Productivity

10 Helpful Tools That Can Make Your Remote Team Work Faster

Remote work has become the most influential trend on the labor market in the last few years. It enables employers to cut the logistics costs, while employees have the opportunity to achieve a work-life balance and avoid commuting. This is why freelance economy grew to 55 million Americans last year, which is more than a third of total U.S. workforce. It’s also why it’s important to pay attention to tools that can make your remote team work faster.

Make Your Remote Team Work Faster

Hiring a group of remote workers doesn’t guarantee success because you still need to establish the right kind of company culture and utilize a set of digital tools to make your business profitable. In this article, let’s take a look at 10 helpful tools that can make your remote team work faster.

Best tools to make your remote team work faster

The Internet is full of useful collaboration tools, so it’s rather difficult to choose only 10 items. But after a couple of weeks of weighing pros and cons, I picked two tools in each of the five different categories.

Tasks

Remote teams demand extra attention to task management and can use tools like Trello, Worksection, or Fleep to set, monitor and control tasks completion process.

  • Trello

Trello, the card-based project management software, is perfect for teams of all sizes which conduct multiple tasks simultaneously. Each task is presented on the dashboard and everyone can see how it progresses. Besides that, team members can add comments, checklists, and due dates. Although it offers a lot of collaboration functions, Trello is simple to understand and use. It doesn’t come for free but the prices are reasonable – around $12 per user per month.

  • Worksection

Worksection has only one purpose and it’s to make your business easier. It splits projects into stages, tasks, and subtasks. Using its timeline visualization, you can never forget due dates. Its user interface is friendly and simple, allowing you to see all details at a glance. This tool is perfect for large units with dozens or even hundreds of remote workers involved in the everyday business. The price depends on the features you choose such as the number of users or projects and file storage capacity.

  • Fleep Tasks

Fleep Tasks offer lightweight task management planted natively in the chat for teams. While they are not as complex and feature-rich as Trello or Worksection, Fleep Tasks definitely have the benefit of context – of being able to discuss and refer back to the discussions and decisions made regarding the tasks, right in the same chat app. Additionally, the main functionality is available to use for completely free – with Fleep for Business offering admin controls for those who need them.

Productivity

Some employers don’t like remote workers because of their low productivity but you can avoid this issue using Pomodoro or Forest.

  • Forest

Forest is an alternative method to save your time and use it productively. It enables you to stay focused on work planting a digital tree. As long as you keep working, the plant will continue to grow and become a beautiful tree. But as soon as you open one of the websites from your blacklist – Facebook or Reddit, for instance – the tree will wither away. The app is cost-free.

  • Pomodoro

Pomodoro helps users to improve time management. It’s a great app which integrates with other software products that you use and allows you to handle tasks in a timely manner.

Time control

This is a key element in each business, especially when making payments. Toggl and RescueTime will give you a hand with this feature.

  • Toggl

Toggl is an online time-tracking app which follows and analyzes time entries to determine the productivity of each remote employee. It monitors all activities in real-time through the cloud service and reports about the efficiency of any given project. It detects where you lose most of the time and suggests what it is that you can change to become more productive. You can use the starter pack, enterprise solution, or a premium member option.

  • RescueTime

RescueTime follows and analyzes your daily habits to see how you spend your time online. It runs in the background of your IT gadgets and gives you a precise overview of activities each day and you can set it to remind you of certain tasks. The best thing about RescueTime is that it sends you a notification when you surpass a daily usage limit, for instance on Facebook. You can take a free 14-day trial before switching to the premium version. Or you can simply use RescueTime Lite for free.

File exchange

A convenient and fast file exchange is extremely important for remote teams, which is why they use Google Drive and Dropbox.

  • Google Drive

Google Drive is one of the most popular online collaboration tools worldwide, so we really think it doesn’t need a big introduction. To put it simply, Google Drive changed the way professionals in all industries share and exchange ideas, files, and documents. It allows individual users up to 15 GB of free file storage.

  • Dropbox

Dropbox is another world-known remote work service. This cloud-storage provider gathers more than 500 million registered users globally thanks to the effective file sharing solutions. All your documents are stored centrally and you can find them without problems using anyone of your electronic devices anytime you need them. It is free for freelancers and individual users but you can also try Dropbox Business free of charge.

Editing

Serious businesses demand precise and serious writing skills.

  • Bestessays.com.au

Bestessays.com.au is a highly professional editing service. Bearing in mind that most of the remote teams don’t include expert editors, it is essential to keep your official documents error free. This is especially important when it comes to public files, company presentations, and client proposals. Bestessays.com.au can help you with all sorts of tasks: from case studies and research proposals to speeches and PowerPoint presentations. Their prices differ based on the type of work, timing, and the level of quality that you demand.

  • Professional Editing Services

Professional Editing Services is one of the best agencies in the field when you demand value for money. Their turnaround times are excellent while the price is just $0.032 per word. You won’t be charged for document revision if it’s the writer’s mistake. There is a 25% price increase in case you demand a specific styling work – but it’s definitely worth it.

Conclusion

The market is full of good tools – and the tools highlighted in this blog post are the ones that came in most handy for me. These tools can really make your remote team work faster.

Zake AlfieZake Alfie is an SEO blogger and search engine optimization expert. He is in charge of several online projects and provides consultations on optimization and website promotion. He loves experimenting and finding new SEO tactics. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter!

Chat for teams

3 Simple, but Powerful Ways to Boost Company Culture

Boost Company Culture

In September 2016, The Alternative Board interviewed hundreds of business owners to discover what helps boost company culture. Not only did the results reveal that company culture plays a huge role in driving productivity and profits, but the study also showed that company culture requires a lot more than team building exercises to be effective.

According to the results, 86% of entrepreneurs agree that company culture is a major contributor to their success. What was less unanimous is how that company culture is established.

More business owners who identified their company as having a “strong company culture” believe that flexible schedules (78%), telecommuting (36%) and continuing education (82%) boost productivity than business owners who identify their company as having  “average or weak” culture (58%, 23%, and 77%, respectively).

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how these 3 factors help boost company culture.

1. How & Why Flexible Schedules Boost Company Culture

A study led by Clare Bambra at Durham University measured employees with flexible working arrangements (self-scheduling, non-traditional office hours, flextime, etc.) vs. employees whose schedules were strictly dictated by their employers. The results showed positive impacts on the health and well being of employees who were given more flexibility, including improvements in sleep, mental health and even blood pressure. In fact, one study found a decrease in systolic blood pressure and heart rate as a response to flexible scheduling.

It’s not surprising that the traditional work schedule causes stress on the mind and body. Having little-to-no time to get personal tasks done during the workweek turns weekends into to-do lists rather than much needed recharge breaks. Not being able to pick up the kids from school or the dry cleaning before the shop closes are unnecessary stressors that distract employees from peak productivity.

Matt Fiedler, TAB Member and CEO of Vinyl Me, has found that flexible work schedules are incredibly important (and valuable) to his employees, allowing them to “catch up on whatever they need to do, while allowing them freedom to do laundry, run errands, take a long weekend, etc.”

Many companies that emphasize flexible schedules also encourage employees to use the time to hit the gym midday. Not only does this boost afternoon energy, but it ensures employees are healthier inside and out.

After experimenting with taking an exercise break midday for a week, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams found that he needed fewer breaks and less coffee throughout the day. “It feels weird (at first) to leave the office in the middle of the day,” said Williams, “but total time spent is nearly the same with higher energy and focus across the board.”

remote work

2. How and Why Remote Work Boosts Your Company Culture

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes. That’s 4.23 lost hours a week and 220.13 hours a year. Long traffic-filled commutes often get in the way of getting a good night’s sleep, starting your day off right, among other surefire productivity killers.

A survey from TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, titled “What Leaders Need To Know About Remote Workers” compared responses from full-time remote employees to employees with more traditional working arrangements. According to the results, the average remote worker rates their happiness at work as 8.10, compared to other workers, whose average score was 7.42.

While more traditional employers worry that remote work will compromise communication and culture, employers who have tried remote work in their office disagree. “Working remotely means not having to deal with culture sucks [commute, hours, etc.], and we can still create a fun, positive environment to work in,” says Dave Nevogt, Co-Founder of the fully remote Hubstaff.com. “In fact, we can take time saved from meetings and commuting and use it to get to know our employees better.” So it’s no wonder remote work can boost company culture.

Continuing Education

3. How and Why Continuing Education Boosts Your Company Culture

A study from Louis Harris and Associates revealed that 41% of employees with little-to-no training opportunities were committed to leaving their company’s within a year. Meanwhile, of those who rated their company’s educational opportunities as “excellent,” only 12% had any intentions of leaving.

According to Inc. Contributor Lou Dubois, “Investing in your employees through a continuing education program shows that you value their contributions and want to see them succeed.” Dubois recommends implementing a continuing education program for employees through local university departments, certification instructors and/or tuition reimbursement.

“Investing in employees’ future is more important than immediate compensation,” says Eric Rolfe Greenberg, AMA’s director of management studies.” Programs that improve work skills and future career development are seen as particularly effective.”

According to the majority of business owners who completed TAB’s Company Culture survey, the #1 function of company culture is to “empower people.” Flexible schedules, working at home, remote work and continuing education all help to empower employees by allowing them the freedom and resources to thrive.

Of course, you don’t have to jump in the deep end with any of these strategies. Get started by offering flex time on a probationary basis, or offer one work-from-home day a week – and do look into some tips on how to work in a remote team. Or perhaps offer each employee $500 per quarter for the continuing education of their choosing. Start small and measure the effects. If it could boost your bottom line, it’s certainly worth a try!

Jodie ShawJodie Shaw is the Chief Marketing Officer for The Alternative Board (TAB). Prior to joining TAB, Jodie was the Global Chief Marketing Officer and CEO of a global business coaching franchise, which operated in 50+ countries. Results orientated, Jodie is focused on growing TAB’s presence on a local, national and global level.

Chat for teams

15 Myths about Productivity

15 myths about productivity

It seems like the topic of productivity has been completely covered. Oh, it’s so covered… we can’t even recognize its essence under the pile of tips. Have you ever noticed how the most common productivity tips are making you less productive when you implement them?

That’s because they are myths. Today is the time to expose them in all their falseness and hollowness. We’ll list the top 15 myths about productivity.

1. The More You Work, The More You Accomplish

Oh no, no, no! All those articles keep telling you to wake up early and seize the day. Well, guess what: quantity does not always mean quality. One hour of work beyond your capacity will easily lead to a burnout.

Let me remind you again: what does productivity mean? Achieving more by doing less.

You should find a strategy that helps accomplish more not by working more, but by working more productively.

2. Focus on the Big Picture

Yes, the big goal matters, but so do the small steps you take towards it. When you’re too focused on the big picture, you tend to lose the details. Why don’t you focus on the entire picture instead?

3. Multitasking Equals Efficiency

The multitasking “productivity tip” actually hurts your efficiency. If you’re preparing a meal while working on that paper, you’re distracted again. Yes, the pasta may cook itself while you do your work. However, the thought of the meal being prepared will constantly be at the back of your mind. It won’t let you focus completely.

When you’re working on a specific task, devote all of your energy to it. That’s the only way to achieve full efficiency.

4. Create a Quiet Working Space

Yes, that might work for some – those who like working in quiet. But what about those who don’t?

If you feel like you’re working better at a coffee shop, library, or even a noisy office, use the work environment that suits you.

15 Myths about Productivity

5. Always Busy Means Always Productive

Saddle yourself with unnecessary tasks that take a lot of time is one of the most useless things one can do. You should avoid this behavior as much as you can. Instead of focusing on the things that have little results for your work, do something really important.

6. You Work Best Under Pressure

No, you don’t. This tip just justifies procrastination. Procrastination is never good. Start your work on time, without being pressured by the deadline.

7. Wage Inspires You to Be More Productive

A bonus or a raise may inspire you to work more effectively… for some time. But, keep in mind that your employer won’t be constantly raising your pay so that you could stay productive.

Why are you doing what you do? If it’s just for the money, you can’t achieve full productivity. You have to look for other motivation, such as personal and professional growth.

8. Breaks Are a Waste of Time

Did you know that American workers took less vacation when compared to the workers of any other high-income nation? Did you know that they were also more stressed? Make the connection. Breaks are necessary.

9. Remote Work Is Less Effective

If time organization is all on you, it’s most likely that you’ll slip. That’s a myth!

If you organize your schedule according to your productivity patterns, you can be much more productive than what the office environment can allow.

15 Myths about Productivity

10. Clear Your Desk, Clear Your Mind

Clear working environment works for some people. Others feel stressed when working in a space that’s too organized and sterile.

11. No One Can Do It Better than You

That’s another myth.

If you have the budget to delegate part of your work, do it! You’ll get more time for your other tasks. The entire work will be completed much faster, with even bigger effectiveness. Isn’t that what productivity is all about?

12. Eat the Frog First

In other words, tackle the biggest, most challenging task first thing in the morning. That may work for some people.

However, the strategy doesn’t work for everyone. Productivity has its ups and downs, which are different for each person, but repetitive throughout the days. You may feel more productive in the morning. Maybe it’s during the afternoon. Whenever it is, you can eat the frog then.

13. Learn!

“The more you know, the more productive you become. It’s important to keep learning.”

That’s just a myth. Knowledge without application is useless. Stay focused on developing skills and knowledge you could actually use. Learning for the sake of learning is overestimated.

14. A System Will Make You Inflexible

No, it won’t. A system can be flexible enough to allow you to respond to unforeseen events. Adopting a system means you know what your priorities are and you can arrange your time accordingly. You really need a system.

15. There Are Universal Productivity Hacks

No, there aren’t. I think we made that clear by now.

Some of the most popular productivity tips on the Internet are completely useless. Why do you need to know about them? So you’ll stop applying counterproductive strategies that actually kill your productivity. Now that you’re aware of them, you can finally tackle your own productivity from a fresh perspective.


Zoe Carter Zoe Carter
is a lifestyle blogger, ESL teacher and editor at BestDissertation.com. She is always in search for innovative ideas for learning languages and developing writing skills. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Chat for teams

5 Communication Tips for Successfully Managing Virtual Teams

managing virtual teams

Working remotely is an employment choice brimming with positives for both the employee and employer. It can noticeably cut down on business expenses by removing the need to pay for office space, it enables us to pool talent from all over the world and it gives us the opportunity to manage our working timetable, within reason, so that childcare, housework and other responsibilities no longer make our lives difficult.

Move towards remote employment

Statistics reflect a general global shift towards remote employment. According to West UC, 1.75 billion people over the world (that’s more than 40% of the globe’s employed workforce) will be working remotely by the end of this decade. One can only begin to imagine what the working world might look like by 2050. There is evidence that working at home boosts productivity. But even so, the virtual workspace is not all cupcakes and party streamers. Managing a team of remote workers can be a particularly challenging role and one that takes some getting used to.

Virtual managers may find the responsibilities of remote project management quite stressful if they’ve not been sufficiently trained to get the best out of their online team. Trying to pull all the people together virtually can be a challenge in itself. The good news is that there are a number of procedures and solutions that can help us become effective virtual managers, most of which are easy to implement and offer relatively speedy results.

1. Stay connected and offer real support

Staying connected and getting to know your team will also help you to gauge when certain members need more support. Not all employees speak up when they’re feeling unsure, unhappy, undervalued, or just plain overwhelmed. As managers, if we’re in constant contact with our members of staff, we’ll be able to pick up on any problem areas before they get out of hand and we end up losing a valuable member of the team to another company.

Also, as a manager, part of our job is to find solutions. There are tools that help manage distributed teams, but team culture is just as important. If our team knows how to contact us and receives relatively timely responses to all needs and concerns, we build a reputation as someone who can be relied on; a golden quality in a manager and one that most employees would be loathe to lose.

2. Choose your communication style wisely

Communication in a remote team is especially important. Conversations that relate to contractual changes, pay or promotions are best not handled via email, for example. As managers, it’s foolish to think that remote employees don’t deserve the opportunity to look us in the eye when discussing certain matters, particularly as there are so many ways in which we can choose to communicate.

There are team chat tools, video calls or even short recorded videos. When providing professional training or implementing a new process, for example, a video might actually be a much more effective way of engaging and communicating with our team, as opposed to a long, convoluted email.

3. Make an effort to understand cultural differences

One of the great advantages to managing remote teams is cultural diversity. If we’re managing a global startup and we want to reach a range of consumers worldwide, our global team can offer essential (and free) insight into the detailed intricacies of each market. At the same time, however, we are challenged as managers, because we must adapt to account for cultural differences within the workforce.

What might seem like acceptable manager behavior in one country, could actually be perceived as quite offensive in another. We need to research, ask questions and follow through with regular staff evaluations in the early stages to get a real grasp of what it means to work with each member of our team, whether they might be from Japan, India, Argentina, Italy or the U.S.

4. Choose your management tools and then actually use them

There’s nothing that can make the administrative side of our jobs easier than the correct selection of communication and management tools. Scheduling tools, audio and video calling, time tracking tools, chat for teams, screensharing, payroll systems and shared document folders and so much more.

We cannot manage the work of others remotely without having the right resources to hand. It’s also vital that, once we have these tools in place, we train our staff to make proper use of them. We must also remain a stickler for the rules by encouraging them to follow company protocol and communicate via the channels made available.

managing virtual team

5. Make time for professional reviews and rewards

A remote team still needs to be motivated and remember, not everyone is motivated by money. Indeed, when professionals choose to make the move to remote employment, many of them are happy to take a pay cut if it means they can have more control over their working day. There are so many ways in which you can reward your team, above and beyond a pay rise or monthly bonus.

Consider the idea of providing all your employees with the cash needed to invest in a decent laptop, offer to install programs for free on their computers, reward with more vacation time (either paid or unpaid) and give them a valuable contract with job security, decent healthcare and the chance to invest in a private pension. Whatever kind of reward you’re able to offer, the most important thing is to schedule regular (at least quarterly) professional reviews to give employees the chance to raise concerns and to give you the chance to tell them how fantastic they are. Everyone thrives on praise, so make time for it.


Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt. Jenny’s previous experience in business has allowed her to specialize in the sector, although she also enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, leadership and new technology.

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4 Valuable Tips for Holding Successful Team Meetings

holding successful team meetings

Team meetings should be effective collaborative sessions filled with energy and enthusiasm. A team meeting room is a place where members gather around to make decisions and solve problems through creative discussion. Then again, they can be those times during the week when everyone is dying of boredom.

If your meetings are a part of this second group, that means that they are probably too long in duration and too exhaustive. This can result in a mental and an emotional exhaustion of your team, which leads to frustration. Here are some tips for holding successful team meetings.

Don’t be Afraid – You’re the Boss

Managers and team leaders are afraid of team meetings. They believe that the rest of the members hate the them or that they are getting bored. Because of that, they start looking at meetings in such a way themselves.

If you want to achieve significant results, to solve your employees problems and keep them informed, inspired and motivated, you must communicate more often and make them understand what you have to say. Do not remain in the secluded area of your office, just sending out emails. You are the one who makes sure there is effective communication in a team. Confront them with a clear purpose in all your authority.

Look Before You Leap

Although everyone knows how important it is to prepare an agenda, many team leaders hold meetings without it. But if one does not plan their agenda, you will not be focused and able to see what are the priority topics for the meeting are. The preparation may be boring or useless at times, but it is very important for everyone to be on the same page.

You can also invite team members to contribute to agenda items, just ask for their ideas via your team chat a couple of days before the actual meeting, so they could prepare without time pressure. But you should never ask your assistant or some other team member to make the agenda instead of you. You are the leader, and in order to make the meeting important for others first you have to make clear it’s important to you.

team chat

Let Everyone Play the Game

There are a lot of different activities to to choose from when it comes to freshening up your meetings. Such is the roundtable learning strategy, in which team members teach each other new something new. You can also try to change the locations of the meetings, bring an interesting board game, switch chairs – experiment with everything to break the monotony. But remember, you must get everyone involved.

The best way to gather up the whole team is certainly brainstorming. Meetings are never just about sharing information. You should always try to solve the problem by working with the group on the spot and coming to a mutual decision. Every discussion should be tied to your broader strategic goals. The best way to accomplish that is to run through all of these goals at the beginning of the meetings, otherwise people might get lost in the brainstorming process. The most common and most functional glass white boards method is a guarantee that all of your team members will always have a bigger picture in front of them.

Good Leader, Bad Leader

Although you have to be friendly and in a good mood during the meetings, you cannot let yourself go completely and be a buddy with your team members. You have to keep the standards high by not allowing off-color jokes, cynicism, sarcasm, picking on team members, other departments or management.

On the other hand, do not show your authority too much and never abuse the power you have. People are not supposed to be afraid of you, they have to love and respect you and, above all, to trust you. Think about what are the must-have skills to be good at management. It is important to build a discipline and run the meetings that people will motivate your team members and push their initiatives further.

tony solomon


Tony Solomon
is an an editor and a writer with several years of experience in creating web content. He currently writes for Media Gurus.

Chat for teams