Posts Tagged ‘Remote office’


Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Workers

I may not be Captain Kirk, but my extensive travel schedule makes it imperative that I meet my business responsibilities while remaining connected to my base.  Some of your employees may have the same needs.  Sales territories keep your reps far from your home office, but even local workers may need to work from home during inclement weather — or even just because they prefer wearing fuzzy slippers from 9 to 5.

Remote work can make sense, as long as your employees have the resources that they need to excel at their jobs wherever they are.  But it also takes disciplined workers and supportive managers.  Here are some tips on how to decide which employees will be effective remote workers and how to ensure that they provide professional representation for your company.

Identifying Good Remote Workers

If an employee that reminds you of Ferris Bueller or Dude Lebowski asks for the opportunity to work from home, just say no.  Self-motivated employees, on the other hand, are likely to be even more productive when they don’t spend time commuting to an office where distractions and interruptions typically exceed those that workers might find at home.

Still, employees who want to work from home need to show that they have an appropriate, interruption-free work area.  For example, they probably need to send the kids to daycare or hire a nanny.  But just as important, look for employees who already display dedication, as evidenced by the following traits:

  • They consistently meet or exceed deadlines, even if it means coming in early or staying late;
  • They take work home while still putting in a full workday, particularly when that work requires unfettered concentration;
  • They keep you informed of progress without the need to prompt them;
  • They are good problem-solvers on their own, but they know when to seek your help.

Remote Employees Must Maintain a Professional Image to the Outside World

No customer, vendor or other outside party should ever see the laundry basket in an employee’s living room and seeing the inside of a coffee shop is no better.  In other words, business contact must occur outside of the home in professional surroundings.

You work hard to develop a professional image for your business and your employees need to maintain it, no matter where they are.  I count on Regus (who, for disclosure is a client of mine, and whose services and locations I have used as a client of theirs for years), one of the largest providers of flexible workspaces in the world, for the professional image that I need. 

Using professional remote workspaces allows you to rent anything from office space to meeting rooms on an as-needed basis, but if you regularly provide remote workers with access to flexible facilities, a resource like Regus’s Businessworld card can help keep costs under control while providing a professional working environment.

Technology Creates a Bridge between Workers and Home Base

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Most remote workers use a computer in some capacity to do their jobs.  It doesn’t matter if 

they carry a company laptop back and forth between home and office or if they use their own computer — as long as they have access to the right functions.  But once you take employees out of the office, you often need additional technology such as the following to keep them connected:

  • A reliable Internet connection;
  • High-quality and secure access to your office computer network, including email, using collaboration suites like Office 365;
  • A quality phone system, like those provided by Nextiva;
  • The ability to attend interactive meetings and video conferences online.

Having appropriate technology makes it seamless for you to collaborate with your team or even your vendors from almost anywhere in the world.

Avoiding the Isolation of Remote Work Environments

I know someone who was forced to work from home during her first months with a new employer simply because her office computer did not work.  She would come in to the office for meetings, but she lamented that the delay in getting to know her co-workers made her feel alienated from the team.  Years later, after she formed a bond with the team, she started working from home several days a week.  She enjoyed her time at home, but she always felt a sense of renewal when she returned to the office.

All employees must feel a close connection to the company and their co-workers, and it is your job to make sure that happens.  By conducting regular one-on-one and department phone meetings, you provide them with vital information relevant to their daily activities, but face-to-face contact is incredibly valuable as well.  You should make it clear that you expect local employees to come to the office on a regular basis, and even workers on the other side of the country might be able to travel in for the quarterly company meeting or other major events.

Everyone would enjoy the chance to wear fuzzy slippers and PJs during their work day, but this is just one of many reasons why studies have shown remote workers to be generally happier and more productive.  Still, it is important to make sure that a remote workplace does not equate to a remote connection with the company team.  With your guidance, employees who receive this benefit will earn your trust every day — especially if those fuzzy slippers have your company logo embroidered on them.


Mondays with Mike: 4 Steps To Taking Your Business On The Road

I’m a self-taught mobile business evangelist.  When I made the decision to convert the way I did business from the traditional, office-based model, I literally never looked back, at least not fondly.  Now, everything I need to conduct business is in my backpack, and I can work – quite easily, in fact – from anywhere in the world.

Getting your business ready to go mobile isn’t without its pitfalls, though, so I’ve compiled a game plan for getting there with minimal hassle.

  1. Communication is key.  The single most important component of your mobile business strategy is ensuring that you can communicate reliably with your staff, clients, and key contacts.  Skype is the solution for my company.  It lets me talk by phone, conduct video conferences, and it even lets me send messages.  When you’re on the road, you can’t afford to be out of touch, so it’s worth it to research your options and make the choice that meets all of your needs.
  2. Use the cloud to store and share data.  In addition to being able to talk to clients and employees, you’re also going to need a way to store and share your data securely.  Google Drive works for me, and I simply can’t overstate how critical it is to be able to access, edit, and share files from the road.  Even if you end up paying for your cloud storage, you’ll end up saving money in the long run when you factor in the savings in both time and money.  No more searching for a fax machine or waiting for documents to arrive.  Being able to share files – even large ones – by pointing and clicking is critical.
  3. Create contingency plans.  Ask yourself what you’d do if your laptop battery died.  What would you do if you couldn’t find reliable wifi?  What if Google Drive stopped working in the middle of a negotiation that relies on sending and receiving files?  Think through the problems that could arise and start developing solutions.  Whether it’s a backup battery or a second cloud storage account, you’ll save yourself huge headaches if you do some troubleshooting before you need it.
  4. Take a deep breath and jump right in.  Force yourself to go mobile.  Even if you start with a single day, making yourself actually do it will help you identify problems with your systems and give you the confidence that you can, in fact, survive outside your office and outside your comfort zone.  As you start going through your regular tasks from a mobile office, you’ll start to realize all the benefits.  You’ll appreciate the flexibility, and you’ll quickly see that you’re actually more efficient.

Much of working outside the office relies on technology, but one of the things that I love most about working from my backpack is that I’m free to schedule more face time with my important clients.  Rather than being tied to a desk, I’m free to actually go seal a deal with a real handshake.  Your laptop doesn’t distance you from personal contact; it simply lets you keep tabs on your business while you go forge those important face-to-face connections. 

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4 Tips to Running a Business Out of Your Home

You have an incredible idea for a business, an idea that will disrupt an entire industry. You want to get started right away, but there is one problem: you don’t have the capital to rent an office space. Instead, you quickly decide to convert the kid’s playroom into your new company headquarters and get going. While this sounds like an easy solution, there are several things to keep in mind when running a business out of your home. Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a professional job service for flexible workers, offers her top tips for success.

Establish a business address

Asking your clients to send their RFPs to your home address can come off as unprofessional, especially if you live at 1234 Prairie View Circle (it sounds a little residential, don’t you think?).  “I recommend utilizing a P.O. Box or maybe the UPS store near your house as your business’s primary residence,” says Sutton Fell. “You can always change your address later on if you move into a more commercial location.”

Structure your time wisely

????????????????????Working from home comes with a fair amount of inherent distractions: your children may need to go to the doctor in the middle of the day, your dog could get sick and need attention (or a walk or two or three), the pile of laundry in your bedroom may start sending you subliminal messages to be washed. Whatever the distraction, give yourself some breathing room to work during the hours that are best for you.

“I usually plan to work around 50 hours per week, but I have young kids and things come up, so, really, that 50 hours has a buffer built in. If I work around 45 I’ll be fine,” says Sutton Fell. “Sometimes I work in the evening and sometimes in the early morning. It really depends on the needs of my family and what is going on during any particular day.”

Set up a business phone number

Sutton Fell doesn’t believe in using her home phone or cell phone as her main business line. Instead, she uses a third-party phone service provider that routes her calls via a voice message system. “It sounds like you are calling one general number and that number is then linked to different extensions, but, in reality, the call is being routed to my cell phone,” she says.

Need a phone system for your small business? Consider signing up for Nextiva with monthly phone service that starts at only $19.95 per line.

Beware of the ambient noise

Make sure to clear your office of barking dogs and crying children before your next conference call; background sound can hurt your credibility, especially if your client doesn’t know that you work from home. “Noise is a really big issue and the exact moment when your baby starts to cry could be the moment when you start to lose trust and professionalism,” says Sutton Fell. “I really suggest dedicating a separate workspace so you can have the utmost quiet throughout your day.”


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Ways to Promote Your Small Biz

If you're the owner of a small business, you are juggling dozens of responsibilities! This week's Work Your Biz Wednesday from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson, offers 5 ways that you can promote your small business while on-the-go.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: Virtual Assistant

If you're running a small business, chances are a virtual assistant could help you. Learn how you can leverage one from the Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Mondays with Mike: Working from a Home Office

Do you prefer to work from home sometimes? Follow these three tips from Mike Michalowicz, author of "The Pumpkin Plan" and "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur", to ensure your day is as productive and professional as possible.




 
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