Telecommuting – Home Business Magazine https://homebusinessmag.com Home Business - Home-Based Business - Business Opportunities - Franchises - Business Start-up - Work From Home Sun, 30 Apr 2017 10:10:31 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 How to Effectively Juggle Office Life and Remote Work Through Three Simple Strategies https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/effectively-juggle-office-life-remote-work-three-simple-strategies/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/effectively-juggle-office-life-remote-work-three-simple-strategies/#respond Sat, 08 Apr 2017 00:50:45 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=31161 Keep the following tips in mind to make sure that you stay productive and make the most of your time doing business remotely.

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Given the recent rise of remote work and the fact that many workers note that they actually feel more productive beyond the confines of an office, many of today’s entrepreneurs are enjoying a mix of the traditional office lifestyle and the benefits of working from home simultaneously.

Although having the opportunity to work from home a few days a week may seem like a blessing, it can turn into somewhat of a headache if you’ve never worked from home before. For starters, there are tons of potential distractions to keep you from getting down to business. Additionally, not all work is created equal: some of your workload would perhaps be better suited at the office versus at home.

So, what do you need to know if you’re going to be working partially from home? Keep the following tips in mind to make sure that you stay productive and make the most of your time doing business remotely.

Make Yourself Comfortable

Creating your home office space is an absolute must-do if you’re working from home: you can’t expect to just sit on your laptop in your living room and think that will cut it. Some investments to ensure your productivity are as follows:

  • Comfortable furniture: whether you’re creating an office in the corner of a room or decorating a new space from scratch, simple yet sophisticated home furniture will ensure your comfort and remind you that it’s business time
  • Somewhere quiet: you need to choose a space where you’re least likely going to encounter any sort of distractions (which could mean others in your home as well as noise from the outdoors)
  • Somewhere with a strong Internet connection: don’t choose a dead-zone in your home if you expect to stay productive, but instead choose somewhere in close proximity to your modem and router

Establish a Daily Routine

Working from home doesn’t mean lounging around in your pajamas and sleeping in until noon: if you don’t establish routines ASAP, you’ll find yourself in hot water with management and your productivity will suffer.

Make it a point to structure your day and breaks accordingly. For example, make it a point to wake up an hour or so before it’s time to get down to business to make room for activities such as reading the paper, doing some exercise and making your morning pot of coffee. Schedule your mental and meal breaks accordingly; however, stick to your schedule so you don’t end up working all day or missing deadlines.

Choose Your Work Wisely

As noted earlier, not all work is created equal. You need to pick and choose between tasks which are best suited for home versus the office.

For example, tedious typing and editing tasks are perhaps best served for home where you can grind them out and focus; meanwhile, anything which involves numerous meetings or face-to-face conversations and collaborations are best suited for the office. Although you can take the steps to become a master of virtual meetings, you should save real-time conversations for the office if possible.

By following these tips, you’ll not only get more work done but also stay in good standing with higher-ups. The more your management trusts you to work from home, the more likely they’ll give you more liberties and opportunities to enjoy remote work.



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The View from the Home Office: Why Flex Time Is the New 9-5 https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/view-home-office-flex-time-new-9-5/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/view-home-office-flex-time-new-9-5/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 18:58:38 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=29910 To close the gender gap in employment, we need to encourage more flexible working conditions, including offering opportunities for full-time or part-time remote work, flex time that allows parents to care for sick children, and a shift away from the traditional 9-5.

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The gender wage gap is a persistent problem in the American workforce; women are paid less for equivalent work and less likely to rise through the ranks of major companies and attain leadership positions.

Though on a case-to-case basis, there’s often no evident reason for this gap, the overwhelming consensus is that women are held back in the workplace because of their role as mothers. Many also drop out of the workforce after they become parents.

To close the gender gap in employment, we need to encourage more flexible working conditions, including offering opportunities for full-time or part-time remote work, flex time that allows parents to care for sick children, and a shift away from the traditional 9-5.

Neither keeping a job you love nor caring for your family should have to be a sacrifice.

Copyright: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo

The Standard 9-5: An Unnecessary Anachronism

Why do most people work a 9-5 business day? The roots of this workday go back to the Industrial Revolution, during which activists and business leaders, like Henry Ford, worked to eliminate the 10 or 12-hour workday that was standard at the time.

The 8-hour day was an improvement, but today research shows that this timeline isn’t working; it contributes to sleep deprivation and compromises productivity. It also strains relationships in families where both parents work. Finally, with the technology we have access to today, it’s well past time we get rid of this rigid schedule.

When the 9-5 became the gold standard in employment, we didn’t have access to the internet, instant messaging technologies, or complex phone options like conference calling. Getting everyone in one place for an extended period seemed like the only way to manage communication and teamwork.

Now, however, people can work remotely. By using technology like Dialpad, they can still be tapped in to the same phone and messaging systems as their coworkers. Technology long ago bridged that disconnect.

4121299 - happy couple working at home using laptop computer, smiling.
Copyright: nyul / 123RF Stock Photo

Remote Work And Oversight Concerns

Another reason that companies, especially major corporations, are often hesitant to let employees work remotely is because they fear a loss of productivity. In the office, you’re under the watchful eye of your coworkers and supervisors and that enforces certain norms regarding how you behave. If you surf the internet, someone may pop up behind you. If you linger away from your desk for too long, you may be reprimanded.

We’re not saying that oversight is a bad thing, but rather that people can work from home on a flexible schedule and technology can take on the role of the supervisor.

Software such as Clockspot manages time, tracks phone calls, and even monitors GPS. It allows people to work flexibly from home while keeping them accountable. That means that the mom who is working from home because she has to be with a sick child or can’t access childcare will still need to be on task or clock out and come back later to get her hours in.

Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

How Remote Work Is Reshaping Employment

Because remote work has become so sought after as a way for women to remain in the workplace after having children, companies are rapidly arriving on the scene to provide support. Numerous websites exist specifically to direct people to remote jobs, including such sites as FlexJobs and Power to Fly. These sites allow individuals to seek new jobs structured around a work-from-home ethos, rather than try to negotiate those opportunities at their current job.

Simultaneously, mainstream workplaces are realizing just how sought after flexibility is in today’s world. People are willing to accept fewer benefits and even pay cuts in order to gain more flexibility. Ultimately, this makes sense. When we consider how much childcare costs in today’s economy, for example, families are able to spend less if one parent can work from home – even if that means slightly less income; net income still increases.

Of course, flex time and remote work aren’t a universal solution to the standard work day. People of color, who make up a disproportionate part of the low-wage service sector workforce, are unlikely to see these benefits anytime soon, and many work two or more jobs in order to make ends meet.

Still, flexibility and remote work offer a ray of hope for those who have struggled to find opportunities that suit their lifestyles. We’re entering a time when work may be structured around your schedule, not the other way around.



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5 Tools to Streamline the Workflow for Remote Teams https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/5-tools-streamline-workflow-remote-teams/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/5-tools-streamline-workflow-remote-teams/#respond Sat, 04 Feb 2017 08:00:28 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=27826 Here are five remote team tasks your business should automate to help strengthen your remote team’s performance.

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With the advent of technology like Skype and 4G, remote workers became just as productive as their in-office counterparts. Suddenly it was possible to communicate in real time with coworkers from almost anywhere around the world, and collaborative tools further enhanced productivity for remote workers. There are all kinds of ways to improve the home office, and remote work can now be so successful that some startups are entirely remote, without an office anywhere in the world.

With remote teams however, there are some complications. You can’t just pop by your coworkers to ask a question, things like meetings and paperwork become more of a hassle, and it can generally be more difficult to maintain team productivity and ensure that everyone is working efficiently towards a common goal.



However, there are ways around these obstacles. Here are five remote team tasks your startup should automate to help strengthen your remote team’s performance.

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1. Slack

Email chains, phone calls, mail. All of these are inefficient methods of communication for remote teams. Streamline the communication process with Slack. The much-hyped messaging tool earns its buzz by being colorful, fun, and most of all useful. Slack allows users to create channels for specific teams, goals, or announcement types, so everyone on your team can be involved in every part of the startup they need to be and can easily identify incoming messages as priorities or not, based on which channels those messages come in from. Plus, Slack has one-on-one messaging, for those instances where discretion or direct communication is necessary.

2. PandaDoc

Paperwork is a pain when it comes to remote teams. You’re not in the same office, so how are you going to sign that contract? Mail it halfway around the world? Luckily, PandaDoc solves that problem by allowing startups to digitally create, sign, and seal all kinds of important documents, such as contracts, sales proposals, offer letters and more, that are legally binding. Never worry about your paperwork getting lost in the mail again.

3. Trello

One of the most important tools a remote team can use is a project management tool. There are many out there, but one of the best is Trello. The app lets you create cards for different projects and lets project managers track the big-picture progress as well as the completion of minute tasks in real time on this cloud-based tool. Trello keeps individuals accountable for their work, and it lets you update responsibilities and new projects on the go. By bringing much-needed clarity to a team’s progress and what individuals work on, Trello creates a sense of unity while ensuring the whole team stays on task.

4. IFTTT

Short for “If This, Then That,” IFTTT is one of the most customizable options on this list. In essence, IFTTT is a software tool that lets users create relationships between different apps under certain conditions. For example, if you receive an email, the sender could automatically be added to your contact list, or you can set reminders for your team to be sent out at a certain time. With numerous integrations, there are all sorts of creative ways to use IFTTT to your startup’s advantage.

5. Expensify

Eventually, every business needs to purchase something, whether it’s a software tool or digital advertisements. To automate the reimbursement process, Expensify lets users create expense reports with just one-click through uploading a picture of the receipt or by manually entering the expense. With customizable company policy options, Expensify will parse the report and find out which reports need approval from a manager. The rest will be reimbursed automatically. This streamlines the payment process and frees up time for your HR team to focus on more pressing concerns.

What other ways do you automate your remote team? Leave a comment below!

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The Cubicle Is Dead: These Startups Are Thriving Without an Office https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/cubicle-dead-startups-thriving-without-office/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/cubicle-dead-startups-thriving-without-office/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2017 17:48:38 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=27619 There's been one constant in the workplace over the past century - workers had to drive to their job and share a cramped space with their coworkers. A number of young startups are changing things up.

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There’s been one constant in the workplace over the past century – workers had to drive to their job and share a cramped space with their coworkers. A number of young startups are changing things up.

Yahoo! and a number of other companies have experimented with telecommuting. A number of smaller startups are taking things even further. These companies have created entirely virtual workplaces.

Here are some 100% virtual companies.

Copyright: tsyhun / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: tsyhun / 123RF Stock Photo

FlexJobs

“The FlexJobs team is made up of a fantastic group of intelligent, dedicated, positive, and diverse people who all share a passion for helping people find great jobs that offer work flexibility. We work virtually from all over the United States, and although we haven’t even all met in person, that doesn’t stop us from being a cohesive team, enjoying our jobs, and loving to help our clients.”

FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell predicts that many other companies will follow suit. “It’s predicted that half the workforce will be working remotely by 2020, but I believe it’s already happening informally,” she told Fast Company.

10Up

10Up is a web development and Internet technology firm that has also gone fully virtual. While the team doesn’t have to congregate in an office, they have a very committed work ethic. Last month, the company posted a blog about their employees’ vacation plans.

Senior Web Engineer Sudar Muthu and other employees said they haven’t had a chance to take any time off in a long time, despite not having to go to a regular office every day.

“It’s been a while since I took any vacation to spend time with my family. So I am going to use this break to go on a road trip around my state with my family.”

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AIDS-Free World

For-profit technology companies aren’t the only firms going virtual. AIDS-Free World, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting the HIV epidemic, is a small virtual organization with offices all over the world.

Unlike many technology startups, AIDS-Free World doesn’t boast about their status as a virtual company, so many people aren’t aware of it’s unique workplace model.

However, the virtual workplace concept makes sense for them and many other nonprofits. Nonprofit organizations have limited funding, so they need to operate on lean budgets. Managing workers from remote locations makes a lot more sense than paying to maintain an office and compensating workers for unnecessary travel expenses.

There is another, even more important benefit of being a virtual organization. Maintaining a virtual team allows them to have a presence in every part of the world. Employees can represent the nonprofit to lobbyists, politicians and HIV survivors in their home country and share their insights with the nonprofit headquarters in New York.

iDoneThis

iDoneThis is a company that specializes in developing technology for remote firms, so it’s hardly surprising that they are a remote firm themselves. Walter Chen, founder and CEO of iDoneThis, says the remote workplace model has worked very well. However, the company has had to take some precautions.

He said the secret to creating a successful virtual company is promoting trust, communication and transparency, which aligns with something SnackNation also recently pointed out in their post on ways to encourage employee engagement.

“When you share common ground, you’re able to coordinate implicitly, rather than explicitly. That means that the need for explicit communication and coordination — the benefits you get from being on a co-located team — diminish significantly. Find a way to make sure your team gets on the same page regularly, such as frequently talking about goals and objectives and making work visible,” Chen stated.

Copyright: mavoimage / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: mavoimage / 123RF Stock Photo

The Virtual Workplace Is the Future of Startups

Startups are trying to operate on lean budgets these days. Running virtual teams is one of the easiest ways they can do this. Will virtual organizations become the new standard for workplaces around the world?



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Is Telecommuting from Home the Right Fit for You? https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/working-with-employer/telecommuting-home-right-fit-you/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/working-with-employer/telecommuting-home-right-fit-you/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2016 00:25:20 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/uncategorized/telecommuting-home-right-fit-you/ Whether you are targeting a full-time or part-time telecommuting arrangement, it’s important to understand the realities of telework and have a clear plan for being an effective telecommuter.

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Put a Plan Together to Work From Home in Your Existing Job

Do you yearn for a more balanced life and a more flexible approach to work? Do you dream about productive workdays that don’t include the drain of time and energy devoted to commuting? Do you spend time in traffic (on the highway or sitting in an airplane seat) and wonder if there might not be a better way? Has the cost of gasoline made you determined to find a way to spend less time on the road and more time taking the Internet to work? Well, you have a growing crowd of similar thinkers.



Aside from the romanticized images of working in your bunny slippers, PJs, or in the buff, telecommuting is an important workplace alternative for a growing number of people. There are compelling reasons why employees and employers alike are taking a serious look at telework. Managers and business owners (the enlightened and conscientious ones) recognize that workplace flexibility is a key to business prosperity, recruitment success, and talent retention. A growing number of workers — both in the USA and around the globe — seek the productivity gains, timesavings, and savings at the gas pump that telecommuting offers.

So how can you become a telecommuter or telecommute more regularly than just when you’re waiting for the refrigerator service man or avoiding some weather-created roadway fiasco? And what are keys to success and productivity for the growing legions of teleworkers?

It’s clear that teleworking is not for everyone or every job. Whether you are targeting a full-time or part-time telecommuting arrangement, it’s important to understand the realities of telework and have a clear plan for being an effective telecommuter. Those workers who telework effectively — and those who want to — are likely to benefit from the following tips for teleworking success.

Be Certain Teleworking is Right for You

By understanding what’s involved and required to telework successfully, you can avoid a disappointing or career-altering experience. First it must be clear that you have a “telecommutable” job. If your job is not location-dependent, involves work that can be done independently, by telephone, on the computer, or via the Internet, then you’ve probably met the initial requirement. Beyond that, there are other considerations that make telework appropriate for some people and not for others.

For those who thrive on plenty of interaction with co-workers or who associate the traditional workplace with the motivation necessary to work, teleworking presents some challenges. Teleworking is also not a viable childcare solution since mixing work with childcare typically leads to diminished results in both areas. Telecommuting is ideally suited for workers who are relatively independent, effective time managers, skilled in planning and organizing, self-motivated, highly disciplined, technically proficient and who have a strong performance record. Honestly evaluate if you have the job conditions, required personal traits, and working style necessary to succeed as a telecommuter. Additionally, it’s important to assess your home office environment and the level of support you’ll need from the people you live with. Address areas of concern through planning, training, negotiation, and agreement-setting discussions.

Obtain Approval to Telecommute

Armed with good information about why you can be an effective telecommuter, you’ll next need to gain approval from your manager or organization to begin telecommuting. Follow this “Make a Case for Telecommuting Guide” to win approval for your telework venture:

1. Plan and prepare with organization benefits in mind.

Your “frame of reference” for your approach, rationale, and specific plans should be based on what’s in the best interest of your job, your manager, your company and your customers. Therefore, while many of your reasons for wanting to telecommute might be personal and relate to advantages you and your family will realize, it’s critical that you focus on the numerous advantages telecommuting also offers your employer, such as:

  • Increased productivity.
  • Lower real estate space costs.
  • Reduced equipment/furniture costs.
  • Reduced employee turnover.
  • Reduced absenteeism.
  • Improved morale.
  • Improved work/life balance.
  • Environmental responsibility.
  • Expanded recruitment options.
  • Results-oriented management.
  • Increased flexibility for business continuity.
  • Increased employment of women.
  • Increased employment of disabled workers.
  • Reduced travel costs.
  • Access to part-time or retired employees.
  • Competitive advantages.
  • Access to additional labor pools to address skill shortages.

If possible, translate these benefits into a dollar amount your employer can expect to save.

2. Explain why you will be an effective telecommuter.

Provide a list of telecommuting success criteria. Based on your telecommuter self-assessment, explain to your employer in detail how you meet the success criteria and why you are a good candidate for telecommuting. Include some of your personal reasons for wanting to telecommute, but keep your primary emphasis on the business reasons for your proposal and the advantages telecommuting offers the business enterprise.

3. Explain how you will make telecommuting work.

Describe in detail how you will handle your:

  • Major job accountabilities.
  • Daily tasks.
  • Key co-worker relationships.
  • Interactions previously handled as face-to-face.

Provide a detailed summary of your:

  • Projected daily schedule.
  • Measurable results and methods to report achievement of goals on a routine basis.
  • Alternative methods for keeping in touch and maintaining your accessibility to co-workers, managers, vendors, and clients.
  • Support from other departments and functions from whom you’ve secured commitment (e.g., information systems/computer support, telecommunications, real estate, human resources/ personnel, marketing, accounting).
  • Location and layout of the home office space you will use.
  • Plan for handling childcare, family care, and other family-related issues.
  • Projected equipment needs (and estimated costs for equipment/supplies to be provided by your employer).

4. Suggest a telecommuting pilot.

If your manager or organization isn’t ready to fully embrace telecommuting and approve your permanent transition to telework, propose a telecommuting pilot to gather more information, uncover unexpected problems, and identify additional ways to enhance productivity. Be sure to have the pilot details clearly documented, as well as agreement on the criteria for evaluating success of the pilot.

Prepare a Telecommuting Agreement

To avoid misunderstandings and ensure clarity, it’s advisable to have a telework agreement in place between you and your manager or organization. For details on drafting a telecommuting agreement with your organization, see “The Telecommuting Agreement.”

Design a Productive — and Safe — Home Office

Utilize an office layout that is conducive to the type of work you do and your individual work style. Be certain that your home office provides sufficient light, ventilation, and work surfaces, as well as separation from noise and other distractions. Ensure that your electrical system supports your requirements, and avoid hazards such as excessive use of extension cords, the absence of power-surge protection, and stacks of boxes and other clutter that block walkways.

Also be sure to design your work area with good ergonomics in mind. The height of your workstation, type of chair, and type/position of your keyboard are all examples of resources that have ergonomic implications. And be sure to practice good workplace habits such as occasional breaks that get your standing and moving around. Sitting at your desk for hours without a break isn’t healthy and won’t contribute to your productivity.

Avoid Bad Habits, Distractions, and Time Wasters

A myriad of temptations await the teleworker and threaten your productivity: socializing with neighbors, doing household chores, watching television, spending time with your family, making frequent trips to the refrigerator. Teleworkers must be committed to using time wisely and staying focused on the tasks at hand.

An excellent way to avoid drains on your productivity caused by distractions and time wasters is to be extraordinarily focused and organized. Begin each day with a clear plan for the day, including specific outcomes/actions/deliverables to be accomplished. Be dogged in your determination to accomplish your goals for the day.

Being organized and having a workspace that isn’t cluttered or chaotic will definitely help you minimize wasted time. Here are some quick organizing action steps you can take to help in this area:

Identify:

*5 things on your desk you can relocate to a smarter place. (Now move them.)
*4 things in your closest desk drawer that aren’t used frequently enough to keep them there. (Now find a new storage space for them.)
*3 files in your closest file drawer or desktop files that haven’t been used in the last month. (Now move them to a more appropriate file drawer or storage area.)
*2 areas where you have space that’s not being utilized most effectively. (Now rearrange them.)
*1 thing you can buy that improves the organization of your office. (Add it to your shopping list or jump online and order it now.)

Maintain a Healthy Balance

Teleworking will not inherently provide a perfect work/life balance. If you were a workaholic before teleworking, chances are your workaholism will be just as bad (if not worse) after beginning to telework. Because the workplace is so close and always available when working from home, teleworkers must be especially disciplined about not overworking.

Negotiate Expectations and Agreements

Both with family members and with co-workers, disagreements can arise. Teleworkers should anticipate areas of potential conflict, set clear expectations, and reach agreements before controversy occurs. Utilize the following guidelines for handling discussions to reach agreements that foster commitment and collaboration:

  • Clearly state the needs and expectations.
  • Explain why they’re important and the consequences of not meeting them.
  • Describe how the agreement will look when it’s operating as needed.
  • Ask about issues, concerns, and additional information.
  • Listen, reflect, discuss, and summarize periodically.
  • Document the agreements, and distribute to everyone involved.

Establish a Solid Foundation of Trust and a Reputation for Reliability

Remember that your manager, clients, or colleagues may wonder if you’re really working when you telework. So, be sure your performance is beyond reproach. Strive to be known for your dependability and availability. Be prompt in returning calls, reply to e-mails quickly, use a cell phone or PDA for greater accessibility, use IM or text messaging to stay connected with colleagues, and let people know the best ways to reach you right away.

Practice Good “Distance Dialog”

Communication is a vital component of telecommuting success. There’s no doubt that clear, timely, and frequent communication is an important responsibility as a telecommuter.

Choosing the right way to communicate depends on the situation. Discussing a problem, for example, is best handled in a “live” discussion, while e-mail is an effective way to distribute meeting notes to team members. Frequency of communication with colleagues is another area that is variable based on the circumstances and needs. Keep in mind that you need to communicate both for “”task” purposes, e.g., information that must be exchanged, as well as for “relationship” purposes. Keeping in touch with coworkers is important to establishing relationships, building trust, and strengthening team performance.

As a telecommuter, you participate more frequently in virtual meetings that connect people who are working together from a distance. Productive virtual meetings begin with a clear statement of purpose and importance; involve people who are focused on listening to “hear between the lines;” include more interactive discussion and fewer monologues; are characterized by frequent summaries of agreements and understandings; and have clear follow-up actions identified.

To ensure the success of virtual meetings, remember to:

  • Plan the agenda.
  • Distribute the agenda and necessary information in advance; confirm receipt.
  • Clarify responsibilities.
  • Arrange for inclusion of required equipment, information and people.
  • Maintain the schedule.

As people more commonly utilize telecommuting across all industries and sectors, plan to become a successful part of this important workplace shift. Through thorough preparation, proper planning, and smart work practices, you can begin building and expanding your potential to telecommute. Based on all the factors involved, your timing couldn’t be better to seize the opportunity to join the rapidly expanding ranks of telecommuters everywhere.

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The Future of Work Is Remote: Companies That Fully Embrace the Nomad Revolution https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/future-work-remote-companies-fully-embrace-nomad-revolution/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/future-work-remote-companies-fully-embrace-nomad-revolution/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 02:03:48 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=25562 The companies that have embraced the digital nomad culture are at the bleeding edge of the remote work trend and are testing the waters of remote team structures, businesses operations, and new remote work-oriented technologies and practices, so what lessons can be gleaned from their experiences?

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Last year, a survey conducted among business leaders at the London Business School’s Business Leadership Summit predicted a major paradigm shift in how we work: 50% of them believe the world’s workforce will be remote by 2020. In the U.S., remote workers already comprise one-third of the workforce, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every single sector of industry saw growth in remote work in the past year.

These predictions and stats shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, 95% of businesses believe remote work is key to their success. While it’s still a nascent philosophy, more and more businesses are starting to shift towards being “remote-first.”



Mobile by design, with their processes and workflows calibrated to accommodate a global network of employees, remote-first companies are changing the meaning of office space. Their employees are encouraged to work when they want, how they want, and where they want, creating an inspired company culture with a focus on work-life balance and worker satisfaction. Remote-first employees are often called “digital nomads,” workers who, as long as they have a laptop and trustworthy internet connection, can travel the world freely.

The companies that have embraced the digital nomad culture are at the bleeding edge of the remote work trend and are testing the waters of remote team structures, businesses operations, and new remote work-oriented technologies and practices, so what lessons can be gleaned from their experiences? How exactly is digital nomad culture changing the workplace landscape?

Automattic

Many remote-first companies tend to forgo the traditional hiring practice marked by rounds of in-office interviews. At Automattic, one of the very first remote-first companies and the creator of WordPress.com, there isn’t even a voice interview. Automattic’s CEO evaluates each resume, the hiring lead conducts an introductory Q&A with the candidate via Skype Instant Messenger, the candidate completes a paid trial project, and finally, the CEO conducts a final review chat with the candidate, again via Skype IM. The process doesn’t require any single member of the hiring process–CEO, hiring lead, or candidate–to share the same physical location and, after a candidate is hired, there is no relocation necessary. The talent pool of candidates is global, and employees can remain global once hired. Automattic’s internationally-minded take on the hiring process aligns with their philosophy and product line: Open Source software that seeks to democratize publishing by providing anyone, regardless of location, a platform to use and share their voice.

The worldwide spread of Automattic’s employees has also lead to unique, streamlined communication practices. They have abandoned e-mail as the primary means of conveyance, instead focusing on chat rooms, Google Hangouts, and an internal blog that alerts employees to posts pertinent to their team. Furthermore, to keep everyone happy and healthy, Automattic provides new hires with $2000 for their own “office” improvements and equipment that will best serve them in their remote work, such as high-end computers and travel-oriented tech. As one of the early remote-first companies, Automattic has made it a point, not only to innovate in their remote work practices, but to make it easier and more comfortable for digital nomads to thrive as employees.

Toptal

Toptal, a vetted freelance marketplace that custom matches top developers and designers with clients, has a rigorous, 100% remote screening process for their freelance network so that they can offer their clients the best talent available around the world. Due to the nature of a remote global network, there’s a focus on English language skills and communication during the screening process, as well as a candidate’s ability to produce quality work semi-autonomously. Ultimately, only 3% of applicants are welcomed into Toptal’s freelance network so that the company can ensure that their clients, including J.P. Morgan and AirBnB, will be satisfied while also giving them a taste of the remote experience.

Even with thousands of freelancers located around the world, Toptal remains focused on community improvement. The Toptal Engineering and Design Blog allows freelancers to share their experiences and expertise, often including musings on digital nomad travel philosophies, remote team management, and technical lessons for programmers and designers. The Toptal Community hosts events all over the world, from professional panels to happy hours, for their network and those interested in the company. This past year, Toptal even sent a group of employees on a three-month road trip through South America to “support Toptal communities, build new communities, [and] accelerate the development of tech talent in the region…” This trip, along with their Toptal Global Mentors program, an initiative to help minority and low-income individuals gain access to and succeed in the world of professional software engineering, makes Toptal a company uniquely invested in the growth of not only their network, but the remote work world at large.

Zapier

Specializing in “easy automation for busy people,” Zapier connects web apps to better automate and streamline tasks. For instance, one could connect their Gmail, Dropbox, and Slack accounts in order to cut down on separate, individual logins and checks–any new attachment sent via Gmail could be automatically transferred to Dropbox, an alert for which then could then appear in Slack. It’s no surprise that Zapier’s focus on automation and streamlining also translates to their coordinated use of web apps to manage communications and operations across their own remote team. With digital nomads constantly changing time zones, it’s important everyone stays in contact on several fronts. Zapier ensures all their employees are kept in the loop with Slack and Trello, up-to-date via their internal blog, and on task with an array of tools like Zoom and Screenflow.

Zapier is so dedicated to the digital nomad revolution that they’ve written a book-length guide on remote work, which outlines what this company of digital nomads has learned since cutting the virtual ribbon in October 2011. Zapier’s “Ultimate Guide to Remote Work,” focuses on issues of building culture on a remote team, best practices for remote meetings and maintaining health in the remote workplace, and how-to’s for boosting productivity while traveling.

All of three of these companies have survived the trials and tribulations of being young companies, while also forging new paths into the unknown territory of the remote workplace.

The benefits of remote work are clear and these companies are living proof of how to make the ultimate transition to remote-first. In the years to come, many businesses will surely follow suit. Do you know of any other remote-first companies changing the way we work? Share your thoughts below.

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How the Freelance Economy Is Saving Us Billions While Putting an End to Brain Drain https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/freelance-economy-saving-us-billions-putting-end-brain-drain/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/freelance-economy-saving-us-billions-putting-end-brain-drain/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2016 01:48:40 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=25559 The impact of going freelance-first for employers and freelance-only for workers is huge on brain drain.

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Surging rent prices. Displacement of long-time residents. Rapid-scale construction. Disappearance of local culture. The unplanned mass migration of highly skilled professionals to super cities has had a devastating impact on the human and environmental ecosystems across the world.



Nowhere is this currently more pronounced than in the “Digital Gold Rush” to San Francisco. As techies continue to flock to the City by the Bay at full-speed ahead, they’re jacking up rent prices and pushing natives out. In 2014 alone, the median rent for one-bedroom apartments rose by 13.5%, making San Francisco the most unaffordable housing market in the nation. It is now also the city with the fastest growing income inequality in America.

For low- to moderate- income earners, one of the only ways to purchase homes is through the city’s below market program (BMP), which is designed to “maintain income and cultural diversity” by setting aside a small percentage of newly constructed homes for house-seekers in the bottom income quartiles. However, for those who meet all of the program’s specifications, the chances of winning the housing lottery are just 1 in 10, and only 15% of for-sale homes in the city are affordable even for middle class income earners.

Meanwhile, as Cobalt Corazon, a 30-year special-education teacher and recent winner of San Francisco’s BMP lottery, explained in an interview with Al Jazeera, “Some of the wealthy young people are literally coming down with bags of cash, and whatever the offer price is, they’re offering $200,000 over — in cash.” In the Mission district, historically a working-class latino neighborhood that has now become the trendiest and most expensive hotspot for young professionals, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg paid $10 million for a Mission house valued at $3.2 million. While most techies don’t have that type of money to throw around, they do have the disposable income to displace the Mission’s long-time residents. As Corazon put it, “If you’re just coming here, you’d better be a Twitterite.”

To varying degrees, the same story unfolds across all employment hotspots: gentrification destroys neighborhoods, pushing natives out while new money transforms the local landscape.

But that’s only half of the problem. The cost of brain drain is high on both sides of the equation. It strips small communities of their talent and dismantles a positive feedback cycle of giving back locally.

Take the case of the Balkan countries, which have seen hundreds of thousands of young people between the ages of 25-35 move abroad in search of better employment opportunities. Four decades ago, the number of Serbian university graduates emigrating to other countries accounted for 2% of the population; now, it’s 15%. Each year, around 12,000 young professionals leave Serbia, 10,000 leave Bosnia, and 9,000 leave Croatia.

For a young developer growing up in Sarajevo or Zagreb, the decision to emigrate is often wrought with frustration. They don’t want to leave their homes where their support networks and friends are, but vexation about the lack of competitive job prospects in their community eventually boils over, pushing them to either stagnate professionally or make a big move. Silva Meznaric, a Croatian migration expert, explained, “the main reason for educated people leaving is not unemployment, as people usually think, but to try to find themselves a decent job.” She continued, “Young people from the countries in the region want to go abroad in order to find jobs which will allow them to achieve their ambitions and plans. In the Balkans, they obviously cannot do that.”

Even though a Bosnian who lands a job with a Silicon Valley startup will undoubtedly earn more, it’s not uncommon for his or her quality of life to actually go down. What size paycheck makes it worth uprooting one’s life and leaving their support system behind? Not to mention, their paycheck is increasing by a factor of three, but so is their cost of living. The increase in disposable income is not what it might first appear to be.

From a sociological or demographic standpoint, we also have to consider what’s lost by the developer leaving their home communities. When they move away from home, all of their accumulated knowledge goes with them. They may visit a few times a year, but they aren’t there long enough to band together with other bright individuals and local government officials to host meetups or conferences and to create better opportunities for the next generation of aspiring developers in the community. And, instead of paying local taxes on their income, helping to train more teachers, or build better agricultural programs, they pay taxes in San Francisco or New York, where their contribution will amount to a tiny, negligible fraction of the economy.

In their 2011 study, Globalization, Brain Drain, and Development, Frédéric Docquier and Hillel Rapoport concluded that through brain drain, “globalization is making human capital scarcer where it is already scarce and more abundant where it is already abundant, thereby contributing to increasing inequality across countries, including among the richer ones.” The emigration of highly skilled professionals depletes the human capital stock of small communities and stunts the development of third world countries.

The Solution

Until now, a one-way ticket to an urban metropolis has seemed to be an inevitable, if destructive, eventuality for highly skilled professionals in small towns from Bosnia to Boise, Idaho. However, there is now a solution to the brain drain: the rise of the freelance economy.  It’s the fastest growing sector of the global workforce, and it’s allowing talented professionals across the globe to access highly competitive job opportunities without being forced to leave home.

Historically, freelance work was mostly associated with “temps” and “gigs,” and it was predominantly taken up by people trying to make extra cash by taking on a side job. Now, over  53 million Americans are freelancing, and an increasing number of them are highly skilled workers trading in their office job benefits to pursue full careers in freelance work. They’re working how they want, when they want, and they’re making as much and sometimes even twice as much than they did at their office job.

As the options for freelance work have increased, the culture and perception surrounding it has completely changed, particular in the software engineering industry. Some of the biggest and best companies are now turning first to freelance talent to solve their most challenging problems, relying on remote talent networks like Toptal to connect them to the right developers for each project. Organizations like Airbnb, IDEO, and JP Morgan recognize that going the freelance route has not only become a trustworthy and mainstream option, it is also the most effective way to scale their team quickly with the best talent around.

The impact of going freelance-first for employers and freelance-only for workers is huge on brain drain. In 2014, FlexJobs compiled a list of companies that are following this model, building mostly or fully distributed teams. That list included 26 companies. A year later, the list had grown to 76 companies. Today at Automattic, a web services company, there are over 300 employees working in 174 cities. At Github, there are more than 260 people working across over 100 countries. And at Toptal alone, there are thousands of developers who are now working remotely.

By creating ways for their employees3 to work remotely, these companies are having a huge impact on the brain drain and on the global economy. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 79% of the American workforce wants to work from home at least part of the time and 50% of the workforce has jobs that are compatible with telecommuting. They developed a set of complex models to estimate the impact remote work would have on brain drain if employees with telecommuting compatible jobs worked remotely just half of the time. The results are staggering.

Businesses would save over $11,000 per employee each year, not to mention all they would save on office space, utilities, and maintenance services. They would also increase national productivity by $270 billion worth of work. Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 54 million tons, which is equivalent to taking all of New York State’s workforce –10 million cars– off of the road for one year. The US would save over 640 million barrels of oil, valued at over $64 billion. Highway erosion would decrease dramatically, saving communities hundred of millions of dollars in highway maintenance, sparing over 90,000 people traffic accidents, and reducing traffic-related costs by $10 billion each year. These estimates are for the US alone.

The full-scale impact of the expansion of the remote workforce is incalculable. What’s clear is that it’s moving our world in the right direction. More and more companies are noticing the power of the global talent pool and taking advantage. They’re cleaning up the planet and making it possible for local talent to stay where they’ll make the biggest impact – at home.

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4 Reasons Why the Most Influential Companies Chose a Remote Working Setup https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/4-reasons-influential-companies-chose-remote-working-setup/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/4-reasons-influential-companies-chose-remote-working-setup/#respond Sat, 15 Oct 2016 23:09:11 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=23462 The modern office is no longer just the place where you sit and do your job from 9 to 5 each day. Indeed, many employees now expect their places of work to be havens of comfort and creativity.

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The modern office is no longer just the place where you sit and do your job from 9 to 5 each day. Indeed, many employees now expect their places of work to be havens of comfort and creativity. This is especially true for Millennials, who now make up the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. Surveys and polls show that simply offering a large paycheck isn’t enough to keep today’s employees happy; instead, more and more workers these days prefer a workplace that offers a flexible schedule and opportunities for personal growth.



It makes sense, then, that in this context of flexibility the topic of remote work has come up in recent discussions. Especially now that advances in technology have made it easier than ever to communicate with someone in another room or even halfway around the world, companies are weighing the possibility of allowing employees to work remotely. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a daunting prospect—to some, the idea of a company letting employees work from home or not having an office altogether is almost unthinkable—so weighing the pros and cons of remote work requires careful consideration.

On one hand, there are people who are firmly against remote work, thinking it makes things unnecessarily complicated and hinders real collaboration. For example, Merlin Bise, CTO of GIACT Systems, keeps all his IT employees together in one office, citing ease of collaboration, efficiency, and the fostering of personal relationships that can only come from in-person interaction. On the other hand, the fact can’t be ignored that many top companies are now offering remote work positions. Some companies, including WordPress, GitHub, and Toptal, are even entirely remote—they don’t have a single office anywhere in the world.

The trend shows that remote work options are becoming more and more popular, but is it only to satisfy increasingly demanding employees? Not exactly. In fact, there are plenty of arguments for companies to start considering remote work options. Here are four reasons why some of the world’s most influential companies are choosing remote work setups:

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  1. Remote work saves businesses money

Perhaps the number one reason many businesses are opting to offer remote work is the money it can save them. With employees working from home, the demands for office space and supplies go down, reducing overhead and other operational costs by a substantial margin. Indeed, one study from Global Workplace Analytics revealed that by letting employees work from home 50% of the time, companies can save $11,000 per employee each year. Perhaps the most eye-opening example of the cost-effectiveness of remote work came in Washington D.C. in 2014. When a big snowstorm hit the city, federal employees in the area were allowed to work from home. Ultimately, four days of remote work saved taxpayers $32 million in power, water, transportation, and other typical daily operational expenses. Clearly, cutting down on costs by letting employees operate remotely can mean huge savings.

  1. Remote setups are eco-friendly

Money isn’t the only thing companies save by going remote; turns out, remote work is also very eco-friendly. In 2015, FlexJobs surveyed a number of companies who offer remote positions and found that telecommuting has a hugely positive impact on the environment. Dell, Xerox, and Aetna alone reduced almost 100,00 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 as a result of their remote work options. This is especially good for businesses because of the good PR it offers. A recent study from Nielsen revealed that 66% of shoppers are willing to pay more for services that have a positive environmental and social impact. On top of that, Millennials generally favor workplaces that make a concrete positive impact on the environment, making the remote work option a win-win for businesses.

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  1. Remote workers are more productive

One major fear employers have about offering remote work positions is the stereotype associated with someone who works from home—lazy, in their pajamas all day, sleeping in, and prone to procrastination. While the stereotype is an easy one to buy into, it turns out it’s not really true. On the contrary, a study from the Harvard Business Review tracked a Chinese company that allowed employees to work remotely and discovered that remote employees are more productive than their in-office counterparts. In addition to increased productivity, offering remote work setups is also good for the overall competitiveness of the company: allowing remote positions means you can hire from anywhere, not just your local talent pool. This means you can have access to better workers who will do better work more consistently.

  1. Remote employees are happier

A look at the working habits of some of history’s most creative minds will show you that not everyone thrives under the 9-to-5 office culture, so why force your employees into a system if they do better work under a system more customized to their needs? The flexibility of a remote schedule means employees can work under their ideal circumstances, and that’s ultimately very good for your business both in terms of company morale and the bottom line. For example, an introvert probably doesn’t thrive in a crowded, noisy office; letting employees work from wherever they’re most comfortable will result in improvements across the board, from cutting costs to promoting happiness and everything in between.

There are many complex factors to consider before jumping into remote work, but the trends indicate that it’s becoming an increasingly popular business structure for many top companies. Do you have any experience with remote work? What are your thoughts on companies offering remote setups? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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7 Proven Ways for Managing Remote Teams https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/7-proven-ways-managing-remote-teams/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/7-proven-ways-managing-remote-teams/#respond Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:10:50 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=22638 This infographic from nutcache.com gives seven tips we know startup founders will find useful for managing remote teams.

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If you’re reading this piece, then you are probably a part of the 76% of workers, who have come to the general conclusion that “absenteeism is a good thing” – according to the Second Annual Global Telework Survey conducted by PGI.

Please bear in mind that by using the word “absenteeism” in this case, we are referring to a “physical” absence from the office and not a “virtual” one. With more and more people choosing to work from home every year, there is the need to put in place structures and processes to support this growing trend without sacrificing productivity.  



For startups who are primarily known for possessing limited funds or sole businesses headquartered at home, this might just be the best route to take. Ultimately you would be looking at lower rents or property costs, you would also be working with more self-motivated employees and in most cases, the labor is usually cheaper.

However, acknowledgment of the fact is not proof of its effectiveness, there is also the question of effectively managing this team of people who in some cases, reside on the other side of the ocean, spanning different time zones.

How do you ensure that the team is fully committed to the project and productivity is at its optimum?

The infographic from nutcache.com gives seven tips we know startup founders will find useful for managing remote teams.

7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

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How to Embrace the Coming Freelancing Revolution https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/embrace-coming-freelancing-revolution/ https://homebusinessmag.com/telecommuting/managing-telework/embrace-coming-freelancing-revolution/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:09:10 +0000 https://homebusinessmag.com/?p=21377 How can you go about managing your workforce to maintain or improve the output that you expect from someone in your office? Here are a few ways that you can start thinking about managing remote full -time employees and freelancers.

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We’re in the midst of a revolution in the way that we work, and for many people today it’s taking place right under their nose. Today, 37% of people work remotely in some capacity in their jobs, up from 30% just nine years ago, and that trend is only going to increase. The benefits of remote work to employers are obvious: reduced employee overhead (think less office space), and an increased talent pool, but the benefits seen by employees can be just as large. Reuters does a great job of laying out the benefit to the employee: while the average commute in the US today is 25 minutes, but a dramatic portion of commuters (10.9 million) have commutes of 1 hour or longer, and the longer your commute is, the higher chance of obesity, cholesterol, pain, fatigue, and anxiety.

We’re all ready to take our workforce remote, but how can you go about actually managing that workforce to maintain or improve the output that you expect from someone in your office? Here are a few ways that you can start thinking about managing remote full-time employees and freelancers.

Focus on Productivity, Not on ‘Screen Time’

In your office today, ‘face time’ is an important factor in your employee’s minds, and that can drive the behavior of your workers who remain in the office, but when you manage remote employees, you need to move away from that mindset and begin to think about your employees in terms of productivity. Rewarding value, not face time is key here, and with cloud based product management like Basecamp or Flow, you can focus on assigning tasks or projects to your remote team and measure them based on their actual output. This will not only allow you to better track who is doing their job well (both within the office and on a remote basis), but it will also set more direct expectations with your team about what it means to do a good job at your company.

Utilize Technology for Collaboration

Technology is the great force that drives remote work, and while faster internet connections, cloud based services, and more powerful technology has enabled us to work from anywhere, it’s also important to use this technology as a means of collaboration between you and your employees (or between team members who work on a remote basis).

One great way to keep your entire team on the same page is by starting to use a group chat application like Slack on a regular basis. Not only does this allow all team members to talk with each other, but the history of your conversation is shared, which allows team members to catch up on the conversation on their time, particularly if they are in a dramatically different timezone than your own.

Check in Regularly With Your Employees

Just because your employees are now around the world, doesn’t mean that you are able to treat them like people who are just there to complete tasks for you. While someone working in the same office might have many touch points every day with you, which they can use to gauge their effectiveness and how good of a job they are doing, those who work remotely need to have a way to gauge their effectiveness when they can’t interact with you in-person on a daily basis.

The best way to do this is to schedule regular check in times with your employees. This is best done on a weekly basis when both of you can meet, depending on time constraints and time zone limitations. If you do have a check in however, you need to make sure to meet it. While a missed meeting in an office might not be too much of a problem, missing a meeting with a remote employee can create an impression that you don’t care about their work, or that you don’t value them as an employee – not exactly the culture that you want to foster with your remote team.

Use Video as Much as You Can

You’ve probably read the studies or heard it crop up anecdotally in conversation: 93% of communication is nonverbal. This poses a serious problem for remote workers, because they are going to inevitably spend most of their time speaking to you over a communication medium (email, Slack, or even on the phone) that is almost entirely focused on that 7% of verbal communication. This can create issues with communication, which is why it’s always important to use video when communicating with your team, as much as you possibly can.

The problem is that this experience isn’t always the best, particularly when using technology that isn’t designed to handle issues like poor connections. Tony Zhao, communications company Agora.io, makes the point well: “The big problem for easy hassle-free embedding of real-time communications within Internet-based applications is the lack of Quality of Experience (QoE). If connections are unreliable, voices keep cutting out and video images break up, then people will not use these embedded real-time capabilities.”

Make sure that as much of your communication is done over video, but that you are using high definition video communication that doesn’t lag or drop out. This is almost always the best way to communicate with remote team members on a regular basis.

Build Rapport With Your Remote Team to Establish Trust

We sometimes forget just how much of our conversations in the office are about things other than work. These conversations are what really make us connect with our coworkers, and it’s important to build rapport with your remote team in the same way. Don’t just talk about jobs that they need to do, talk about their family, friends, interests, and anything else that you might talk about with someone in your office.

Working with remote team members can be challenging, but the rewards are definitely worth the risks and the changes that you need to make to your management style to get there. Are you working with a remote team today? Let us know about some of your issues in the comments.

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