Maintaining Culture and Efficiency With Remote Workers.

This is a guest post by Rae Steinbach Thank you, Rae, for writing this for me. 

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While the traditional office might not be a thing of the past, the relationship many employees have to these shared work environments is changing. According to a report from IWG, 70% of employees are working remotely at least one day a week, and 53% are doing at least half their work at a location other than the office.

Some companies have embraced the shift toward remote work and have smoothly transitioned to more flexible arrangements. For managers that have a more traditional outlook, the trend of increased work away from the office is troubling. The primary concern for many of these managers is the worry that they will not be able to effectively manage employees if they are not in the office with them.

This concern is understandable, but there are significant benefits that can come with allowing employees to work away from the office. Many employees today prefer the flexibility that comes with being able to do work elsewhere. They may have family obligations or are indulging in the digital nomad lifestyle. Allowing for remote work can be an incentive that helps businesses attract top talent when hiring. In fact, 74% of employees said they would leave their current job for one that allows for more remote work.

Culture and Remote Work

Creating and maintaining a culture can be difficult when employees do not regularly share the same physical space. However, you need to remember that culture is not bound to a location; it is a set of values, beliefs, and ideals that your company keeps alive with various practices. Some of these can be performed remotely, like all-hands meetings via video calls. Sharing a common work environment might be an advantage for culture, but it is not a necessity. Company leaders just need to take steps to keep the culture in place for employees that work away from the office.

If you have offices, they should still play a role in the working life of employees. One way to do this is to set a minimum number of days per month that have to be spent in the office. You can also do things to make the office a more attractive work environment. If workstations are comfortable and have all of the tools an employee could need, like green plants and standing desks, your people might prefer to spend more time there.

Team events are another good way to make sure employees get some in-person time with each other. Face-to-face meetings are beneficial for building team cohesion, so try to get your employees together as a group. Hold training seminars to get everyone together; if the company is reaching an important milestone, celebrate as a team. These events can be great for building connections and maintaining a vibrant work culture.

Remote Worker Productivity

Some leaders might worry about a drop in productivity if they let their employees work outside the office. For the most part, the keys to avoiding this are to make sure employees understand your expectations and to instill accountability as an important part of the company culture.

For example, the management by objectives process encourages managers and employees to set goals together, and share progress regularly. This then allows leaders to have a more accurate idea of how remote workers are performing and reaching key objectives.

Working remotely comes with its own set of skills, so create trainings that ensure communication and performance remain as fluid as if everyone was working in house. For some employees, skills like time management will come naturally, but this is not true for everyone. If you want your employees to have success as remote workers, check-in regularly to see if these need to be changed or refreshed.

Managers can also leverage technologies that can simplify remote work. Modern communication technology offers a range of platforms that can make it easier to stay in contact with remote workers, and there are project management applications that can be used to ensure collaborative work stays on track.

Finally, hold regular in-person (or video) meetings to give everyone a chance to check in. The frequency and format of these meetings will depend on the specific culture and work-cadence at your company, but assemble everyone as often as is practical to go over the progress they are making on key projects. These meetings are also a fantastic opportunity for employees to give updates and appreciations to each other, and for managers to provide important news about the company.

Remote work shouldn’t be viewed as a compromise by management. When done well, it can be a way to increaseproductivity and allow people the space needed to access more creativity. As a leader, you just need to take the right steps to build a culture where people want to perform and produce for the good of all.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content for the HR industry. Her specialization is in performance management and leveraging team talent for the future of work. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

4 Ways to Beat Stress For a More Fulfilled Year

This article first appeared on my Medium page. 

Recently I was asked what do I do when I am stressed. After much thought, I realised that I am rarely, if ever, stressed. This got me wondering why I don’t experience stress. Is it something in my DNA, or is it because I relentlessly organise my life both professionally and personally or is it something else?

I concluded that it is probably a combination of all of those things. However, I know I do take steps to avoid stress and to make my life work as smoothly as possible. I exercise regularly, I know the importance of getting enough sleep. I avoid alcohol during the week and I plan ahead to prevent any unpleasant surprises. These steps are a very powerful antidote to the stresses and strains in a persons life. So, here are a few tips you too can take to avoid stress and have a much more relaxed lifestyle.

Plan Ahead

This one is certainly my number one tip. If you do not plan ahead you are going to be in a state of perpetual stress. If you have no idea what is coming up, you are going to be unprepared and all the following tips are just going to fall apart.

Recently I saw this in action. My wife, who is the complete opposite of me, had an event to go to. She was the lead person in this event and she was responsible for making sure the cameras were fully charged and that the tripods and other equipment needed were ready to go. My wife got home late the night before and was feeling very tired. She decided she must charge the batteries overnight. Unfortunately, she could not find the battery chargers and spent thirty minutes looking for them. Finally she found them and she put the batteries on charge. She went to bed knowing she needed to be up early.

She then spent 30 minutes looking at her social media feeds before falling asleep. three and half hours later she woke up and rushed around looking for everything in a very agitated and stressed state. Needless to say, she ended up arriving late and leaving some vital equipment at home.

Had she thought about all the things she was going to need a few days before and made sure everything was in the right place, the batteries charged and ready to go, she could have got a good night’s sleep before the event, woken up knowing everything was ready and would not have forgotten anything.

Planning ahead, it probably the most powerful weapon you have against stress. It’s quite often the little things that cause the most stress. Not having a pen when you need one in a meeting, your phone battery running out just at the moment you have to make an important phone call. All these things add up. So just plan ahead. Look at your calendar on a Sunday evening or Monday morning and see what is coming up and ask the question “do I need to prepare anything for that?” If the answer is yes, schedule some time to prepare for it. If you are going to be outside, away from your office or home all day, make sure you have a way to charge you phone for example.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is vital if you want to get things done to a high level of quality. I understand it is not always possible to get a good night’s sleep, but it is possible to catch a quick nap when you need to top up. I do not know how I would survive without a nap during the day. I even schedule a nap and will postpone exercise to get sleep if I need to. I know my productivity drops dramatically if I don’t sleep enough, and if my productivity drops so does the quality and quantity of the work I do. This then leads to more work later and an increased amount of stress.

If you feel tired (because of a lack of sleep) take thirty minutes or so out, lay down and sleep a little. The way you feel when you wake up will result in better quality work and you will get so much more done.

Have a Plan For The Year

This one is a relatively new one for me. I used to find myself feeling anxious around June / July each year and I could never understand why. I realised it was because I really didn’t feel I was achieving anything worthwhile. So, two years ago, I started making three priority goals for the year. These were one professional, one personal and one could be anything I wanted it to be. This year’s goals are to write a book, to complete a full course marathon and to save up and buy a pair of Crockett and Jones Skye 3 boots in Chestnut.

Because I have made sure that there is a mix of professional and personal goals, it is not only fun to focus my mind on achieving the goals, but I now race myself to see how fast I can achieve the goals. I was recently able to place my order for the boots, so I can tick those off, my training for the marathon is going great and I am a third of the way through writing the book. I feel very stress free at the moment and in the past the beginning of July was the worst time of the year for me.

Be healthy

There is so much written about the importance of exercise and health already. But it really is important. Not only because when you feel physically healthy you have a pride in your physical appearance, but the energy you have by being fit and healthy means you can get so much more done. Exercise also gets you out of the office and your home and into a different environment. It’s ‘quiet time’ that can allow your mind to rest.

Going out and drinking a skinful of beer and filling your stomach with Burger King Whoppers just before you go to bed is going to leave you feeling dreadful the next day. You are not going to be in the mood to do great quality work and your sense of pride is going to suffer. This will only increase the feeling of stress you have. Just don’t do it

And that’s it. Knowing that you have everything under control and you are prepared for everything will take a lot of unnecessary stress out of your life. Getting enough sleep will mean you make less mistakes and the quality of your work will improve. Having a plan for the year that is both achievable and manageable will give you focus for the year and by keeping your health in good shape you will always feel great. These four things will genuinely turn your life around and make you into a happier, more productive person. So start making those plans today. It’s never too late.

The Tools And Responsibility of the Modern Information Worker

As the way we work changes the opportunity to be able to choose the tools we use to do our work increases. The “bring your own devices” (BYOD) culture, the way more and more people are being allowed to work from home and use the devices they have at home and the way many companies are embracing the cloud technology Google, Apple and Microsoft offer means we now have a choice of tools we can use to create our spreadsheets, documents and presentations.

But this freedom comes at cost to us. We now have to decide which tool is best for us. And as so often is the case, choice brings complexity and indecision. We are all different and so what works for your colleague, might not work as well for you. I never owned a Windows computer having started in the Mac world and stayed. I used the original ClarisWorks before moving on to iWork in the mid-2000s. Microsoft Office for me is way too complex. But at the same time, my wife grew up on Office and she finds iWorks difficult to get used to. Deciding what to use to create the document you have been asked to create is more complex. On top of the software, you now need to consider what physical device you will use or whether you will be using a multitude of devices as I do to write these blog posts. What used to be a simple decision, because there really was no decision, has now become complex.

Recently I was asked to develop some content for an online learning company. Once we provisionally agreed to begin the project I asked the question in what format would they want the material. The company didn’t mind. They told me they do a lot of their development in Google Docs, but the finished material needs to be put into a Google Sheets template they created. WOW! I thought. This means I can freely choose what tool would be best for me to create this material.

I recently invested in a 9.7 inch iPad Pro with all the bits (Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard) because I wanted to lighten the bag I carry every day and I also want to push further towards becoming paperless. As I walked away from the meeting I was thinking about how best I would write the materials using just my iPad. It was like a joy of joy for me. Using Google Docs (or Apple iWorks or Microsoft Office 365) allows us all to move away from a fixed location and just get on with work. It really doesn’t matter anymore where we work or what tools we use to do that work. This is freedom.

But, just because we now can work wherever and whenever doesn’t mean we will get more work done. All this freedom also means we now have to become much more disciplined with the way we use our time. Gone (or going) are the days when we had a supervisor watching over us making sure we were doing work. Now we have to watch over ourselves. We have to stop ourselves from being on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter and not allow ourselves to be sucked into that hole called YouTube.

The days where companies restricted what you could have on your work computer are over (or will soon be over) And the 9 to 5 in the office obligation is disappearing. We live and work in a 24/7 world now which, while some see as an opportunity for big conglomerates to take advantage of their workers, others, myself included, see is as the start of something great, where we can utilise our talents and our favoured work habits to create amazing stuff and have the freedom to do that work anywhere and anytime.

The skill most needed now is the skill of self-discipline. If you are not good at self-discipline you are going to have to learn fast, because the way we work is going to require people who are able to focus on creating great work on time. There will be no managers or supervisors watching over your shoulder telling you to get on with your work. There will be no companies training you to use software and you are going to be responsible for keeping up to date your devices. All these things are going to be your responsibility. You need to be aware of the latest developments in your industry, you are going to have to show you have the discipline to work hard and meet deadlines. If you cannot, you will find yourself on the scrap heap. So start taking responsibility for your future now before the future chews you up and spits you out.

What Will You Leave Behind After You Die?

With the recent sad passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, I began thinking about what life is about, the age old questions: why are we here?What is our purpose? Of course at a very basic level we have a duty to continue the human race, but I have always felt there is so much more to this question. Maintaining the human race is very basic and many of the problems we face today are caused by over-population, rather than under-population.

I have always felt that to make my life meaningful, I have to leave something behind when I depart this earth. Something tangible, something that in some small way will help future generations. People like Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Isaac Newton and now David Bowie and Alan Rickman, they all left something behind when they passed away. For people like Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and Isaac Newton they left behind volumes of work that has educated generations for thousands of years in science and philosophy. People like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Alan Rickman have left us with a huge body of work that has developed our culture, our artistic and creative understanding. Their work will live on long in to the future. When I look around and see kids today who are familiar with and understand artists like Van Gogh, Beethoven and Shakespeare, I know these great artists left us a legacy. Their work lived on long past their deaths. That is my inspiration. The work I create today I want to live on. I feel it is my duty, as a human, to contribute to future generations, whether that be through educational teaching or writing, or culturally through art, music, graphic design or paint.

My biggest fear is leaving nothing behind after I die. I fear being just a name on a stone in an overgrown graveyard year after year decaying. It’s that fear that drives me. I read about people like Ian Fleming who sadly died when he was 56 years old, and see what he left us. The James Bond stories and the movies. A real celebration of a short life, he left us a legacy that has entertained many millions of people, people like me who was not even a twinkle in my father’s eye when he died In 1964.

The other evening, I watched a YouTube video of Queen at Wembley in 1986. There was Freddie Mercury strutting around on stage, singing in that unmistakably powerful voice. The connection he had with the audience, the smile, the moustache, the interaction with Brian May, the way he danced with the mic stand and played the piano. It was all there. It was as if he was still with us. And that was a moment, a concert that will live on. An incredible piece of work created thirty years ago this year.

Creating something, no matter how big or small is what I have to do. It is never going to be about how many “likes” I get, or retweets or how many books I sell. It’s about creating something that will endure past my sell-by date. Carl von Clausewitz, wrote the book “On War” in the 1820s, he never published the book in his lifetime, yet after his wife published the book posthumously shortly after his death, it became a seminal work that is still in print and studied today by military academies.

My posts on Medium are part of the journey, perhaps most of them will get lost in the ether of the Internet and will never resurface. David Bowie wrote over 700 songs during his four decades in the music industry. He will be remembered for perhaps 25 of those. Most will be lost through time, but the ones that really hit the cultural button will endure. Songs like “A Space Oddity”, “Heroes” and my favourite “Under Pressure” will live on for many, many years to come and will in their own way teach future generations the culture of today. And that is how I want it to be. I hope I have many, many more years left because I have a lot to do, a lot I want to pass on to future generations, in my writing of blog posts and books and in the videos I produce now and into the future.

My dream is that in the year 2416, kids in middle school will be studying my work, my writing and presenting an analysis to their teachers and professors. What they say and what they think doesn’t matter. What matters is my work endured, it survived the test of time and will be still relevant in some way in 2416.

So I ask you to join me in producing something for our future generations. For the people that come after us. Write, produce, create and publish. Don’t be a forgotten name. We all have unique abilities, insights and ideas. We all have ideas, stories and art inside us. Share them! And remember:

you will regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did do.

How To Prevent Being Taken Advantage of in the Office

One of the dilemmas many workers find themselves in is when their generosity is taken advantage of. You know the scenario, a co-worker asks for your help with a particular task and you willingly help them out. Only to find the following week the very same co-worker again asks for your help with the very same task. Very soon you find the task you originally started out helping a co-worker with has now become your task. The dilemma here is how do you politely prevent this situation happening to you.

In the interests of good working relationships, it is good practice to help out your co-worker, after all, you both work on the same team and for the same company. However, at the same time how do you prevent your less well organised co-worker from taking advantage of your generosity?

The trick:

There is a rather clever way to do this, and that is to delay sending the finished work to your co-worker. To avoid causing yourself stress, you should complete the work as soon as you would normally complete the work. However, you don’t send it immediately. One of the very reasons why your co-worker comes to you is because you are organised and in control of your work and they are confident you will get the work done quickly. Therefore delay sending the finished work to them. Because you have completed the work, you feel no stress — you can send the work to them any time. This is particularly important if your co-worker is your boss. Each time your co-worker asks for the work, you delay them. You tell them you haven’t had time to do it yet. When you feel you have kept them waiting long enough, send it to them. Each time they ask you to help them out, you delay sending the work to them longer and longer. Eventually, they will stop asking you.

In my experience, there are a lot of people in our work places that have no concept of time management and have no idea about how to organise their day or their work. These people, particularly if they are in a position of power, seek out co-workers who are better organised and they offload a lot of their work on to them. The path of least resistance is to give in and help them out. But it is important to educate these people. As an organised person, you have a duty to pass on your organisational skills to other, less fortunate people and this is a great place to start.

Be very careful of the false compliment

This little trick from your co-worker is where they will come over to you and tell you that you are so good at doing something they really would like you to do it for them too. This is usually used by an older, more experienced co-worker and they will exploit your naivety as much as they can. If it’s not your job, you need to take control. Do not fall for this trick. You might very well be the best at designing a presentation, but that is not what you were hired to do. It was your co-worker who was asked to do it and therefore it is their job. So, delay the work. Make them wait, and wait and wait. Very quickly they will stop asking you.

I do not recommend you do this every time one of your co-workers asks for your help. Remember, you work for the same team, but you can use this trick with a co-worker you feel is taking advantage of your productivity skills. You have your own work to do, and you need to do that work the very best of your abilities. To do that, you do not have time to do the work of your co-workers as well. So, be polite and respectful, but at the same time protect your time and work ethic and you will soon find your co-workers will give you the same level of respect.