Out of Office

Five Steps to Better Collaboration with Online Meetings

Resolve to Collaborate Easier in 2014Collaboration is the key to business success, but if you find yourself wishing for the “good old days” when everybody in your team was based in the same office and your meetings took place in front of a white board, you’ve fallen behind the times. Surprisingly enough, online collaboration is often faster, smoother and more productive than in-person collaboration.

Here are five ways to elevate your team’s collaboration and leverage the advantages of virtual meetings:

  1. Get the right people on board.
  2. Include your virtual team members in the team.
  3. Stop making decisions via email.
  4. Meet face to face to save time and money.
  5. Share ideas and insights with other teams.

That’s a summary from a blog post I wrote recently for Citrix, a leader in collaboration technology. For details, read the full post.

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Personal Success for Out of Office Workers

Personal SuccessThe Out of Office work style allows you to blend personal and professional success. In this episode, we give you some ideas for how to maximise this opportunity.

Listen to the episode here:

Download the MP3 file here

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Buy the book here

Read the Harvard Business Review article, Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life, which inspired this episode.

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The Power of Habit – by Charles Duhigg

The Power Of HabitThis fascinating book combines three of my favourite elements: Practical ideas, backed by strong research, relayed by powerful stories.

Duhigg’s one big idea in the book is that our habits can be broken down into three factors: A cue that triggers the habit, a routine that we subconsciously follow, and a reward that motivates us. He contends that we can’t eliminate a bad habit, but we can change it by inserting a new routine between the cue and the reward. That’s a deceptively simple, but very powerful, idea.

Duhigg also describes the power of “keystone habits”, which can trigger many other habit changes. For example, for many people, getting fitter is a keystone habit, which leads to them adopting other unrelated positive habits as well.

If you’re looking for practical steps to change your habits, jump straight to the Appendix, which is a “how to” of the entire process.

I love that the book is backed by strong scientific research (the references take up a full third of the book). But Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, so his writing is compelling and entertaining rather than dry and academic.

Buy the book from Amazon.com.

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Working Remotely – the Psychological Advantages and Disadvantages

Michael Britt, who publishes the excellent podcast “The Psych Files”, recently had an episode about the pros and cons of working from home. We’ve covered some of these before in the blog and the book, but I particularly recommend this because Britt approaches it from a psychological perspective.

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Our Productivity Platform

Our Productivity PlatformThere are lots of productivity tools, and in this episode we share our personal favourites. Everybody is different, so you’ll have to discover what works best for you. But we hope that by seeing what we use, you’ll be able to adapt them for your own productivity needs.

Listen to the episode here:

Download the MP3 file here

Subscribe to the podcast

Buy the book here

Links and Resources

Time Management:

Consuming Information:

  • Kindle: Easy to download samples; available across all my devices (via the Kindle app)
  • Pocket (formerly Read It Later): Allows you to bookmark interesting content for reading later
  • Buffer: Automate/schedule the publication of your tweets, posts and status updates on various social media platforms

Storage:

  • Dropbox: Perfect for sharing files across all devices
  • Evernote: Similar to Dropbox, but better for tag, sorting and searching; it can also handle “snippets” better (e.g. photos, infographics, hand­drawn notes)
  • Google Drive: Started life as Google Docs, a Cloud-­based productivity suite (word processor, spreadsheet, slide deck, etc.); now a Cloud-­based file storage system

Collaboration:

  • GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts: Use these for audio/video conferencing. Includes screen sharing, one-click recording, and other useful collaboration features
  • Skype: Use SkypeOut to call anybody anywhere; easier and more convenient than a landline
  • LastPass: Password manager that has a really useful feature to share passwords securely with others
  • Google Calendar / Tasks / Contacts: Google’s Cloud-­based calendar, to do list and people list

Personal Effectiveness:

  • Noom Coach: A fitness app on my phone, mainly related to healthy eating
  • BeyondPod and Podcast Addict: Podcast apps with some productivity features, like speeding up playback
  • iMindmap and Mindjet: Mind mapping software for recording in a more visual way
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Kimberley Black: Why Meal Planning Is Important When You Work from Home

Over at the Virtual Vocations blog, Kimberley Black explains how meal planning can improve your Out Of Office style of working.

  • You will save time
  • You will eat better
  • You will save money

Kimberley also offers this cute acrostic poem about meal planning:

Making food in advance
Extra time for family, friends, work, or even yourself!
Adding fresh, seasonal ingredients
Less time spent grocery shopping

Portion control
Lowering your grocery bill
Applying a smart shopping strategy using coupons and bulk deals
No more microwave defrosting
Never again relying on fast food
Impulse buys are out
Nutritional benefits
Getting the most out of meals!

Read Kimberley’s article in full on the Virtual Vocations blog.

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Is Telework the future?

Is Telework the future? Infographic
Time Doctor – Track your time. Track your team’s time. Know EXACTLY what is REALLY going on.

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Why Building Trust in Virtual Teams Is Different

Building trustThe workplace of the 21st century is no longer a “place” where employees congregate from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. The growth of telecommuting, outsourcing, off-shoring and globally dispersed teams means the modern leader needs to work effectively with an “invisible workforce,” a trend that is only going to increase.

One of the biggest challenges leaders face with virtual teams is creating trust – absolutely crucial for an effective team. In-person teams build trust through physical interactions and engaging at a personal level, but this is more difficult for virtual teams.

Leaders might even be rebuffed if they try to do the same thing with their virtual team members. For example, online meetings tend to be more efficient and focused than in-person meetings, so participants often don’t want to “waste time” with personal chitchat, playful banter or lingering after the meeting ends.

The solution is not to try harder, but to do it differently! Virtual teams build trust through work-related performance – for example, reliability, consistency, integrity (keeping promises) and responsiveness.

If you’d like some ideas on how to put this into practice, read my article “Why Building Trust in Virtual Teams Is Different” on the Citrix blog.

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Creating the Best Out of Office Workplace on Earth

Creating the Best Workplace on EarthThe workplace – and what employees want from it – has changed over the years. In the past, workplaces were operating from a paternalistic mindset, with employees expecting their employer to do stuff to advance their career. But modern workplaces are far more focused on personal empowerment. This is especially true of OoO workers, who – by definition – work out of sight, and rely on managers and leaders to provide them the tools, resources, and culture to achieve their work goals.

In this episode, we look at six factors from a Harvard Business Review report of the best workplace on Earth, and apply them to Out of Office work. This is particularly relevant for you if you’re a manager or leader who has telecommuters in your team, or you’re considering telecommuting as an option for your team members. And if you’re one of those yourself, pass this on to your manager!

Listen to the episode here:

Download the MP3 file here

Subscribe to the podcast

Buy the book here.

Links and Resources

These are the 6 factors we discuss:

  1. Let me be myself
  2. Tell me what’s really going on
  3. Discover and magnify my strengths
  4. Make me proud I work here
  5. Make my work meaningful
  6. Don’t hinder me with stupid rules
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Home or Office? You Decide

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org. Sarah is a Houston-based freelance writer and blogger. Please contact Sarah if you have questions and comments.

Like other opportunities we encounter, a chance to work at home is a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. The idea sounds ultimately appealing at first: a chance to stay home during the day, are you kidding? But there are actually some negative aspects to telecommuting, requiring attention if you’re to succeed.

While they may not be for everyone, work from home alternatives are growing in popularity for entrepreneurs and employees alike, working in all kinds of industries. Before you set your sights on home-based work, consider the pros and cons thoroughly, so you don’t sign up for too much of a good thing.

Technology and Shifting Standards
Overall, about ten-percent of the global workforce conducts business from home on a daily basis. When you include those who claim frequent, but not daily, telecommuting the number rises to twenty-percent. While a majority of people still travel to their workplace, a significant portion or workers stay home; and the number continues to grow.

While there are a number of possible explanations, technology and shifts in business standards are the most influential causes for the move toward work-at-home employment roles.

The advent of computers, in the 70s, planted the seed for growth in remote employment, increasing portability of information and consolidating how we conduct business. Internet technology is a game changer, which shows no signs of slowing down. Enhanced communication alternatives, beyond telephones and snail-mail, revolutionized work roles by connecting Internet users globally. And as technology continues to advance, private networks, groupware, and video conferencing are increasingly integrated into all aspects of business.

In fact, the Information Age is responsible for a standards shift, which now recognizes telecommuting as a legitimate employment option. Where employers and clients may have seen home-based workers as unavailable or disconnected in the past, the state of modern technology keeps telecommuters available at all times, erasing some of the advantages of going to the office.

Pros and Cons
At arm’s length, working from home seems like a rosy proposition, but under further scrutiny a few hitches come to light. The most important ingredient is balance, achieved by maintaining workplace standards at your home office.

  • Flexibility – The ultimate takeaway for telecommuters is flexibility. Meals, quick errands, and even wake-up times are scheduled at your discretion, furnishing a sense of autonomy rarely felt at the office. Telecommuters quickly learn what happens when leashes get too long, creating unmanageable situations at home. Instead of kicking routines to the curb, successful home-based workers set established work hours and stick to them.
  • No Commute – Spending less time on the road keeps you safer and burns less fuel, actually saving you money. And time is shaved off each end of the workday, rewarding telecommuters with less travel time to the job. But staying home as others leave for work can sometimes make home-based workers feel disconnected, even lonely. To combat the feeling, periodic trips out are recommended for telecommuters, furnishing exposure to the hustle and bustle of daily life. Even using public Internet access keeps things fresh, providing much-needed changes of scenery for home workers.
  • Fewer Interruptions – Facilitating the exchange of information and ideas is a vital function of central workplaces; but it also takes time, leading to decreased productivity from staff. You are on your own at home, but the variety of potential distractions can get in the way even more than co-worker interruptions. To keep yourself honest, set up a workspace at home and use it just like a formal office.

Telecommuting continues to grow in popularity, partially due to Internet enhancements and other technological advancements. In addition to telecommuters from wide-ranging industries, home-based opportunities exist for entrepreneurs, call-center staff, transcribers, and independent consultants.

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