Remote Working Tips: Maintain Productivity and Avoid Burnout

Remote Working Tips: Maintain Productivity and Avoid Burnout

Millions of global workers pivoted almost overnight to remote work strategies. The coronavirus has scattered your teams, and many of us spent the last several months adjusting to a new working-from-home lifestyle. Some things are working, some things aren’t. It happens – we can’t all be 100% productive and engaged every moment of our workday. But we can implement some effective remote working tips to help you stay focused, productive, and confident throughout your day.

Remote Working Tips for Maintaining Productivity

Your office is gone, and after months of trial and error concerning how and where to set up your workspace at home, when to work, you’ve got a workable system in place. Now that you’re used to this new normal, are there ways you can organize or optimize your space or process?

Recognize and Limit Distractions

One of the biggest pitfalls of working from home is that you don’t have to wait to get off work and go home to start doing those chores and other tasks that need to be done because they’re already in front of you.

There are ways to work around these distractions, though. Firstly, if you have a quick project that can be done during a quick break from work, you should do it. But be careful not to start a bigger project if you won’t have time to finish it during your break. Switch over that load of laundry, load the dishwasher, vacuum the hallway, let the dog out. But save the closet reorganization and leaf-raking for after work.

Refine Communication Parameters

Hopefully, you and your coworkers, employees, and supervisors have a system already in place for how often everyone should be checking in and reporting progress or issues. Take some time now to reevaluate these systems – do they still make sense? Is 8 a.m. still the best time for that team meeting? Would your team benefit from implementing a chat-based system for quick or urgent issues, rather than sending these updates through email? Refine and refresh those communication channels to work better for you.

Don’t Forget about the Home Team

When you are working in a physical office location, it’s easy to tune into the workday, as everyone is on the same page. But when your office is inside the family home? Not everyone is on the same wavelength.

It’s important to talk to your family or roommates and set ground rules for what is and isn’t ok. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you will automatically be doing your domestic duties (making lunch or dinner, cleaning, watching/playing with the kids). It’s also a good idea to set boundaries regarding noise and room use so your board meeting isn’t interrupted by something like this, or worse.

Remote Working Tips for Avoiding Burnout

The other side of the productivity coin is burnout. When working from home, many people often find they work more – checking emails after hours or responding to requests and emails when technically off-the-clock. Let’s talk about a few ways to help maintain work-life harmony and avoid burnout.

Maintain Boundaries to Separate Work and Home

Typically, the boundaries between work and home are clear. You put on your work clothes, and walk, drive, or take the train to the office. With these physical barriers gone, it’s easy for your work and home roles to start bleeding together.

One easy and effective way to separate them in a remote work environment is to ditch those work PJs for a more professional outfit. As simple as it sounds, this exercise keeps your brain keyed into the differences between on-the-clock and off-the-clock time.

Another good way to start your day is by turning your “commute” into a short walk. You can walk up and down your street, around the block, to a nearby park, or even just around your apartment or building.

Budget Your Time Wisely

Don’t forget about budgeting your time and maintaining boundaries in your work blocks as well. For many, the traditional 9-5 workday may not be realistic right now, especially with many employees taking care of children or elderly family members, and running errands for those who are more vulnerable to illness.

Make sure you have open lines of communication that clearly describe your team members’ work schedules and upcoming changes to them. (Did your child’s school recently shift to online? Do you have a doctor’s appointment or other personal meeting coming up?)

Recognize and Accommodate Your Natural Work Rhythms

Many sources advocate for working in a top-down fashion when it comes to project priority, that you should do the most important task first, and leave the busy work for later.

However, if you are fresher and more focused after a few cups of coffee, try starting your morning with a less-involved task and then saving your big-brain projects for late morning or early afternoon.

This can help you maintain momentum throughout your day rather than being overcome by an ebb in your workday energy and spending minutes or hours trying to refocus and get back on track.

Let Us Lead You to Remote Work Success

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Switching to a better collaboration tool? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Making the Most of Slack: Best Practices

Making the Most of Slack: Best Practices

Like any collaboration tool, Slack has unique advantages and disadvantages when compared to other tools like Microsoft Teams or Webex. But a collaboration tool is only as good as its user. Here are some best practices and tips that can crank your Slack game – and productivity – up a notch.

Broadcast Your Availability and Expectations

Just because you are using Slack’s chat abilities for work doesn’t mean you have to exclude all traces of who you are and how you work.

Make sure your profile is complete with your information: name, professional title, phone number, and other non-Slack contact information if applicable.

Another best practice is to let people know when you’re online. Fill in the hours you expect to work, and be sure to update this when things come up or change, like personal emergencies or time off. This helps manage your colleagues’ and employees’ expectations for when you will be available to respond to queries and issues.

You can also use your Status for more than introductions and other static items. Use this area to post updates on team activity, sick days, and vacation time as well.

Threads and Channel Management

Channels and threads can be used in a myriad of ways to organize and archive important conversations, upcoming tasks, and more.

Pay attention to channel headers. Hopefully, the headers provide succinct and informative descriptions, with any action items, to steer other users to the correct channels when they are using the platform themselves.

You can also start a thread to keep your channel more organized while exploring specific conversations or topics within Slack.

Don’t Forget About Flags and Reminders

To keep track of action items, another Slack best practice is to click on the star to flag items that you may want to come back to later or things you need to complete and then report on later.

If you are in the middle of something important and you’re checking other threads, don’t fret – you can use Slack to set reminders so you can come back later and address an issue of you are too busy at the moment.

Remember the Golden Rule(s)

One common issue that is found in all chat-based collaboration tools, is miscommunication caused by the text-only exchanges. Which means you must do two things. The first is to temper all of your messages with a kind and unassuming tone. If there are questionable phrases that could be misconstrued by your team members, rewrite or remove them. And make sure to give your team members the benefit of the doubt when reading their messages. Frustration and confusion can be misinterpreted and feel aggressive or combative, but escalating the situation will only lead you further from your goal.

And if you have issues or are unsure which thread or channel a specific message should go in, don’t be afraid to ask! Check out this article from the RescueTime blog for some quick tips.

Need Help With Training or Implementation?

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white glove training and support for collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assist, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

4 Ways to Keep Your Global Team Connected

4 Ways to Keep Your Global Team Connected

Team collaboration is never easy, whether you’re in the same office, the same, town, or the same country. And managing teams that are spread out globally just adds to that difficulty. So how can you keep your global team connected? Here are a few tips.

Choose the Best Shared Space for Your Global Team

In this digital age, you don’t need to get everyone to the same conference room to have meaningful team collaboration. Your global team may not be in the same postal code, but you can create multi-functional shared spaces using apps and collaboration tools. But how to you choose the best fit for you from lists like this one that gives you hundreds of options?

Take time to figure out what the core functions of the shared space should be: do you need the ability to share media- and memory-rich files via chat? Do you need a reliable video conferencing function with the ability to facilitate dialogue and creativity with 20 of your top marketers?

Choosing a few must-have functions can help you in your search for the perfect collaboration platform for your global team.

Meetings and Deadlines: Embrace and Encourage Flexibility

No matter where your staff members live and work, there will come a time when you need to coordinate all-hands meetings. But how do you do that if, for example, your workday occurs in the middle of the night for some of your team members? This is where flexibility comes in.

You can schedule or break down meetings in a variety of ways that will still include everyone and help them fit into everyone’s vastly different schedule.

Need to send out a company-wide update? You can schedule a time for streaming and also send out a mass email with the recorded file for those who were unable to make the live show.

Trying to sync up a team located on a few different continents? Try rotating your meeting times so the same team member isn’t forced to jump on a conference call at 2 A.M. local time.

Deadlines are another tricky area to navigate when working with a global team: for example, 5 P.M. on Friday in California is Saturday at 1 P.M. in New Zealand. The rotation could be good here too: moving that deadline to something less traditional, like 8 A.M. Monday rather than Friday at 5 to accommodate the time difference can help save your team members who are nearly a full day ahead of you on their schedule.

Build and Maintain Trust

If your team is a global one, you should establish some basic guidelines for where information will be posted – news, updates, celebrations – and make sure everyone has easy access to them. 

Whether it is all through a specific forum in your collaboration platform or you have an intranet page devoted to announcements, keeping everyone in the loop is the first step to building trust between co-workers with states or oceans between them.

Don’t forget about the person behind the position: many great friends are found one cubicle to the right, but you can break down that geographic distance by building virtual spaces for people to hang out during breaks. Creating digital “break rooms” where your employees can chat about their home life, local happenings, or global events is a great way to build camaraderie and grow trust.

Work Towards Inclusion

Don’t forget that automation and scheduled updates are great, but if you aren’t rotating live stream times or collaboration-style meetings so that everyone can feel like they have an equal opportunity to participate and contribute, feelings of “us vs. them” could arise, making future collaboration harder. Feedback channels, where you and other decision-makers can hear from and listen to your employees’ issues can stop a lot of small blips from becoming full-blown problems later.

Enlist the Help of Outside Experts

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Running Your Business in a Virtual World: 3 Tips

Running Your Business in a Virtual World: 3 Tips

How do you run a business in a virtual world? In a normal year, your business faces challenges related to performance, collaboration, and management. The emergence of COVID-19 likely meant your business had to make some big, unexpected pivots this year.

The scramble for quick remedies is over, but the effects of these changes are now a part of the global workforce permanently. So what does the virtual workplace look like and how can you take advantage of these technologies?

New Virtual World and Workplace

The unprecedented shift to remote work across nearly all industries has not only created communication challenges, but it highlights and exacerbates the pitfalls in collaboration that were just as present in the office a year ago.

It is common now for employees who frequently collaborate to be located in different time zones, with different workspace and internet setups, and widely displaced work schedules. So what can you do to lead your business to success?

Practice Transparency to Increase Communication

First and foremost, re-establishing trust between the employer and the employee should be a top priority. With great flexibility comes great responsibility, but creating a rigorous or strict set of protocols or procedures can lead to resentment on the part of your team, many of whom didn’t ask for this situation any more than you did. And the first thing those resentful employees will do is pull back on their communication efforts.

Much of this trust can be built through transparency – if you are open and communicative with your team(s), they will be more willing to use those communication channels more frequently and effectively.

What does transparency look like? It means checking in with your team in less formal ways – some ways you can do that include creating short, weekly video calls with employees to really listen to their issues, and to provide feedback on the items that need to be addressed.

If you create these opportunities through less focused means, like a group or team chat or forum, you’ll likely get less valuable feedback, and some members may not participate in the forum discussions at all. With a video call, you are able to read body language and vocal cues to really hone in on those employees who are struggling with parts of their new virtual environment.

Promote Informal Conversations

It seems counterintuitive, but creating spaces with the sole purpose of facilitating informal interactions can also help boost virtual collaboration and communication.

Informal and spontaneous interactions are a vital piece of the work-life balance puzzle. There are many ways to do this. You can create video meetings to catch up on the current events in your coworkers’ lives – commiserate about the difficulties of working at home while your children are also doing online schooling, talk about seasonal plans or other current events.

Try hosting a virtual “happy hour” meeting, or even creating a “Q&A” forum, where you can post questions as prompts – say, every Friday – and allow your team members to discuss.

And don’t give up on the purposeful socials – while you can’t have a Christmas carry-in remotely, you can still find other engaging ways to celebrate milestones and holidays.

“These activities increase the ‘surface area’ of your interpersonal relationships at work and drive a faster rate of action,” according to an article by the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Make the Most of Your Technology

Collaboration tools can open new lines of communication, but they can also do so much more. Many tools like Webex and Microsoft Teams can help you build rich project- or team-based platforms where you can share data, multimedia files, videos, meeting notes, and more.

In-person project meetings use a host of technologies to help all team members see the big picture – financial forecasts and other data analytics, slideshow or video presentations, memos, Q&A sessions, brainstorming, and other creative exercises.

These things do not have to be reduced to long emails with lots of confusing attachments that you will send and hope everyone reads before the conference call. You can help your team create virtual ways to make the most of each individual’s abilities and contributions by training everyone on the vast functions of your collaboration tool and also by using these functions yourself.

The Virtual World is Yours – We Can Help You Optimize It

Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assist, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

How Remote and Blended Learning Are Changing Education This Year

How Remote and Blended Learning Are Changing Education This Year

Remote and blended learning are not new concepts. For years, students of all ages have been exposed to classroom concepts using online platforms for many reasons: geographic location, accelerated or specialized educational needs, or unfavorable school experiences (like bullying or a lack of resources for those with certain disabilities).

But what is blended learning? And how does remote learning fit in? Let’s take a look at how the act of learning has changed this year.

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning is the combination of different digital content and activities with face-to-face learning. The beauty of blended learning is the ability for each child, class, school, and institution to customize the education to their preferences and needs. Remote and blended learning can not only offer several different tools for learning the same material, but blended learning can also accommodate those who need that personal connection.

Whether it’s 50/50 or 90/10 online vs. in-class learning, a blended approach can be tailored to fit any schedule and even be used to foster progress and education during a global pandemic. The TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) has a great infographic that breaks down the tech side of blended learning.

The 2020 Effect

2020 has given rise to many different educational solutions for the unique landscape that’s been created by COVID-19. There are so many technology solutions that can be used for hosting educational courses and projects, it is overwhelming to think about.

Fostering Creativity

In an article from The Conversation’s Blog, one huge benefit to remote and blended learning is their ability to foster creativity and critical thinking. There is no one-size-fits-all model anymore: specialization is now being accepted as the best way for children (and adults) to really grasp the concepts they are learning.

Allowing students the ability to harness different technologies to create presentations and complete projects reinforce the lessons being taught. It also creates a passion for these ever-changing online and virtual tools.

Remote Learning Hedges Out Blended Approaches

In recent news, many K-12 and post-secondary schools prepared all summer for a half-and-half model where students would be in the classroom on certain days and learning from home for the rest of the week. But as COVID-19 cases surged during the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, many ended up scrapping those plans and incorporating a remote approach to keep their students and staff safe.

As remote and blended learning gain prominence in the classroom and the workplace, there are many options out there for you to access education safely and effectively. Meet Me In The Cloud has a solution for every preference – from onsite training to a host of e-learning courses.

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