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.

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?

 

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?

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.

 

 

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!

How do remote workers switch off?

Where do you draw the line between work and your personal life when you work from home?

At Nowbridge, we know how tricky it can be, which is why we designed our software but there are lots of other things you can do to keep your work and home lives separate.

Firstly, there are things that you can do during the working day to help with this, like taking a proper lunch break, making sure you get up from your desk frequently and walk around like you would in an office, dress properly for work and making sure you switch off your computer/close the door to your office (if you have one) when your day is done.

Speaking of your home office, as your office and home are in the same place, it can be really hard to switch off at the end of the working day. We’ve scoured dozens of articles about this, looking for ideas and here are some of our favourites:

  • Schedule a workout for after work – helps you de-stress and de-clutter your mind
  • Get out of the house – do a food shop, walk the dog, go and pick up a coffee etc.
  • Have a glass of wine (or something similar)…

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All of these things can help you switch off and prevent you from overworking…remember, your boss can’t see all those extra hours you’re doing.

Don’t forget that one of the huge benefits of working remotely or working from home is that you can have a better life balance, don’t be tempted to fall into bad habits.