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.

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!

 

Nowbridge in action!

Are you part of a remote team? Have you tried Nowbridge yet?

If not, why not?

We all know the benefits of working remotely, but it can be lonely. We created Nowbridge so that all of your colleagues, wherever they are in the world, can stay a part of the team.

Our software unobtrusively sits on your desktop in the background while you work, but it’s there when you want to check whether a colleague is at their desk, or you need to quickly send a message that it’s not worth sending an email about. You can use it to call them on Skype or leave a voice message, which they can hear when they’re back at their desks.

The rest of the time, you might not even realise that it’s there, until you need it. There are lots of handy filters that you can apply to your live still images too, which gives you another level of control. It also gives you a clear way of switching off at the end of your day as your remote colleagues can see when you turn it off, your box goes white. This helps distinguish between your work time and your home time.

Why not introduce it to your remote teams and see how you get on?

The shift towards remote working

 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Remote working is on the up and up, and we can’t be happier. Being ‘self employed’ or ‘freelance’ no longer implies being between jobs or out of work. Instead, it’s becoming a sort of, badge of honor nowadays, with lots of people seeing the move as brave.

As more and more companies embrace remote working, there is more work available for people who decide to move away from the office. So really, it’s no wonder that with the increase in public transport costs and the stress of commuting, the pull to work remotely is getting stronger.

We created our software because as great as remote working can be, for productivity, for your stress levels and for the environment, it sure can be lonely sometimes. When you’re working in an office, you have ongoing micro-interactions with people without often even realising it. Even if you can just see the top of someone’s head from your desk or hear them answer the phone, you know that they’re there. Whereas when you’re working remotely, you really don’t have any way of knowing whether someone is available. Yes, you can login to Skype or Gmail chat, if your company use those, but those green “online” dots aren’t always accurate.

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Nowbridge bridges the gap between staff working remotely and in the office. Live still images updating every few seconds all day long create the illusion of being together. You control who you connect with and when. You can only be seen by the people you can see. Use it throughout the day to send chat messages to colleagues or even quickly call them on Skype when you can see they’re at their desks. At the end of your working day, press pause or close Nowbridge down and it’s clear to everyone in your team that you have finished for the day.

Also, it’s free to download and easy to use! Have you tried it yet?