-known benefits to remote work and we personally think they outweigh the difficulties, but it’s important to look out for yourself and make sure that you keep your work/life balance, balanced.

Maintaining security with your remote workers

With more companies leveraging talent across the world and not limiting themselves to local employees, it’s important that both company and remote worker have the right tools in place to keep your sensitive data secure.

Think about it, if you’re using a VPN or connecting to the work network from home, you’re most likely transferring files over your home WiFi, which you’ve probably got a password on so this is fairly secure.

But what if you take your work to a public place, like a coffee shop? You connect to the free, public WiFi and then what? Do you take the necessary precautions to protect your files and your computer from being compromised?

First of all, don’t panic. There are lots of ways to ensure remote access security while you recruit remote workers…

Getting started

Work out what kind of access your remote worker needs in order to do their job. Once you have this, you can work back and plan the best way to share that information securely. Should an incident happen, thanks to logins and breadcrumb trails, you will be able to see the touch points and work out who was responsible, which is important for accountability and ongoing security.

Monitoring 

Cloud-based tools help managers stay in the loop, while keeping this whole process fairly unobtrusive. Try Time Doctor to keep track of remote workers’ hours or Hive Desk, which shows you how much time they spend on different projects. It’s important that remote workers don’t feel like you’re spying on them, but it should be clear between both parties that you expect a certain level of workplace accountability. Nowbridge lets you see who is there and if they’re free so you can get in touch with your remote colleagues easily. The live images, updating every few seconds, also give you an unobtrusive way of making sure that your remote workers are working. A different kind of monitoring, yes, but every little helps. There are lots of other benefits to using Nowbridge, which you can read about here.

Create and distribute a security policy

Every company should ideally have a company-specific security policy, which is shared with all staff. Whether it’s a written-down policy or regular meetings or training on the subject, everyone should know where they stand and what their responsibilities regarding the security of company data are. Bear in mind that this is a working document, with ever-evolving technologies and security threats, it should be updated regularly and staff should be invited to ask questions or make suggestions.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

At some companies, it is becoming the workplace norm to let employees use their own devices but this is something to be aware of, as they create weaknesses. It’s often the best option to mandate that all work be done on employer-supplied equipment, although this is only achievable with in-house colleagues who occasionally work from home, it’s something to bear in mind. Perhaps you could check whether your remote worker has the necessary spyware and protection on their home computers and provide if it they don’t.

Encourage strong passwords

Require internal and external colleagues to update their login credentials every couple of months, or however frequently you feel is appropriate for your business.

If you’re embarking on employing remote workers for the first time, it can seem daunting but the benefits far outweigh the risks, as long as you set a few things in motion from the outset.

 

 

The importance of a work-life balance

The importance of the work-life balance in today’s world is on the rise, and a lot of people are realising that they aren’t limited to the job or industry they first started working in.

With the advances in technology, workers are now available around the clock. A huge number of people work considerably longer hours than they are paid for, and this can impact health, happiness and even relationships. Something has to give. A lot of people choose to work remotely, which gives them more control over their time but there are other ways to help with his.

Work-life balance means something different to everyone but here are our tips for helping you find your balance.

Learn how to unplug and embrace it

Technology is a wonderful thing but it has created expectations of constant availability and as such, we find it hard to switch off. Try to avoid checking your phone for the first and last hour of the day, this should help you sleep better and give you more control. If we constantly respond and react to work emails, we never stop working.

Make time for yourself

One of the first things that slips when we get busy is our self-care. Schedule in your exercise or meditation just as you’d schedule a meeting. It’s no secret that exercise is effective for clearing your mind and relieving your stress, so make time for yourself and make the most of those endorphins!

Try to avoid time-wasting activities

What is important in your life? Once you’ve worked this out, you’ll find it easier to prioritize your tasks and weed out things that are wasting your time and not contributing to your overall happiness. Focus on the things that reward you the most, both in your home and work life.

Set some boundaries

Make it clear to your colleagues that you’ll reply to their emails and get back to them within a certain time frame, if you need to set an ‘out-of-office’ reply every evening then so be it. Nowbridge helps you set these boundaries by showing when you are and aren’t at your desk so you can make it clear to your colleagues when you’re available or not. Find out more about it here.

Learn to let things go

Had a bad day? Don’t let it turn into a bad week. In the grand scheme of things, most mistakes aren’t the end of the world so don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Leave work at work, or at least try to! If you work from home, or regularly take work home with you, try to confine it to an area of your house like a home office or study and avoid letting it take over your home time.

Do what works for you

Whether you live to work or work to live, it’s important to do what makes you happy. On average, we spend around 90,360 hours of our life working so it has to be worth it for you.

Handy tools for remote workers

There has been a huge rise in the past couple of years of new software and apps to increase productivity, streamline connectivity and all in all, make it easier for both in-house and remote workers to improve the efficiency of their working days.

For productivity and project management there are the usual suspects, Trello, Asana, Jira and Axosoft, which crop up a lot in reviews and articles about remote working. Also Slack, which is technically more of a messaging app for teams, but you can do a fair bit more than that, including file sharing and prioritizing conversations into topics and themes.

Another clever tool for remote teams split across different time zones is EveryTimeZone, which shows you how the time zones of your coworkers overlap with yours so you can coordinate efforts more easily.

Google Cloud Print eliminates the need to print huge documents at home and allows you to send the documents to a printer at the office or, any printer in the world really! Speaking of clouds, Dropbox and WeTransfer are great for sharing large documents with your colleagues – you don’t need an account for the latter and can transfer up to 2GB a time as often as you need.

Need to drown out some background noise but find the radio or television too distracting? Try Noisli, a white noise app. You can pick and choose the high quality ambient sounds and see what works for you!

A new contender that we’re quite excited about is Moleskine’s Smart Writing Set, which lets you hand write your notes and see them transferred to an app on your phone, so they are instantly digitized. Eliminating the need to write up your notes or scan in diagrams or drawings to send to colleagues, this will save you time and reduce the risk of losing the work. We can’t wait to give this one a try!

Nowbridge is our offering; a remote working software that allows you to stay part of the team by sharing live still images every few seconds with your colleagues so you can see who is available and who isn’t. You can send instant chat messages, leave voice messages and even call someone on Skype from within the desktop app. There are a number of different photo filters available and the images are only shared with people who you allow to see you. It gives you a clear boundary between when you’re at work and when you’ve finished for the day and helps you stay part of the team, wherever you are in the world.

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Are there any other great apps or software we should be aware of? Let us know!

 

10 tips for staying sane when you work from home

Although working from home is pretty great, it can be tough to stay motivated. Here are our top ten tips for keeping sane and staying motivated.

  1. Get dressed, have a shower and prepare for work like you would usually.
  2. Make a list of daily tasks and make sure you do them, block out time in your calendar if you need to discourage colleagues from putting in too many meetings or calls.
  3. Try and stay out of the kitchen – we know it can be tempting to snack constantly when you work from home but try to have the discipline to resist, just as you’re being disciplined in everything else.
  4. Plan some social interaction – this is an important one, it can be lonely working from home. Whether it’s evening exercises, standing lunch or coffee dates with friends, do something.
  5. Change your environment – if you find yourself going a bit stir crazy, it can be a good idea to take your laptop, phone and work to a local coffee shop or a co-working space.
  6. Take regular breaks – either by doing the above, getting up and making a cup of tea or coffee, doing some laundry, taking the dog for a walk etc. If you find it hard to do these, you could set a timer for yourself.
  7. Work your way – if you like to listen to the radio or have the television on in the background or whatever it is, if that helps you work, do it. Whatever helps you work more productively, do it!
  8. Make sure you have the tools you need – a decent WiFi connection capable of video conferencing and file sending/downloading, a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and potentially a decent microphone with a mute button or a headset – even better.
  9. Stay in touch with your co-workers and boss throughout the day – there are so many tools available to help you stay connected *cough* like Nowbridge *coughand other productivity tools like Trello or Asana. Stay part of the team!
  10. When your working day is finished, stop working – this is one of those easier said than done things…but it’s important. Whether you work 9-5 or you’ve found that you’re more productive working in the afternoon, you need to keep the boundaries between your work life and your home life.

We hope you found these useful! Have we missed anything? Let us know!