Why working remotely makes sense

Remote workers are typically less stressed

When your employees feel that they can work in a way that suits them, they are less stressed because they feel more in control of their lives.

Remote workers are well connected

It’s so easy to stay connected with people nowadays; smartphones, social media, project management tools and productivity software all mean that you could be on the other side of the world to your colleagues and still be connected.

Remote workers save companies money

If you rent a smaller office, or no office at all, you’ll save heaps of money on rent, electricity, internet provision and more.

Remote workers have a better work-life balance

This goes without saying really. If you’re able to do a good days’ work without suffering a stressful commute or being constantly interrupted by colleagues, you’ll feel satisfied. Also, being able to finish work and already be at home is a bonus, you’ll have more time free to enjoy your evenings.

Remote workers are more engaged

When some or all of your colleagues work remotely, they are able to engage with their work and each other more efficiently because of the lack of distractions that always come with working in an office. Although yes, there are other distractions when you work remotely, if you’re sensible, you can manage these effectively.

Remote workers don’t need to commute

In an earlier post, we explained how working remotely, can help save the planet but even if you can’t work remotely in your role, by walking/cycling/taking the bus instead of driving to work, you can make a huge difference as reducing commuter traffic cuts air and water pollution and oil consumption. Working from your home or even from a local coffee shop is better for the environment than working in a huge office.

The formula for remote working

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.

 

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.

How to manage a remote team

With the increase in remote working and the availability of remote job,  it can seem daunting to take the leap towards managing your own remote team. We’ve got you covered with some suggestions on how to make the transition and process a bit easier.

  1. Schedule a daily huddle – whether you use Google Hangouts, Skype, JoinMe or something similar, gathering the team together and running through what was achieved yesterday and the goals for today is really effective at keeping the team together.
  2. Use a platform that you can track projects/productivity that updates in real time – these are a fantastic idea for both remote and in-house teams as you are able to track the goals and progress.
  3. Check in regularly – communication is key and just as you might go and speak to one of your in-house colleagues for an update on a project, do this with your remote colleagues too.
  4. Set clear expectations for both the individuals and the team – individuals need enough work to stay busy and the team needs achievable goals to aim for. This helps everyone to feel involved and be accountable for their contributions.
  5. Make sure your remote worker still feel part of the team – make an effort to build rapport with every member of your team, include some small talk at the beginning or end of a conversation and get to know them, like you would with in-house staff.
  6. Utilize video as much as possible for catch ups –  more than half of human communication is non-verbal so having conversations with your team on video call will tell you a lot more about what’s going on than just speaking on the phone.
  7. Remember about their career progression – ensure that your remote workers make progress on their goals and understand their options for progression in the company and in their careers.
  8. Never cancel your one-on-ones – pick a regular time that works for both of you, obviously sometimes things come up that can’t be avoided but make sure you reschedule it for the next convenient time, don’t cancel it.

The main thing priority when managing a remote team is to ensure that that’s what you’re doing – managing a team.

Our software helps remote workers to stay a part of the team. By sending live still images every few seconds, Nowbridge shows you when your team are there. You can send instant chat messages, leave voice messages, initiate Skype calls and make it clear when you’re at work and when you’ve finished for the day. Try it today, it’s free and easy to use!

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!