Productivity

Make E-Mail great again

It’s not “e-mail” that’s broken…

If we took all the e-mails produced by a company over the period of one year and looked at it from a “could there have been a better option than e-mail” perspective, I truly believe this is what it would look like:
E-Mail usage

No matter what the alternative could have been, in the majority of cases email wasn’t the right vehicle for moving a message from A to B.  For a small minority of cases, it probably was.

I’ve never seen any in-depth content or interaction analysis of corporate e-mail usage beyond end user surveys. But, since e-mail has turned into this intrusive curse, chasing information workers relentlessly across devices and time zones like a sinister spirit, it is clear that something’s not ok.

With the Millennials entering the workplace, this creeping feeling about e-mail has escalated further. Which hoody-wearing future talent would even consider information exchange through this antiquated medium? They Facebook, tweet, WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat their way through an always-on world, right?

With the intent of solving this challenge, tech companies from all over the world are introducing entirely new ways of communication to companies. Social Media in the workplace is here. What works in the private world so splendidly, must surely be the solution to the mind numbing avalanche of e-mail in the business world, mustn’t it? So the evangelists have started preaching the bright future of productivity, networking and corporate culture.

We don’t seem to have stopped at any time however, and considered the question: why is e-mail broken? Or: is e-mail even broken at all?

E-mail wasn’t built for real-time communication exchange. It was never designed for collaborating on information and documents. It should never have become the only reliable channel through which “need to know” information could be delivered.

Without even realising it, companies have managed to turn e-mail into the foundation of any business or support process. Over the course of two decades, the global workforce has been gradually conditioned to believe that e-mail is the only way for businesses to interact and exchange information digitally.

Even the good old phone call has fallen victim to the short two line message that can be so conveniently fired off between meetings. It’s really no surprise that what used to be a status symbol of “importance” has turned into a curse in the workplace.

Of course, if we insist on using e-mail for things it was never intended, it will seem broken.  But then its on us, not e-mail itself.

Sometimes, a letter is appropriate.

Not E-Mail

Well, not literally of course. When I say “letter”, I don’t mean the physical piece of paper. A letter in this context is a well considered message. A message that is sent to one or more recipients through an established channel. It conveys a certain level of formality and may be left unread until time allows. A letter can be important but isn’t necessarily urgent. Its recipients are clear and so is the sender.

I believe there are use cases that allow for, or even demand, something other than an instant message, a feed post or an entry in a discussion board. Sometimes popping over a text or answering with an emoji is even outright rude. And sometimes e-mail is the only way anyway, because there simply isn’t any other common channel a group of people share.

Just recently I watched a scene in the Netflix series “The Crown”, in which Queen Elizabeth sat down to write a letter. Before sitting down she paced back and forth, thinking about what she wanted to say. Then she took a piece of paper, opened a fountain pen and took a deep breath before writing the first lines.

This is how we should use e-mail: deliberate, thought through, with a clear objective in mind. The goal should be to convey a message to the recipient, not to just fire it off and be done with it. The format itself should be a clear signal of intent: here is something I need you to really digest and understand. Therefore I have taken the time to write it down. Read it when you have the time.

We can make e-mail great again. Literally.

If we as senders take our communication pace down a notch, we will re-gain time to think about how to write what, to who, and where. After that we can still fire away our chat messages, newsfeed posts and collaboration space comments where appropriate.

Occasionally however, we need to sit down and think for a while, take the time to write a text and choose our words and recipients carefully. Then, sign it and send if off, knowing that at the other end of the line someone will appreciate the format and wait until all the posts, messages and comments have gone quiet to then read our message, consciously and with intent.

Having the best of both worlds is possible.

At Fleep we believe in consolidating communication throughout your organization. Most modern day communication tools almost manage this.

It has become standard to expect chat tools to include messaging, voice and video calls and to let you save and share files easily as a minimum. But Fleep takes things one step further integrating with e-mail. This means you can add people to conversations and teams with their email address and they’ll receive messages as emails until they sign up to Fleep.

The very nature of this should help to foster asynchronous, considered communication within a chat app.

We realise that email has been the tool of choice for a very long time and is still at large in many organisations today. It may even have its place in some scenarios. So while we believe that change is inevitable, we’re committed to making the process of unifying your communication channels less painful by keeping them all in one place.

Sign up and trial Fleep today!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

How to Stay Healthy While Working a Desk Job

Desk Job

Millions of individuals worldwide have a typical 9-5 desk job. While sitting behind a desk for the most part of the day, the sedentary nature of your employment may leave you feeling lethargic and unmotivated. While it may seem tedious at first to adopt the changes necessary to keep you healthy while working a desk job, your efforts will soon pay off. When you feel healthy your productivity will naturally increase allowing you to concentrate for longer periods of time and you will feel happier.

Engaging in a healthy work lifestyle can also be utilized as a team-building exercise as you and your colleagues can take walking lunches together and share healthy recipes and dietary  tips.

If your job requires you to sit behind a desk for the larger part of your day, you should take certain measures to ensure that your health isn’t severely compromised. While investing in a good-quality comfortable chair that offers support to vital areas of your spine is a good place to start, various other actions can be taken to keep you healthy at your desk

Include exercise in your daily routine

Working exercise into your day at the office is a sure-fire way to ensure that you remain healthy while desk-bound. If your office is too far to walk to, consider getting off the train or bus a few stops earlier so that you walk more than you normally would. If you drive to work park a block or two further from your place of work than you usually do. Other ways to incorporate exercise into your working day are to take the stairs instead of the elevator or to do a couple of lunges or squats every time you go to the restroom.

Take walking lunches

Walking lunches are becoming increasingly popular amongst office-bound employees. Eat at your desk while you work beforehand or make sure you take a lunch that can be eaten ‘on-the-go’ while you walk. 30 minutes of brisk walking is more than enough to increase your heart-rate, giving it an important workout. Walking increases your serotonin and endorphin levels, making you happier  and is also known to decrease your cholesterol levels as well as lower your blood pressure. Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes in a drawer at your desk, pop in a headset if you are walking alone and take full advantage of the time you are allowed to leave your desk.

Adjust your monitor

Staring at a screen for long periods of time every day can have a negative impact on your eyesight as well as cause computer vision syndrome (CVS) which include vision problems directly related to prolonged computer use. If you are forced to look at a screen for long periods of time try to adjust your monitor settings to avoid unnecessary strain on your eyes. The brightness of your screen should ideally match the lighting in your office. If a blank text document glows like a light source your monitor is too bright. Take every measure you can to lower blue light emission as much as possible.

Drink plenty of fluids

It’s easy to become dehydrated when you work behind a desk all day because subconsciously you might only relate liquid intake to physical activity. Regardless of whether you are physically active or sedentary, you need to drink approximately 8 glasses of water every day in order to stay healthy. Drinking enough water will also lead to more bathroom breaks which equates to extra steps being walked. If you have difficulty drinking water, try infusing it with your favourite fruit for added flavour.

You may feel like you are faced with a myriad of health-related obstacles when working predominantly behind a desk but there are plenty of choices you can make and actions you can take to ensure that your health never suffers as a result of your sedentary job. By making small changes to your daily routine you can improve your general health significantly even when sitting down for most of the day.


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.

Chat for teams

Deep work and how to shield yourself from distraction

Today’s business world is a loud world. Information and knowledge workers spend most of their time in open office spaces. E-mail and Social Media Messages chase people across all digital devices 24/7. Attention is switched between subjects so quickly, that the mind can barely keep up. This article is about the need to find a way out of this state of constant distraction and into what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work, (the) professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to the limit.”

shield yourself from distraction

The new world of information work

After years of optimising production and manufacturing with concepts like Kaizen, the focus has changed to the productivity of the knowledge worker. Inspired by the spirit of the New Economy  companies introduced open office space concepts in an attempt to resolve boxed thinking and “sitting”. Almost simultaneously the world of business software picked up on the newly introduced social media and networking concepts. A billion people on Facebook had to be an indicator that people loved being connected in the digital world. But e-mail had already become the every day, and sometimes all night, companion of the employee who wants to show dedication and climb the career ladder as quickly as possible. Being “present” on the other end of the digital line – irrespective of personal situation or time of day – was turned into an implicit requirement for the ambitious. The new social messaging, chat feed and collaboration channels now add to the already constantly humming e-mail box and have begun to chase people with additional notifications across all devices.

Nowadays, the walls of time zones, offices and hierarchies have been (almost) broken down. Combined with a 24/7 exchange and information flow, the knowledge worker is facing a completely new challenge: a million voices that want an answer – ideally a quick one.

The inbox dictates every day’s agenda

Mobile e-mail, social-style communications and ever present wireless internet have changed expectations for turnaround times. “Immediate” is the new “well informed”. Too often it’s not about substance anymore but the availability of an answer in almost real time. Inboxes dictate the day’s agenda across all devices and because there is more than one person waiting for an answer, actual “work time” gets pushed back…and back…and back.

The information worker is conditioned to an unhealthy multi tasking mode in order to even stay somewhat afloat in the avalanche of requests and digital distractions. The Bryan College has published an impressive info graphic on the annual loss of productivity (est. US$ 450bn globally) because, based on their research, millenials switch their focus 27 (twentyseven!!) times an hour.

Source: Bryan College – Millennials Multitasking in the Workplace

How to shield yourself from distraction?

Self organisation and discipline sounds like the lame advice that parents gave when school got tough. “You just need to be a bit more organised and ignore all the distractions”.

If you listen to people like Jeff Bezos or Ashton Kutcher, it doesn’t seem so far off the actual solution to the problem, though. In an interview with TechCrunch Bezos said: “(…) I like to be doing whatever I’m doing. I don’t like to multi-task. If I’m reading my email I want to be reading my email (…) I multi-task serially.” Ashton Kutcher, a serious business investor for those who only know him as a goofy guy from television, revealed his simple secret to getting ahead of work at an AirBnB Spotlight event: “When I wake up…I spend the first hour of my work not looking at email, and actually just writing out what it is that I want to accomplish in a given day. And then before I go through my emails, I’ll do all my outgoing, outbound stuff, which is what I want everyone else to do for me. And then I’ll go and get reactive to whatever’s going on.”

“Yes, but I am neither a billionaire nor a TV star. I have to do what people ask me to do,” is what you’re probably thinking right now. However, if you take a step back it’s not about “full control”. It’s about taking the amount of control that it necessary to get things done. According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, this won’t be for more than 4 hours of the day, even for the really advanced.

Turn off the voices & temptations and take control over your work

Cal Newport believes that 2 hours of Deep Work, the state of mind in which substantial value creation happens, is realistic for the average Joe. For those two hours it’s about stepping away from all the channels that scream for your attention and from all the notifications, likes & shares, that want to reward you for the small contributions that you have made to the digital world.

Then it’s about being in control of the personal agenda:

  • What do I have to do?
  • When do things have to be done?
  • Where is the information I need, to make well informed decisions?

The more organised the personal workspace or better still, work eco system is, the easier to retain the overview and have all the pieces at hand to solve the puzzle. Two hours of focussed, undistracted work in an organised world can be an eternity. Compared to the 27 attention fractions, that are cramped into a colleague’s hour, it’s productivity on steroids.

Fleep wants to help enable Deep Work experiences

Besides the discipline to “take time out” from the voices and distractions, at Fleep we believe that Deep Work requires a new place to organise communication around knowledge work. The inbox has reached its limit. Conversations and facts get distributed and disconnected in e-mail threads. Action items get lost in digital ping pong. Enter Fleep, a place where all your digital conversations take place, in one place.

We have consciously decided not to hound our users with notifications and bouncing icons in task-bars by default. We want our users to decide for themselves how notifications appear. Or the frequency in which e-mail reminders are sent.  Or even when others see whether their message has been read or not. We want you to shield yourself from distraction.
Fleep is built to radically improve the way people work alone and together on projects. And this irrespective of whether they are all Fleep users or engaged in conversations with others via e-mail. With this confidence, users can visit the conversation they want to focus on in the moment when they want to focus on it – and they are always in charge. Always.

Fleep focusses heavily on making digital communication a pleasant experience again. But we have gone even further, in Fleep you’ll find baked-in light weight collaboration features like assignable task lists or pinned messages (aka reminders) within conversations, primarily for those users who aren’t using suites like Trello or Asana.

Shield yourself from distraction and try the Deep Work experience!

Sign up for Fleep today. It’s free. It’s addictive. It can become your one single hub for private and business conversations thanks to it’s open network and inter-operability with E-mail.

Yes, let me try Deep Work mode!

Manage Business Conversations with Fleep.

Get your team ready for Deep Work. Put the power over their attention span back in their hands. At the same time Fleep for Business offers full control over access & user accounts through extended administration features. So you and your team can enjoy the full Fleep experience plus the admin rights you need for a business environment​​​​​​​.

My Team deserves the Deep Work experience. Sign me up!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a  business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

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