The formula for remote working success

Successful remote teams all have three things in common: great communication, remote-specific management strategies in place and the right people for the job.

If one element slips, the whole remote working bubble could burst. Productivity could decrease, communication could break down and you’ll understandably question the feasibility of remote working and whether it’s the right fit for your business.

Think about it, you could have the best people for the job working for remote-specific managers but arguably the main thing that makes remote work possible, communication, goes wrong. Maybe your teleconferencing software is flaky, the WiFi connection is intermittent or your productivity software is suffering a glitch or being updated. Whatever it is, this means that you and your remote team can’t do your job properly. You might have great technology and communication, great management but the wrong people in your team. If just one of the parts of the formula is off-kilter, remote working becomes a struggle rather than a success.

All sorts of companies can gain a lot from encouraging remote working but if these processes aren’t developed or followed from the outset, the whole remote working culture can fall flat and rather than making your company more productive, it can have the opposite effect.

Great communication + remote-specific management + the right people = success

None of these things should be too difficult for any company to achieve but with a little forward-planning, you can ensure remote working success and hopefully benefit from the added productivity that comes from it.

Co-work vs remote work

Although there are definitely perks to working from home, there are also downsides including distractions and not having a professional location to meet clients.

Co-working continues to be on the rise, with more and more co-working spaces popping up all over the world. There are a range of different places at different prices with flexible plans. These spaces offer great benefits for both the remote worker and their company as in most working scenarios, it can increase productivity and also improve the quality of your work, not to mention you’ll probably be able to get a decent cup of coffee!

Think about it you’ll be in a more work-like environment, and co-working spaces allow for interactions with other people, something which remote workers can miss out on when they work from home. Those interactions could range from just having a conversation to full-on collaboration with other co-workers sharing the space. You don’t need to be in the same industry to be able to get ideas, network and be inspired in the company of other like-minded individuals. Different companies have different ways of working but lots of ideas are transferable between industries.

The community atmosphere in a co-working space can promote collaboration, networking but also friendships. Never underestimate the power of working in a positively-charged space with like-minded peers.

What do you think? Is the allure of a co-working space greater than working from home?

 

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.

 

Nowbridge’s newest feature

As you know, we’re always working to improve our remote working software and our latest feature allows you even more control.

Nowbridge is a desktop application which sits unobtrusively in the background and helps you stay part of the team. If you need to check whether your colleague is at their desk, you just click on the icon and Nowbridge comes to the front of the screen. It’s really useful for remote workers because it allows you to see your colleagues throughout the working day, send them chat messages, files and initiate Skype conversations with them. If you’d like to read more about the Nowbridge features and why we created the software, we wrote a blog about it recently.

Another key feature for people who work remotely is the ability to turn it off or press pause throughout the day, which is a useful indicator to your colleagues that you have finished for the day or are on a break.

Anyway, our new feature allows you to keep the application on top of the other windows, you can set the transparency to whatever you prefer so it’s not distracting, but you can quickly see who is there and if they’re free without having to switch windows or pause what you’re doing.

It can be a real time-saver! Plus, you don’t have to activate the feature if you’d prefer to keep it in the background. Like most of the features on Nowbridge, this option can be controlled by pressing the settings button and ticking the box next to ‘Always on top’.

What do you think of our new feature?

Ways to avoid burnout when you work remotely

Although we still firmly believe that working remotely can be great for companies and employees alike, people can have a tendency to work more while doing so.

When your home is your office, it can be hard to separate your work and personal life. Here are some ways to help avoid burnout and keep living the dream…

Maintain a routine

Whatever your working hours, make sure that you keep to the routine as if you were working in an office. This will make it easier to distinguish between work and non-work time and help to prevent you from doing too many hours.

Treat your working day as you would if you didn’t work remotely

It can be easy to slip into bad habits when you work from home, the aforementioned routine will help with this but seemingly little things like getting dressed for work, making a pot of tea or coffee and not just opening your laptop in bed and starting work as soon as you wake up, will make a real difference. Bear in mind that there is no-one to tell you to stop working, you need to decide when to stop.

Create boundaries

Relish the freedom that remote working allows but be proactive about setting boundaries and sticking to your priorities. Find the hours that work for you and make sure that your colleagues are aware of what they are. Working remotely doesn’t mean that you need to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it offers flexibility which you can enjoy if you have a few things in place.

Take breaks

We don’t just mean a lunch break, though that is important too. Throughout the working day in an office, think about how many times you get up from your desk to get a drink or visit a colleague, have a meeting etc. The good thing about working remotely or being at home is that you have the opportunity to make so much more of these breaks. Take a walk, do a spot of yoga, get ahead of the laundry, basically do whatever works for you.

Schedule some human interaction

As much as rowdy colleagues can be off-putting, it is nice to have some human interaction in your day. Whether it’s for a spot of gossip in the tea room or to discuss weekend plans, these small interactions do provide moral boosts throughout the day. This is one of the main contributors to burnout and can be easily avoided with a bit of social interaction. Nowbridge can help with this, you can see who is there and if they’re free, send chat messages and more.

One of the main ways to avoid burnout is to be aware of it. Practice self-care and make sure that you’re able to enjoy the perks of working remotely. Having a healthy work-life balance doesn’t purely come from working remotely, it comes from being in control of your working life and making sure that it works for you.

 

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?

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.