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Setting Your Virtual Team Up for Failure

Having remote employees can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s great to have one less person to worry about in the office. But on the other hand, not managing virtual employees correctly can lead to a lot of problems, including disrupted workflow, tasks slipping through the cracks, and a loss of cohesion on your team.

Do you know what mistakes your remote team may be making? Click through the SlideShare below to find out, then check out our resources at the bottom for how to fix any issue!

There are plenty of reasons that it’s time to quit your job. For some of you, it’s because your boss loves sending “urgent” emails that keep you up at all hours of the night. And for others it may be that you’ve realized that you hate your current field and it’s just time for a big change.

Whatever the reason is for you, you probably know that you should go with that urge you have to quit and find a new job. Yet, even knowing that, the thought of leaving still makes you recoil in fear and say, “Eh, maybe next year.”

But as someone who’s stayed in previous jobs for far too long, I’m willing to bet you want me to talk you into the idea of staying put. As comfortable as these thoughts might make you feel in the moment, I’m actually here today to call you out on your excuses.

 

1. “I Don’t Have Time to Update My Resume”

As difficult as this was for me to admit a few years ago, I said these exact words to a friend of mine who’d grown tired of listening to me complain about work. And the deeper the conversation got, the more I dug my feet in. “I can’t apply for new jobs without an updated resume, and I can’t update my resume because I have swing dance classes on Thursday nights,” I said with a straight face.

Fortunately, my friend was levelheaded enough to tell me that I was full of it. And that was the wake-up call I needed. That day I started blocking off some time on my personal calendar to update that pesky resume and send out those applications. This will probably require you to find time after work (and say no to a few things that sound way more fun), but seeing an event on your calendar can give you the jolt you need to finally get started.

 

2. “Maybe Things Aren’t as Bad as I Think They Are Right Now”

If you’re dragging your feet about quitting your job, chances are that you’re afraid of leaving behind a good salary. Or you’re tentative because you actually like some of the people you work with. Or you’re in the middle of a huge project that’s been months in the making.

Some combination of things that are making your life comfortable are probably the things holding you back from taking the leap. I was there a few years ago. For a while, the ability to go out for happy hour on a whim “makes up” for a lot of the terrible things that you deal with at work.

But in my experience, as time goes on, even those silver linings stop bringing you joy. And it’s up to you to ask yourself some tough questions about how much you’re willing to sacrifice for that one “good” thing that’s keeping you there.

Find Job That Work From Home

Sure, Marissa Mayer may have an easy time deciding that her employees can’t work from home—but for other managers, the decision isn’t so clear-cut. After all, remote employees can be just as productive , happy, and motivated as their in-office counterparts (sometimes even more so), but a home work environment certainly doesn’t work for everyone.

So, to help you really think through the decision, check out this infographic that will help you think through every (yes, we mean every ) possible consideration.

Want a position with flexible hours and a negligible commute—that also comes with a good salary? I know, sounds like a pipe dream, but if you can find the right work-from-home gig, it could be a reality.

If you’ve considered working from home before, but haven’t been sure where to start in terms of finding an awesome position, check out the infographic below for the top 10 highest-paying jobs you can do from the comfort of your couch (er, spare bedroom).

Because those cozy slippers and floral pajamas aren’t going to pay for themselves.

Best Ways to Make Remote Employees

Almost every manager on the planet will agree that team building is hard. Factor in geographic distance and you’ll find it even more challenging to keep your team members integrated—especially if you don’t have a solid plan.

The good news: Understanding how to build a cohesive distributed team is a skill that managers and entrepreneurs can learn. Better yet, it’s a skill that offers you immediate—and often significant—advantages over your competitors. Some of the most successful companies in the world, like Automattic (the parent company of WordPress), have documented their battle-tested strategies for building remote teams.

I work at NYC-based Andela, live in Atlanta, and manage a tech team scattered across the globe—including both coasts of the U.S. and multiple locations in Nigeria, Romania, India, and Nepal. Here are the five best practices that I’ve found most valuable in building and supporting distributed teams.

 

1. Establish Bonds of Friendship and Empathy

The more fully you can empathize with one another, the easier it becomes to collaborate as a team. In a recent study, MIT professors found that one of the most important ingredients in a smart team was the ability to “consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe,” otherwise known as “Theory of Mind.” This held true regardless of whether the team worked offline or online.

In other words, effective collaboration hinges on a rich, deep understanding of your employees’ perspectives. That means you might need to invest in travel at the start of the relationship to really get to know your new team member face-to-face and build rapport. Then, keep those personal connections alive and meaningful over time by encouraging the team to discuss topics other than work—just like they would over coffee and snacks in the office. It makes a difference.

 

2. Pair up Remote Workers

“Pair programming,” the practice of having two individuals work together to develop code, is frequently cited as a best practice for developing software. Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests that when developers work in pairs, they work “more than twice as fast,” make fewer mistakes, and design better code. The benefits can even carry over to pairing up to do non-programming tasks.

Additionally, when people are paired up, they learn to communicate more easily and often, and to share (rather than hide) problems and solutions—all of which increases overall information flow and team alignment. One team leader observed that after pairing up developers, his fragmented team began to have “real conversations…they actually began to enjoy and trust each other.” They turned from a “random collection of six, bright talented individuals who didn’t work together” into a genuine team.

To effectively pair up workers, remember that pairing is a skill that does not come automatically to most people. It takes concerted effort and practice to instill pairing in your culture (and get your team excited about it).

 

3. Provide Shared Purpose via Regular Recognition

Aligning everyone’s goals through a common purpose and regularly recognizing each person’s contribution to that purpose is essential for team building. The benefits of these practices have been well-documented in business literature, and they are especially important when working with remote colleagues. When someone is not in the office, he or she will miss out on the regular reinforcement of the team’s mission that happens in the context of casual conversations and spontaneous celebrations. As manager, you must have a system to make sure that your remote staff still feels included.

Working From Home Tips

Working from home sounds like all fun and games, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Check out these articles from around the web on how to make the decision to work from home, convince your boss to do so, and get actual work done from the comfort of your couch (er, home office).

 

  • Ask yourself these important questions to decide if working from home is right for you . (Apartment Therapy)
  • Use these arguments to explain to your boss why you’d be more engaged from your couch . (Harvard Business Review)
  • Not only will you be more engaged, you’ll be more productive and satisfied .(Forbes )
  • With the data behind you, convince your boss why working from home will work for you. (Brazen Life)
  • Make sure to avoid these major distractions when working at home.(SavvySugar)
  • Use these tips to keep your productivity up when you’re working form home.(Work Awesome)
  • Make your home office a place you’ll love to work . (The Glitter Guide)
  • Make sure to stick to these rules for working from home . (Real Simple)

 

Want more? Check out some of our articles on working from the comfort of your home:

 

The 5 Best (and Worst) Things About Working From Home

Thinking of trading your cubicle for the couch? Here’s the real scoop about working from home: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

Design a Home Office You’ll Actually Work In

When you work from home, it can be hard to actually shift into work mode. Using interior some design secrets, we’ve got great tips for creating an inspiring and productive home office.

Business Advice

We caught up with John at the recent AIB Start-up Academy Dublin Summit and asked him about the importance of self-belief and mentorship.

How important is it to have belief in yourself when starting off in business?

It’s a bit scary and a bit daunting to do something from scratch on your own. There will be days where you doubt yourself, so you definitely need to have that self-belief. I also think that you need to surround yourself with people who are similar to you and who can pick you up when you’re having a down day. You’ll be able to do it vice-versa with them. I’m pretty selective about the people I hang out with. I want to be around high-energy people who can boost me along when I’m not quite there.

As a coach, you act as a mentor to your fighters. How do you approach this role?

When a fighter is starting off, they’re able to lean on me a little bit because they’ve seen the experience I’ve had and the success I’ve had with different fighters. One of my main roles with them is to make them accountable. If they tell me they want to be a champion, I measure the hours they’ve been training. If they’re not training like a champion, they’re not going to be a champion!

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who was considering starting their own business?

Number one for me, in whatever you’re doing, is to make sure you really really enjoy it, because you’ve got to be ready for long, long hours. An average week for me is 60-70 hours and anybody I know who works for themselves would have a similar story. Unless you really enjoy something, you won’t stick with it!

Are You Myths About Work

The way we work is not one size fits all. The eight-hour workday, the 9-to-5 time frame, the one-hour lunch, the 15-minute break—these are merely social constructs, not “natural” operational modes that work for every office, industry, and employee.

And while many offices have begun to look more custom than mass-produced, not all workplace trends improve your performance. From co-working spaces to collaboration, the “best” environment is hotly contested.

Here are four myths about how work gets done and what we should be doing instead.

 

Myth #1: Open Offices Are More Productive

70% of offices have open layouts, according to a 2010 survey by the International Facilities Management Association (and that number has only gone up since 2010). But studies show that privacy actually enhances job performance.

Yes, open offices have their upsides, like stronger employee relationships and better collaboration (more on that in a minute), but distractions abound. Many workers take to wearing headphones in an attempt to drown out the chaos. And the noise more than mere annoyance: A study in the Ergonomics journal found that workers in open offices take more sick days than those in more segmented, traditional office designs.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the spread of germs that are ailing these open-office employees. Constant noise pollution is also linked to high blood pressure and chronic stress, not to mention a steep dive in productivity.

 

The Solution

Hiding in our respective offices isn’t the answer. Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, offices need more private nooks and crannies and small conference rooms where employees can steal away to find peace of mind and focus on the task at hand, while also offering separate social spaces for communal gathering. A place and time for everything.

 

Myth #2: Collaboration Should Be Nonstop

The open office trend and current collaboration frenzy go hand in hand. Too much brainstorming actually diminishes creativity and fosters what psychologist Irving Janis named “groupthink.” To be clear, I’m not anti-teamwork—it’s important to come together to bond, exchange ideas, and check in. But making that the default way of doing everything is neither productive nor satisfying.

And for those of us who are introverts, operating in a perma-collaborative state is a real nightmare. But the general cultural trend of “togetherness” persists, diminishing the value of individual thought.

In a study of computer programmers, researchers found that personal space and separation from other workers was what distinguished the standout programmers, not salary or experience. 76% of the best performers had a private work space, while 76% of the worst reported needless interruptions.

Privacy, not togetherness, boosts creative thinking. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” said Picasso. Yet despite decades of research that suggests brainstorming is counterproductive—not to mention psychologist Adrian Furnham’sdamning statement that “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups”—the call for nonstop collaboration persists.

Ace Your Virtual Internship

To get a job in the real world , I knew that getting an internship was a good first move. The problem was fitting one into my already hectic schedule: The requirements of many internships—travel, 40 hours a week in an office, or complete relocation—just weren’t an option.

But lucky for me—I found the solution: An internship that didn’t require me to move from my own desk and, yet, provides me with a world of opportunity. An internship with no office, no dress code, and no travel time—because it’s 100% virtual.

Virtual internships are becoming more and more common, and they’re a great way to get hands-on experience while being able to keep a flexible schedule. But there are some tricky aspects to working online, too. So, if you want to make the most of an internship like mine, check out these tips to help you on your way.

 

Do: Get a Feel for the Environment

Everything I do is on the computer or over the phone. I don’t have to show up to the office, and it’s possible that I’ll never meet the people I’m working with in person.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s not important to get along with them. Before I even applied for my internship, I checked out the publication’s “About” pages to get a feel for the company, and I read through the staff bios to make sure they seemed like people I’d enjoy working with. I also got to talk with my future bosses during a phone interview , which gave me more insight into the company and staff than merelyexchanging emails would have.

And I’m glad I did my homework. I correspond with various members of the team on a daily basis, and if we didn’t get along, then the internship—virtual or not—could very well be a disaster. Before you sign on to an online team, make sure you’ve done some research to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

 

Do: Be Timely

When you’re working at an office, you know exactly what days and times you need to show up. But in a virtual environment, there’s no official schedule, so it’s harder to be timely. You can easily ignore that email or put aside those assignments you promised to do until just a little bit later.

But whether you’re working at a cubicle or in your pajamas on your bed , it’s important to stay on top of deadlines. You won’t necessarily have someone checking in with you every day, so keep track of important dates and assignments in your personal calendar. (This is great practice no matter what full-time job you take later.) Even if the company you’re working for is easygoing like mine, you don’t want to disappoint them—like with any internship, your goal should be to stand out as best you can.

 

Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

By the same token, when there’s no “end” time to the day or week, you might be tempted to take on more than you can handle. But remember that you can only do so much. Your supervisor knows that you’re enrolled in a full semester of classes and taking on extracurricular clubs and activities, too—in fact, she may have chosen you for the work you do at school!

But, that doesn’t mean she always has a good grasp of what you can reasonably balance and what is too much —especially since she doesn’t see you every day. Make sure to communicate with your supervisor when you’re overwhelmed and, to prevent that from even happening, only take on what you know you can handle. Chances are, she’s going to prefer quality over quantity (plus, you can always take on more later).

 

Do: Take Advantage of Not Being a Coffee-Getter

One of the great things about a virtual internship is that you obviously weren’t hired to file paperwork and get everyone’s morning coffee— you were hired because you have something to offer. So, take advantage of that!

In addition to staying on top of your assignments, don’t be afraid to be creative, offer new ideas, and immerse yourself in the company. Being timid won’t impress anyone, especially in a virtual environment, but being enthusiastic about your job and taking on new things will.

 

Don’t: Be Afraid to Ask for Help

But, while you’re trying to be the intern super-hero, bear in mind this is an internship for a reason— you’re learning . While you should certainly be an independent thinker, you won’t be expected to know everything. And the first couple of weeks will be stressful because not only are you just starting, but you’re starting in an environment you’re probably not familiar with—the virtual one.

But even though you’re not on-site, don’t be afraid to ask questions via email, Gchat, or the phone. I’ve asked plenty of questions—and though at first I thought it might annoy my supervisor, it turns out that it’s impressed her. Plus, it’s made me more comfortable with my assignments and enabled me to better produce quality work.

 

Do: Be Patient

This one has been especially difficult for me. I like to have things done as soon as possible, all at once, but it doesn’t always work like that in the virtual world. My supervisor has lots of other things to do besides respond to my emails or edit the article I just finished writing (this, by the way, will be true in every job you have). And online communication can make matters particularly difficult—you can’t always see when your supervisor is busy, and you don’t know what else might be going on. At one point, I thought I was getting fired because I hadn’t received an email back over a few days—when in fact my supervisor just had my email address wrong!

Working in the virtual world, your co-workers are on different schedules (sometimes even different time zones ), and probably have lots on their plate. They won’t always respond right away—nor do they expect you to. Working in a virtual environment lets you have a flexible schedule, but it requires to you be flexible, too. So, learn to be patient, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

Be Online Customer Service

1. Add an FAQ page

You already know which questions come up again and again. Answer them once and for all on your website by creating a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page. Update this page regularly to keep up with the latest developments and to answer timely questions.

2. Review your website navigation

Maybe you already have plenty of information on your site, but no one can find it. If you use a creative, nonstandard navigation scheme, take a look at your web analytics to see if that is preventing people from finding the information they need. Even if you use standard navigation, check your labels. Are they clear and accurate?

3. Add a video demonstration

If you’re spending a lot of time on the phone giving directions on how to use your product, a video demonstration could save time. And because nothing beats a visual demonstration, an online video will be more helpful to your customers than a phone conversation with you.

4. Offer Internet-only sales

Take a page from the airlines’ book, and offer lower prices for customers who purchase online. Or, offer online-only sales to encourage people to buy online rather than calling or visiting your store. Financially, this strategy makes sense because buying online does not use your staff resources they way an in-person or telephone sale does. And, a lower online rate helps defray the cost of shipping, which is one reason many customers prefer to shop in person.

5. Utilise your social channels

These days, people are very content to engage with a business on social media to get to the bottom of their issues. Instead of leaving an email or making a call, why not enquire on an open platform like Facebook or Twitter – you might even find your answer on a business’ profile already.

Job That Actually Let You Work From Home

You’ve probably noticed a trend lately—more and more friends, family, and acquaintances are finding ways to work from home.

Whether you’re looking for flexibility, have a health concern that keeps you home, have a reason for moving regularly, or need a way to balance children and work without paying for day care, the ability to work from home might be a crucial aspect of your next job search.

Here’s a few tips for finding a job that lets you work remotely.

 

Honesty Is the Best Policy

One of the most important aspects for any job search is being honest with yourself. In most cases, this pertains to your skills, abilities, and experiences. However, when looking for work that allows you to stay home, it relates more to what you’re actually able to accomplish and how much time you can truly dedicate to work if you’re at home.

Working from home isn’t always as easy as it might sound. Sure, you have more flexibility and the ability to set your own schedule, but you also have deadlines to meet, a need to focus, and sometimes you’re still relied upon to be on calls or to show up in the office.

This means that you need to figure out when you’re available and how you can cut down on the distractions. Is there someone to watch the kids when these needs arise? Are you able to sequester yourself in a distraction-free zone? How do you work on your own? Understanding and being upfront about your availability from the start is important.

 

Be Specific in Your Search

If you choose to run a search on the major career search networks like The Muse, Monster, LinkedIn Jobs, CareerBuilder, or another well-known site, it doesn’t mean that only traditional on-site jobs will be available. However, if you don’t refine your search for those with specific remote-working positions, you’ll end up browsing hundreds or even thousands of positions which you’ll need to sort through.

When you run your search, be sure to look for boxes that read, “allows telecommuting,” “flexible hours,” “off-site work,” or any other relevant work-from-home terminology. When you select these options, only companies with postings that allow for this type of work environment will be included in your results.