It’s a good sign that economies around the world are slowly opening up to business as usual. But recent events have proven the unpredictability of the pandemic. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned since March 2020, it’s to respect Murphy’s Law. 

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of complacency if your business is running at 100% capacity. A time might come – sooner than later – where an unfortunate turn of events will necessitate a shutdown of business if the world goes through another series of lockdowns. 

Protect your business from the dangers of today’s uncertain times by integrating a telecommuting program. 

Top 6 Tips For Running A Successful Telecommuting Program

We can all argue whether vaccination is necessary or not. However, we can’t argue about the importance of having a telecommuting program in place for your business. 

Think of the telecommuting program as a way of vaccinating your business without the side effects – if you do it right.

1. Introduce a Solid Telecommuting Policy In Your Office

Telecommuting isn’t a new concept. You can trace its origins to 2012 when then-Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer started a telecommuting program in the company. One year later, Meyer shut the program down, attributing the decision to its failure to significantly boost productivity. 

It seems like Meyer jumped ship too soon because one year after she discontinued the program, telecommuting grew by 6.5%

Meyer’s problems were a result of not having a solid telecommuting policy in place. 

While telecommuting has become more of a necessity today because of the pandemic, the program must be guided by policies that establish its conditions, goals, process flows, tech profile, and other matters that determine its success.

“How to Craft a Comprehensive Telecommuting Policy” can be the title of an entirely new article. For the time being, here’s a quick summary of the issues that should be addressed by your company’s telecommuting policy:

  • The Selection Process

It might come as a surprise to you but not everyone is cut out for telecommuting. Some employees actually prefer to work in an office because of their situation at home. 

Likewise, some employees might not be qualified for telecommuting. This might be true for newly-hired employees who are still dealing with a steep learning curve. Their performance metrics won’t be substantial enough to be entrusted with work-from-home duties. 

For these reasons, you have to come up with a selection process to identify the employees who best fit the ideal telecommuter profile. The selection process should consider workplace statistics, work ethics, recommendations from supervisors, and home/personal life conditions among others. 

We will discuss this topic in more detail in Tip #2.

  • Telecommuting Equipment and Online Tools 

If employees are using company equipment such as PCs, laptops, and tablets to work from home, the policy must clearly state that these items will be used for work-related purposes only. 

If the employee has to use his own computer at home, you have to make sure that the equipment can handle the demands of the job. Specify the required Internet bandwidth and memory storage for the computer. 

More importantly, check that the computer is equipped with your preferred security software. Remember, the telecommuters are accessing data outside the office’s secure network. 

We recommend that you regularly monitor the telecommuting team’s computers and take the necessary measures to protect your office network from potential breaches and attacks. 

The computers must have the latest version of the online tools that you plan to use for communication, project management, file sharing, and time management to name a few. 

  • The Hierarchy

Establish the hierarchy or the organizational structure of the telecommuting team. There must be a team leader or a supervisor who can oversee the activities of the telecommuters and keep track of their progress. 

Qualify and designate individuals to manage key areas of responsibility. For example, there must be someone that the team can rely on and contact for technical issues. 

Although the telecommuting team is working outside the confines of the office, it’s still part of the organization, and it must have the ability to function by itself. 

  • Work Schedule, Compensation, and Benefits

Telecommuters are spared the inconvenience of the daily commute. Also, they get to spend less on food and the other usual expenses of the 9-to-5 office lifestyle. Meanwhile, Full-Time Office Employee “A” receives the same salary but takes home less pay because he incurs more expenses related to work. 

Salary and total compensation can become a slippery slope to traverse if the telecommuting policy isn’t clearly defined in the company’s HR manual. You have to set up the work schedule as well as the policies governing the telecommuting program before you activate it. 

Circulating the memo isn’t enough. We strongly recommend that you take the time to discuss the provisions on work schedule and compensation with your workforce. 

Open the floor to receive questions from everyone. You might receive inputs that will help you fine-tune the telecommuting policy. 

2. Qualify the Right People for the Telecommuting Program

Let’s pick up where we left off from Tip #1…

To be clear, make sure that the telecommuting program doesn’t discriminate. It must be open to everyone. However, a qualifying process must be in place in order for the program to start out on the right track. 

No matter how many times you’ve reviewed its parameters, things can still go wrong when the telecommuting program goes live. Pioneering the program with the people who best fit the telecommuting profile will help reduce the risk of incurring costly mistakes. 

Here are 5 tips on how you can come up with a reliable qualifying process for the telecommuting program:

  • Review Personnel Metrics – Find out who among your employees has been consistently meeting benchmarks and performing at or above the desired numbers. 
  • Evaluate Work Ethics – Who among your employees has been diligent at work and behaving like a true professional? Look into their employee records. 

Employees who have acquired multiple incident reports and have a history of unreasonable tardiness should be at the bottom of the list of telecommuting candidates. 

  • Consider Tenure – Telecommuting might be a “must” but it’s still considered a privilege. As such, prioritize the most tenured employees to avail of this benefit. 

Those who have been newly hired or have been working with the company for less than one year are better off sharpening their skills in the office. 

  • What Do the Supervisors Say? – Once you have a shortlist of candidates, talk to their immediate supervisors and get their feedback. They might know these candidates more than you and can provide information that won’t show up in the employee metrics. 
  • Private Life – Since they’ll be working from home, it only makes sense to find out how their home life is. 

Pay a visit to the home of the telecommuting candidate. Talk to the wife and kids. Get a feel of the situation. Look around and see if the conditions are ideal for a work-from-home arrangement. 

Put your observations in a report and discuss your thoughts and opinions with the candidate. You’re not acting like the paparazzi. You’re only looking out for the interest of the company.

Don’t make your final decision until you’ve conducted a test run of the program. The test period can run for a minimum of 2 weeks. That should be enough time to get solid data about the program and the performance of the candidates. 

3. Design an Online Workflow

One of the biggest criticisms against a telecommuting program is that the lack of organization leads to many mistakes. In fact, this was an issue that was highlighted by Meyer in her explanation of why she discontinued the telecommuting program at Yahoo.

Meyer believed that close, shared space collaboration was superior to telecommuting because it makes performance easier to track and keeps everyone moving along the same timeline.

While there’s merit to Meyer’s statement, this issue can easily be remedied by having online workflows built into the telecommuting system. These workflows should cover:

  • File sharing
  • Project collaboration
  • Report generation and distribution
  • Timekeeping
  • Work/Project distribution
  • Work/Project submission
  • Communication 
  • Quality Control and Quality Assurance
  • Customer Support
  • Technical Support

When you have this process flow in place, it makes organization much easier to achieve. 

Everyone knows what to do, where to go, and whom to talk to. You can run the processes through software programs and apps and integrate them as part of the telecommuting system.

4. Schedule Regular Meetings 

Let’s assume 30% of your workforce comprises the telecommuter team. Guess what? It’s still business as usual. The place of work has changed but there’s still work to be done, deadlines to meet, and goals to achieve. 

Get on the conference call and schedule regular meetings with the telecommuting team. Set the schedule at a time and date where everyone is available. Create an agenda and distribute copies to all team members. Designate special topics for key people on the team. 

If possible, schedule a general meeting every quarter or end of the year with everyone – onsite personnel and the telecommuting team. Don’t leave anyone out. 

A survey conducted by Goodhire revealed that 61% of Americans don’t mind taking a pay cut if that would allow them to work from home. Your employees might feel the same way. 

You can temper these emotions by meeting with employees on a regular basis and addressing issues that could affect productivity and increase the attrition rate. 

5. Track the Performance of the Telecommuting Program

As with new business development strategies, find out how the telecommuting program is doing by tracking its performance. Create a performance criterion that includes the following variables:

  • Accuracy – Evaluate the quality of work of the telecommuters; find out if the output meets or exceeds prescribed standards and calculate the percentage of errors or mistakes. 
  • Statistics – Determine the rate of consistency of the telecommuting team in meeting deadlines. 
  • Work Ethics – Identify the rate of absenteeism and tardiness by reviewing the time logs. 
  • Measure the ROI – Calculate the output of the telecommuting team in dollar terms then measure the ROI by cross-referencing it with the budget or cost of managing the telecommuting team. 

With these types of data, you can readily identify which telecommuters are lagging and which ones are performing above expectations. 

6. Adopt a Flexible Telecommuting Program

Even if you’ve come up with a telecommuting policy that’s delivered results, its guidelines, processes, and provisions shouldn’t be set in stone. 

Here are 2 good reasons why you should adopt a flexible telecommuting program:

  • Telecommuting is People 

There’s more to managing a successful telecommuting program than just designating the employees with the best track record, experience, and skills to a work-from-home arrangement. 

People adjust to a telecommuting lifestyle differently. In fact, you’ll get to see more of who they are when they are working remotely. Believe it or not, working from home has a learning curve to it. There will be some employees who won’t get the processes right the first time. 

Be mindful of the situations that may arise as new employees become telecommuters. Some might make suggestions on how to improve the program and it would be a good idea to keep an open mind and adopt a few changes. 

  • Technology Continues to Innovate

Technology continues to innovate at warp speed. The app market is exploding with new tools that are designed to make life and work easier. 

Look at Zoom. At the height of the pandemic, people around the world opened a Zoom account to stay in touch with family, friends, associates, and clients. Zoom became the go-to choice of businesses to communicate and collaborate with their remote workers.

Within a few months, other tech companies came up with their own audio-video conferencing platform.

The tools you have in place today might be rendered obsolete by the latest apps coming out tomorrow. When you’re working with a remote team, efficiency is a primary factor for its success. 

However, don’t completely overhaul your existing tech profile. Like all online tools, there’s a learning curve to respect. It will take time to be proficient with its features. 

Start out with one new tool. Get used to it and see how it complements the other tools in the system. Track its performance and how the rest of the telecommuters are progressing with it. 

Conclusion

During the 2014 Global Leadership Summit in London, 34% of the attending companies said that they expect 50% of their workforce to work remotely by 2020. 

Telecommuting was the direction businesses were headed to – the pandemic just sped it up. Setting up a telecommuting program in your company is a good way to protect your business from uncertainties in the future.

Start out by crafting a telecommuter policy. Don’t expect it to be fool-proof. A good first step would be to confer with HR professionals and a lawyer to make sure everything is in accordance with local state regulations. 

Then, evaluate your current manpower roster. You might also want to hire freelancers for your telecommuting team. This could work and make the process easier because freelancers are experienced, remote workers. 

They have the equipment, the expertise, and depending on the arrangement, you might be able to significantly reduce costs by going with freelancers. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will make mistakes and that’s perfectly fine. 

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. They are part of the process. Mistakes will expose the weaknesses and flaws in your system so you can improve your telecommuting program. 

If you need assistance in setting up your telecommuting team, give us a call. We have experience qualifying, selecting, and managing remote talent and our team has generated positive results for our clients. 

Let’s have a quick call and get your business moving online right away!

And if you enjoyed this article and know of someone who’s thinking about incorporating telecommuting in his company, please share this article. 

Based on the latest employment data, more people prefer to work from home even as the world continues to recover from the pandemic. 

According to Pew Research, when the pandemic started, 20% of Americans reported they preferred to work from home. A few months after the US economy started to open up for business, the number of American workers who preferred a work-from-home arrangement ballooned to 71%. 

If you’re one of those former brick-and-mortar employees who have transitioned to a work-from-home arrangement, we know that you’ve experienced challenges to having a productive day consistently. 

We’re here to tell you that shouldn’t be the case. You can have a productive work-from-home schedule by following our 10 tips outlined below.

1. Dedicate a Space for Work

Finding a space for work inside the home isn’t easy for everyone. Not all homes have a spare room that they can convert into an office. If your space is limited, dedicate a table as your work area. 

It would be great to have enough surface area to work with a PC and large monitor. But if this isn’t possible, make sure you have enough space to move around and work with your laptop. 

After all, you want to be as comfortable as possible when working in a confined space. 

If you’re using the same laptop for personal use, create a separate account for work. It might seem like a small thing but having different usernames and passwords for work and personal use can go a long way in maintaining work-life balance and focus. 

2. Establish a Work Schedule

You had to abide by a work schedule at the office, why should things be different now that you’re working from home? You can’t accomplish your business goals if you don’t put in the required hours.

That said, the biggest benefit about working from home is that your work hours are more flexible. Why? For starters, you don’t have to deal with the inconveniences of traffic and the daily commute. 

You can start working the moment you get out of bed or after you’ve had your first cup of coffee. The most important thing is to set a work schedule and commit to it. 

3. Have Process Flows In Place

Process flows are built-in systems that help organize work and make everything more efficient. Systems are composed of programs and other types of tools that have been developed to provide a specific function. 

What do we mean and how do these processes, systems, and tools apply to your work from home schedule?

Incorporate software programs that can help you manage the different areas of work such as communication, project management, file sharing, marketing, and accounting. 

Here are a few good examples of software programs that address these key areas of responsibility:

  • Communication – ZOOM, MS Teams, and Skype.
  • Project Management – Asana, Trello, and Basecamp.
  • File-Sharing – Google Drive, Dropbox, and MS OneDrive.
  • Marketing – Buffer, HubSpot, and ActiveCampaign.
  • Accounting – QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Wave.

You don’t need all of these programs in your process flow. Choose one – preferably the program that you’re familiar with.

Once you’ve selected the programs, create an outline of the steps of the process flow.

For example, if you’re managing projects for different clients, this could be an effective process flow:

Step 1: Project assignments and details will be posted in Asana. 

Step 2: Files can be retrieved from Dropbox. 

Step 3: Completed files will be uploaded to Dropbox. 

Step 4: Status of the project and a direct link to Dropbox will be inputted in Google Sheets. 

Step 5: Progress timetable will be updated on Asana. 

Create process flows for marketing, communication, and accounting and circulate the details to the concerned parties.

4. Plan Your Day – The Night Before

If you go to the supermarket without a shopping list, you’ll spend most of your time stressing about what you need, which aisle to go, and how much to pay. Chances are you won’t get everything you need and end up going over budget. 

If you don’t plan your day the night before, you’ll start the day not knowing which tasks to do and to prioritize. Chances are you’ll overlook the most important tasks and end the workday with not much to show for.

That’s the problem with guesswork – you waste so much time. Guesswork is a productivity killer. 

So how do you plan the tasks for the next day? There are a several ways to approach this:

  • Prioritize the task that results in the highest ROI for your business.
  • Attend to the task that gave you a sleepless night.
  • Attack the task that is closest to completion and will put you on the “board”.

Regardless of your approach, the outcome must be productive for your business. By planning ahead, once you get out of bed, your mind is more focused and you’ll be less stressed. 

A quick jolt of caffeine is all you need to hit the ground running, get your day started, and start ticking tasks off the list of things to do. 

5. Set Your Business Goals

Setting business goals is important because it creates direction for your company. Having a goal gives your day purpose. It’s the reason you don’t just rise out of bed but jump out of it to seize the day.

You can have a primary business goal then break the steps of achieving it into smaller goals. 

For example, your primary business goal is to drive more traffic to your website. It’s not realistic to expect website traffic to increase in one day. Driving inbound traffic to your website requires planning, implementation, monitoring, and consistency. It can be touch and go for a while where changes to the overall strategy will be needed to generate the desired results. 

Thus, a typical day could consist of performing the following tasks to keep you moving toward your goal of increasing website traffic:

  • Write a blog.
  • Post content on social media.
  • Email the latest newsletter to subscribers.
  • Engage with followers on social media. 
  • Review performance on all the social media platforms. 
  • Work with the production team on the creation of new short videos. 

Can you have more than one business goal? Yes! 

Your other goals might be to improve the sales conversion rate, streamline costs, develop a content strategy, or look and qualify resellers and distributors. 

Whatever your goals are, make sure they are realistic and measurable. Most importantly, work on them every day. Those steps might be small but with persistence and consistency, they can help you achieve big results.

6. Create Ground Rules

It wasn’t only businesses that had to shift to an online model when the pandemic hit. Even schools migrated their programs online and had students studying from home. 

As the world slowly opens up to the realities of co-existing with the pandemic, many schools continue to run their curriculums online out of safety concerns. Chances are, you won’t be the only one working from home. 

Your children might think that since Mom and Dad are at home most of the time, you’re at their “beck and call” 24/7. If you allow this to happen, the work-from-home arrangement won’t be productive. 

Set the ground rules at home. Let everyone know that while you’re working, no one will be allowed to contact you unless it’s really, REALLY important. Tell your children to take the phone calls and to attend to anyone who’s at the door. 

Leave a voicemail on your phone that advises everyone who calls that you can’t take their call because you’re working. In fact, we would advise you to keep your phone locked away in a drawer during work hours. 

If your spouse expects you to run some errands, inform your spouse that you’ll attend to those tasks after work. 

7. Schedule Rest Periods

When you were reporting to an office, you had 30-minute breaks every 3 to 4 hours. At home, you can schedule 30-minute breaks every 1.5 to 2 hours. 

Why should rest periods be more frequent when you’re working from home? According to studies, the brain can process and consolidate information for only 75 to 90 minutes; 120 minutes maximum. 

Scheduling rest periods every 75 to 120 minutes will allow your mind to relax, recharge, and retain information better. 

During your rest period, you can:

  • Take a nap – highly recommended!
  • Exercise – also highly recommended!
  • Get a snack
  • Check your phone for messages
  • Check on your kids
  • Run an errand that can be done within 30 minutes

The important thing is to be able to rest and decompress after attending to a task. After 30 minutes, you’ll be ready to handle the next task and move closer toward ending the workday productively.

8. Set Aside Time for Your Colleagues

You might find working from home to be a more fulfilling arrangement but not everyone on the team might feel the same way. 

Some people have a hard time adjusting to a work-from-home schedule. They’re used to shared-space collaboration with colleagues and prefer to work in a traditional office setting. 

Yes, believe it or not, some people don’t mind the commute, the office politics, and having the supervisor hovering over them. 

If you’re working with a remote team, always set time in a day for them. You can use Zoom or Microsoft Teams to run conference calls. This will help those on your team who are struggling with the work-from-home arrangement adjust and adapt to the new conditions. 

A few ideas:

  • Schedule daily pre-shift or post-shift meetings.
  • Have short 30-minute coffee breaks with the team.
  • If it’s someone’s birthday, set up an online party with food and drinks.
  • Schedule one-on-one consultations with team members who you know are struggling the most. 
  • Have a virtual night out with your colleagues; kick back a few ice-cold beers and just chill out. After all, no one’s drinking and driving!

Maintaining regular communication with your remote team will help build stronger relationships and keep everyone more committed and focused on their jobs.

9. Keep the Learning Process Going

It’s not just your kids who should pursue higher education. Everyone, including you, can benefit by keeping the learning process going. You can always get better by updating your current skill set or learning new ones. 

For example, everyone can benefit from improving their business acumen. If money management is a weak point, sign up for short courses on business accounting. 

If you want to improve the existing workflows in your business, spend an hour each day learning a new project management software program. 

Why not sign up for online foreign language courses so you can network and promote your business to other regions?

You can also research your industry and find out the latest trends and developments. You may have been immersed in managing the micro details of your business that you’ve been out-of-the-loop with the macro factors affecting your industry. 

Keep in mind that the world doesn’t standstill. In a global economy, events in one region can have repercussions in another. Market conditions can change without warning. 

It would be a good idea to adopt a flexible business model. This means learning new skills that can help you identify shifts or changes in the horizon and implement the appropriate courses of action right away,

 10. Take Vacation or Sick Leaves

Just because you’re working with the comforts of your home doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick or need time off to recharge. There will come a time when the 30-minute rest periods every 75 to 120 minutes won’t suffice and you’ll need time away from work.

When that time comes – get away from work. If you get sick, schedule a few days’ leaves and get much-needed rest. 

Depending on the situation in your region, if pandemic guidelines allow you to travel across the country, schedule a short vacation. Head off to a place where you can get fresh air and sunlight. If possible, disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in nature. 

Our company is called “Mountaintop” for a reason. Whenever we feel the need to decompress and recharge, we get away from it all by climbing mountains in Colorado. 

Mountain climbing is a great form of exercise and helps clear our minds from the challenges at work. It’s also a wonderful way of building teamwork. Getting to the top of the mountain requires everyone to perform at their best and to keep the team’s interest the main priority. 

Reaching the pinnacle of the mountain is always a rush and an amazing accomplishment for the team!

Conclusion

Working from home is an opportunity for achieving a work-life balance. However, its success will depend on being able to maintain a productive schedule daily.

You don’t have to implement all of our 10 tips discussed in this article to ensure a productive work environment at home. Choose the ones that best apply to your situation and nature of work. 

The important takeaway is to understand that when you work from home, you still have to work and put in the needed hours to succeed in your career. 

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we can create these types of amazing, high-ranking content for your website. By outsourcing content writing to us, you can focus more on the tasks that add dollars and cents to your bottom line. Likewise, feel free to share this article with friends who are working from home.

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While it’s true that the pandemic necessitated many businesses to adopt a work-from-home strategy, companies have slowly been transitioning to an online model as far back as 2014. 

If you remember, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer made a groundbreaking shift to telecommuting in 2013. She started slow – transitioning only 10% of the workforce from office to home-based and generated admirable results.

After one year, Meyer pulled the plug on the telecommuting project because she felt that at a certain point, telecommuting generated diminishing returns. 

In our opinion, Meyer pulled the plug too early. There’s a learning curve in everything new. Had she stayed the course, Yahoo, which had been heavily losing financially under Meyer, might have turned around. 

The studies that we share with you in this article proves that adopting a work-from-home strategy for your strategy will produce dividends. 

1. Increase Productivity

A study by Global Workplace Analytics cites the following statistics to support the idea that a work from home strategy increases productivity:

  • Many big corporations including Dow Chemicals and British Telecom have reported that employee productivity increased between 35% to 40% after they adopted a work from home/telecommuting strategy in the workplace.
  • Likewise, more than 67% of companies that took part in the study reported that employees who transitioned to telecommuting assignments showed improved productivity.
  • Other corporations such as Compaq, American Express, and JD Express reported that employee productivity increased from 15% to 45%.

It’s easy to understand how working from home can improve business productivity. 

In the same Global Workplace Analytics study, Sun Microsystems claimed that since incorporating a work from home strategy, the company was able to improve productivity by recovering the 60% of productive time lost by employees during their commute to work. 

When your employee works from home, he won’t be stressed out by the commute. He can enjoy his first cup of coffee, a hearty breakfast, and prepare himself mentally for the challenges ahead. 

By the time he gets behind the computer – he’s revved up and ready to go! And when he gets tired, he can take short naps or a walk around the park to get rejuvenated for the next item on the agenda. 

Although distractions still abound at home, the employee doesn’t have to deal with the usual stressors in the workplace such as politics and water cooler gossip. He won’t be constantly looking at the clock to check if he has enough time to finish his work and pick up his kids at school. 

The Global Workplace Analytics study revealed that businesses lose an estimated US$600 million annually due to office distractions. 

Employees become accountable for their work schedules. As the employer, what you’ll focus on are the results. 

2. Reduce Operating Costs

Rent is one of the biggest expense items on your monthly budget. If you designate a percentage of your employees as telecommuters, you won’t need to rent as big a space. 

You can maintain a smaller workplace and with more areas dedicated to revenue-generating activities. Consequently, you lower your utility costs for electricity, Internet service fees, and water.

Communication expenses can be slashed down significantly because you can incorporate online-based tools that can make communication more efficient and affordable. 

Instead of messaging employees via their mobile phones or calling them on the office landline, you can use ZOOM, Viber, Skype, Messenger, or Slack. These services offer free subscriptions but with limited features. 

Use these tools to arrange and preside over audio-visual teleconferences. It’s as good as face-to-face meetings because you can share screens, send files, and privately message participants. 

Lastly, because more employees are working from home, you can reduce or eliminate office supplies. 

3. Lower Attrition Rates

We mentioned earlier how office politics and water cooler chatter can cause distractions that affect productivity. More specifically, these types of distractions can make the workplace feel uncomfortable and affect the morale of employees. 

Unhappy employees become disengaged. In addition to the losses in business productivity, a disengaged employee will eventually leave your company and contribute to the cost of workplace attrition. 

The cost of replacing an employee is estimated to be double the employee’s salary. In the United States, workplace attrition has cost the economy approximately US$1 Trillion a year. 

A study conducted by the American Sociological Review found that people who work from home are happier and perform better than those who work from an office. 

Another study by Global Workplace Analytics disclosed that 72% of businesses with work from home arrangements reduced attrition levels significantly. 

People who work from home are happier and more productive for the following reasons:

  • They are less stressed.
  • They have more time with their family.
  • They can set aside time for exercise and wellness activities. 
  • They have more savings because they no longer have to commute or eat outdoors.
  • They are less likely to get ill. 

If your employees are happy, so will you!

4. Expand the Reach of Your Talent Pool

Another work-from-home strategy that you can incorporate into your business is outsourcing. 

Outsourcing is the process of delegating or transferring tasks to qualified third parties. For example, instead of setting up an in-house accounting department, you outsource accounting to a company that provides back-office services. 

What are the benefits of outsourcing?

  • Lower costs because you contract the services of a company – you don’t hire employees. The cost of hiring an employee is calculated at 1.5-times his salary because benefits are factored in. When you outsource, you pay per project, per productive hour, or via monthly retention fee. 
  • Improve the quality of work because you’re delegating tasks to qualified people – these are individuals with the requisite knowledge and experience to do the job correctly. 
  • Increase productivity because now, you can focus only on the core activities of your business. 

With outsourcing, you expand the reach of your talent pool. You’re no longer limited to hiring local people. You can outsource to talent located across the globe. 

The obvious advantage of outsourcing to remote talent is that you can capitalize on the lower cost of labor. For example, outsourcing to India or the Philippines will cost you less in terms of labor. 

That doesn’t mean you get what you pay for. In most cases, you’ll get MORE than what you pay for! If outsourcing to remote locations wasn’t effective, India and the Philippines wouldn’t remain as the top outsourcing destinations in the world. 

5. Contribute to a Better and Healthier Environment

If more businesses around the world shifted to a work-from-home business model, we would have a cleaner and safer environment because there would be fewer cars on the streets, less traffic, and lower demand for public transportation.

Because expenses for office supplies would be greatly reduced, there would be less need for paper products. Electrical consumption would be greatly reduced and there would be less garbage to be collected. 

If your company is a strong advocate for sustainable solutions that protect and preserve the environment, shift to a work-from-home business model. 

Conclusion: Work From Home Could Be the New Normal

We believe that in time, the pandemic will become endemic. But that might take a while. 

As of this writing, scientists are still evaluating the effectiveness of the vaccines. Almost on a daily basis, you’ll come across developments that are promising… or underwhelming. 

This is to be expected as it usually takes decades before a vaccine is pronounced effective. It’s safe to assume that all of the vaccines are still in their experimental stages. 

That’s why if your business hasn’t adopted a work-from-home model, it’s not too late. You can still do the shift – but you should start NOW!

Let’s set aside the pandemic. For the purpose of discussion, let’s assume the pandemic never happened. Given the advantages discussed above, wouldn’t you be encouraged to incorporate a work from home arrangement into your business?

What do you have when you increase productivity and reduce costs? Improved profitability!

Do you want to experience how it is to outsource services? Outsource your web development and digital marketing activities to us! 

We have years of experience handling these tasks for our clients. Not only have we contributed to the performance of their businesses, but we also helped them reduce costs.

Give us a call and let’s get started!

And if you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community.

 

Businesses started transitioning to the remote environment in 2014 when smartphones, mobile devices, and Internet services became more reliable. Fast-forward to 2020 and the global pandemic has made going remote the new normal for businesses. 

It’s been more than a year since we went into lockdown. For your business to thrive in a world where going remote is a matter of necessity, you need a few tools in your belt to keep it growing and adapting. 

The tools you need must cover the following areas of business:

  • Meetings
  • Project Management
  • File Sharing/Organization
  • Communication
  • Accounting/Finance
  • Marketing
  • Outsourcing/Talent Acquisition
  • Email

Based on our experience, here are some of the best tools you need in your belt to tackle 2021.

1. Meetings

Virtual meetings have been growing in importance as businesses continued to seek strategic partnerships with other companies across the globe. The global pandemic accelerated the need for more businesses to incorporate virtual meetings as part of their process. 

Zoom 

Zoom Video Communications made it on the map when the San Jose-based company offered its 45-minute package free of charge for K-12 schools and small businesses.

What are the features of Zoom?

  • HD audio and video for up to 1,000 participants.
  • Collaboration tools such as share-screen.
  • Record meetings and create transcripts.
  • Sync meetings with Gmail, Outlook, and iCal.
  • Chat messaging system.
  • The webinar platform is expandable to 50,000 participants and can be streamed via FB Live, YouTube Live, and other streaming services.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft launched Microsoft Teams in 2017. In 2019, Microsoft reported that its web-based app had more than 20 million active users. Because of the pandemic, Microsoft disclosed that there were now over 44 million active users of MS Teams. 

What are the features of Microsoft Teams?

  • Teams use Channels to converse with other teammates or invite others. 
  • Chat messaging system.
  • Access to SharePoint Online, a platform where teams can share documents.
  • Video conferencing with share-screen. 
  • Online meetings can host up to 10,000 users.
  • Audio-conferencing allows anyone to join via phone.

Google Meet

Google Meet was introduced in 2017 as a replacement for Google Hangouts. Google reported that because of the pandemic, Google Meet experienced 100 million active users daily compared to 200 million active users for Zoom. 

What are the key features of Google Meet?

  • An unlimited number of meetings for up to 100 participants.
  • Closed captioning during meetings.
  • Compatible with many devices from desktop to mobile platforms.
  • Preview for audio and video.
  • Change screen layout.
  • Exclusive control for meeting host.
  • Share screen and messaging.
  • Sync with MS and Google apps.

2. Project Management

Before project management apps became available, close collaboration was difficult when working with remote teams. There were a few platforms you could use but the features were limited. 

The project management apps that we selected make it possible for teams to collaborate on tasks as if they were sharing space. 

Asana

“Asana” is the term used to describe the act of practicing Yoga poses. Similar to Yoga, the objective of the project management app Asana is to help businesses achieve balance in managing remote work.

Asana was founded by former Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein in 2012 as a mobile productivity app that helps teams manage, track, and organize their tasks. 

Forbes magazine reported in 2020 that there are more than 1.3 million paid users of Asana around the world.  

What are the key features of Asana?

  • Create customized forms for projects.
  • Create customized templates for workflows.
  • Create customized drop-down menus and fields.
  • Track the progress of a task as “Completed” or “Waiting”.
  • Put timelines on specific tasks.
  • Motivate your team by establishing milestones.
  • Option to make projects private or public.

Monday

Monday started out as an internal productivity tool for Wix.com from 2010 to 2012 when the app was bought out and became daPulse. It was rebranded to Monday.com in 2017 and to date is used by more than 100,000 organizations.

Monday.com won the 2020 Webby Award for Productivity in Apps, Mobile, and Voice.

What are the key features of Monday?

  • Centralized management with the use of an easy-to-use, color-coded, multi-functional board.
  • Comments and notifications to team members are sent by “pulses”.
  • A well-organized board helps managers track the progress of every task.
  • Allows companies to invite clients and collaborate on projects.
  • Advanced search features that enable users to locate projects, images, assignments, and updates without restrictions on dates. 
  • The timeline feature gives users the look and feel of Gannt charts so they can monitor and update progress.

Basecamp

37Signals developed and launched Basecamp in 2004. Owing to the success of the project management app, 37Signals changed the company’s name to Basecamp in 2014. 

Today, Basecamp is valued at US$100 Billion and has millions of users across the globe.

What are the key features of Basecamp?

  • Create and assign to-do lists.
  • Chat system for group and private messaging.
  • Generate reports to follow progress on tasks and to track the performance of individual team members.
  • Hill Charts feature allows you to monitor progress on tasks in real-time.
  • Schedule hourly back-ups of files.
  • A keyword search function allows you to find what you’re looking for right away.

3. File Sharing/Organization

Yes, digital technology and advances on the Internet made it faster and more convenient to manage tasks. However, it also means you have to attend to and accomplish more tasks often within the same number of work hours. 

If you don’t have an efficient and easy-to-manage file sharing and organization tool to manage your tasks and projects, you might as well break out the lock and key for that heavy filing cabinet in the corner of your office.

Google Drive

Google launched its synchronization and file storage platform in 2012. Work with other Google services such as Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Slides then share files with team members using various devices. 

According to Google, Google Drive had more than 2 billion active users in 2018, and in excess of 2 trillion files were stored in the platform in 2017. 

What are the key features of Google Drive?

  • Sharing of files is under the control of the owner.
  • Compatible with a large number of 3rd party apps.
  • Google Drive viewer is compatible with a multitude of formats.
  • The Android version features QuickApp that “predicts” the files you need even before you can tap on the keyboard.
  • With built-in programs that make the platform accessible to the visually impaired.
  • Includes encryption capability. 

Dropbox

Dropbox was launched in 2007 by a pair of MIT students and seed funding from Y Combinator. Today, the company is valued at over US$10 Billion. 

According to Statista, Dropbox had 15 million paying active users in 2020. Other statistics show that there are more than 600 million users of Dropbox worldwide. 

What are the key features of Dropbox?

  • Store and access files from anywhere and from any device.
  • Synchronize work from other platforms and services.
  • Instant notifications on updated to-do lists and project timelines.
  • Collaborate with everyone on your team by using Dropbox Paper.
  • High-level security keeps your files safe.
  • Designate work and limit access to files only to authorized people.
  • Restore damaged or hacked files within 30 days.

Microsoft 365 – OneDrive

OneDrive is a Microsoft file-sharing and synchronization service that was launched in 2007. It’s part of the Microsoft 365 suite of products and services. 

There are millions of users of Microsoft 365 worldwide. In the United States alone, Microsoft 365 has more than 650,000 active users.

What are the key features of OneDrive?

  • Access your files from anywhere using any device.
  • Share your files with teams or individuals.
  • Integrate with other Microsoft 365 products.
  • Free up storage space.
  • Personal Vault gives you high-level security to keep your files safe.
  • Supports different forms of multimedia.
  • Scan documents with your mobile phone.

Evernote

Evernote was introduced in 2000 as a marketing software then evolved into a productivity app that helped businesses manage and organize their tasks in 2008. 

Evernote has become a go-to tool of businesses that despite increasing its prices in 2016, has amassed more than 220 million paid subscribers. 

What are the key features of Evernote? Take note the key features outlined below are for Evernote’s Premium Subscription.

  • 10GB of new uploads every month.
  • Synchronize with various devices.
  • Capable of searching for text inside images.
  • Share files and notes to teams or individuals.
  • Passcode lock feature for the mobile app version.
  • Forward your emails to Evernote.
  • Annotate, search for images in PDF format.
  • One-click feature for presenting notes.
  • Scanning feature to create business cards.

Pocket

Pocket was launched in 2007 as Read It Later, an app developed to help you manage a list of reading materials and videos curated from the Internet. The service can be accessed by multiple devices and browsers. 

The company reported that as of 2018, Pocket has more than 30 million users. 

What are the key features of Pocket?

  • Save an unlimited amount of articles, web pages, and videos.
  • Synchronize with a wide range of devices.
  • Use tags to organize your saved items.
  • Accessible from various platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Flipboard to name a few.
  • Listen to your articles by converting text into high-quality audio.
  • The intelligent tag suggestion feature helps you organize your content for easier and faster search.
  • Customize layouts and font styles. 
WebsiteSecurity.Protection.Monitoring

4. Communication

Having excellent communication systems in place can replicate the advantages of shared space collaboration for your remote setup. 

The communication tools we selected will allow you to keep track of your team’s work without hovering over them as you might do in a physical office. These apps function like central hubs where you can get everything done in one place.

Slack

Slack started out as an internal communication tool for gaming company Tiny Speck when they were developing Glitch. It was formally launched as Slack, a communication platform for businesses, in 2013.

As of 2019, Slack has an estimated 12 million daily active users. 

What are the key features of Slack?

  • The use of Channels allows you to organize and manage teams handling different projects or tasks.
  • The “Narrow search” function makes searching easier.
  • Mentions feature lets you find messages that were specifically for you.
  • A flexible messaging system enables you to quickly find a specific user and send a DM, mark a message as “unread” for future reference, and restrict access to threads.
  • Keep track of important discussions by using the Highlight Word function to advise you if a keyword shows up in a thread.
  • Create auto-replies for faster response time.

Microsoft Teams

We discussed MS Teams earlier but the service is worth mentioning again as an effective platform for communication. 

After deciding against bidding for Slack in 2016, Microsoft developed MS Teams as a direct competitor of the communication platform. As you will read below, MS Teams has communication features that aren’t available in Slack.

A 2021 survey showed that MS Teams has 75 million Daily Active Users (DAUs) compared to “only” 12 million DAUs for Slack.

What are the key features of MS Teams?

  • Channels function like conversation boards and make it easier for team members to communicate.
  • Compared to Slack, MS Teams invites more open communication by getting teams to view other communication and provide inputs. 
  • Files are automatically filed and organized in a SharePoint document.
  • Quick and easy access online calling and conferencing system with top-level audio and video quality.

Blink

Blink is a communication app that was developed to improve employee productivity by providing them with a platform to collaborate effectively and avoid incidents of miscommunication. 

Companies that have used Blink were reportedly able to reduce employee turnover rate by 26% and improve employee satisfaction by 30%.

In 2018, Blink received 2 awards from Finances Online – the Great User Experience Award and the Rising Star Award.

What are the key features of Blink?

  • Fully customizable; companies can add their logos and colors.
  • Accessible to multiple devices and browsers.
  • Availability of team calendar to help team members keep track of deadlines.
  • Workplace analytics enables managers and top officers to evaluate employee engagement and performance.
  • The one-on-one chat messaging feature lets you communicate directly with frontline employees and give them valuable feedback.

5. Accounting/Finance

The absence of proper money management systems is the number one reason why many small businesses fail within the first 5 years of operation. 

One of the first things you have to do when starting a business is to fortify its foundation. These are the support activities that help your business run smoothly. 

Accounting is considered a back-office function but it plays a significant role in ensuring the success of your business. 

Having your financial transactions covered and organized by a reliable accounting app will help you monitor your liquidity, cash flow, and if you’re on track to meet your profitability objectives.

Quickbooks

Quickbooks feels like it’s been around forever and to some degree, it has. First introduced in 1983 as Quicken by Intuit, Quickbooks was developed with the small and medium-scale business owner in mind. 

According to Intuit, Quickbooks garnered 74% market share in the US in 2005. The NPD Group reported that in 2008, 94.2% of retail units in the US used Quickbooks. 

What are the key features of Quickbooks?

  • Create and send customized invoices and quotations.
  • The software can be accessed from a remote location.
  • Offers remote payroll assistance and outsourced accounting services.
  • Availability of electronic payment options.
  • Online banking and reconciliation options.
  • Mapping integration feature with Google Maps.
  • Email functionality feature through MS Outlook and Outlook Express.
  • Integration with Excel.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks was developed by 2ndSite, a company based in Canada and was launched in 2004. Initially, Freshbooks was intended as an invoicing program for IT professionals. 

In 2015, 2ndSite set up a second company, BillSpring, that handled product development. Freshbooks evolved into an accounting program that can manage the accounting needs of small and medium-scale businesses.

What are the key features of Freshbooks?

  • Customizable invoices.
  • Automatic payment reminders for clients.
  • Automatic late fee penalties for invoices that are past due.
  • Incorporate credit card payments into your system.
  • Automatically schedule invoices for recurring payments.
  • Organize invoices and confirmed payments per client.
  • Multi-currency and multi-lingual billing options.

Xero

Xero was developed in New Zealand and introduced as a cloud-based accounting software program for small and medium scale businesses in 2006. The company has gone global with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Asia.

According to Xero, in 2018, there were more than 1 million subscribers to its app in Australia and New Zealand plus another 1 million users worldwide.

What are the key features of Xero?

  • The software program is compatible with Windows and Mac.
  • Versions for Android and iOS are available.
  • Customizable dashboard for convenience and ease of use.
  • Generate multiple reports at one time.
  • View and share financial reports with your partners or investors.
  • Option to invoice clients using different currencies.
  • Customizable invoices.
  • ISO/IEC 27001-2013 compliant; this is the gold standard for high-level online security.

6. Marketing

Marketing has grown in prominence over the last few decades. It used to be the case that companies would only allocate 1% of their revenues for marketing activities. 

According to a 2017 study by Deloitte, companies have steadily increased the budget allocation for marketing. Consumer goods retailers are the biggest spenders at 24% while those in the Energy sector spend the least at only 4%.

Thanks to Marketing apps, small and medium-scale businesses have the means to run marketing campaigns without spending too much time and money.

HubSpot Marketing

HubSpot is a wonderful resource for everything marketing-related. It’s no surprise that the HubSpot Marketing app which was released in 2006 is actively used by more than 30,000 companies in 90 countries.

HubSpot Marketing is a one-stop-shop for all your marketing needs. A free service is available for first-time users to try and test the products and other offerings. 

What are the key features of HubSpot Marketing?

  • Build and design your own website.
  • Create and publish content from a built-in blogging platform.
  • Perform keyword research to optimize your content.
  • Customizable CTA buttons and Landing pages.
  • Organize all information including leads into one database.
  • Easy-to-use and highly customizable email templates and campaigns.
  • Marketing automation software allows you to customize and develop marketing campaigns to help accomplish specific business goals. 

OptinMonster

Lead generation is a very important part of digital marketing. The ability to generate leads will help you pre-qualify potential clients and allow you to better maximize your marketing budget as well as optimize your marketing efforts.

OptinMonster is a lead generation software that was developed to help businesses build their email list by improving engagement levels. According to OptinMonster, the program is used by more than 1,213,437 websites.

What are the key features of OptinMonster?

  • Drag ‘n; Drop Builder lets you create customized forms.
  • Campaigns can be optimized for mobile devices.
  • Use MonsterEffects feature to create more eye-catching visuals.
  • Customize messages to increase engagement levels.
  • Choose from a wide variety of campaign types including the very popular Lightbox PopUp, Slide-screen Scroll Box, and Floating Bar.
  • Built-in technology designed to study visitor behavior.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an email marketing and marketing automation service that was launched in 2001 by its developer, Rocket Science. It started out as a paid service before introducing a freemium service package in 2009. 

According to Rocket Science, Mailchimp was generating 14,000 new subscribers every day in 2017 and was sending out an average of 10 billion emails per day. 

What are the key features of Mailchimp?

  • Organize your leads with its built-in Marketing CRM.
  • Learn more about your customers with the Audience Dashboard.
  • Improve the efficiency of your marketing campaigns with the segmentation feature.
  • Find out where your visitors and customers are coming from by accessing data on demographics. 
  • Availability of content creation tools to help develop optimized content. 
  • Access reports that give you empirical evidence of audience behavior.

7. Outsourcing/Talent Acquisition

Small business owners know that to scale operations they need help. The challenge is to pay for talent without compromising their cash flow. 

The cost of hiring Full-Time Employees (FTEs) can be calculated by multiplying their salary by 1.4. For many small business owners, hiring FTEs can be too expensive. 

A more affordable option would be to outsource work to remote employees or professionals who provide technical services through the Internet. Examples of remote workers are virtual assistants, freelancers, and telecommuters.

With remote workers, you have different payment options. You can pay only for the hours worked or on a per-project basis. You have more flexibility and can stay within your budget. 

Here are some of the best sites to hire remote workers:

UpWork

UpWork started out as Elance in 1999. Then, in 2003, Elance merged with another online freelancer platform called O-desk and was rebranded as Elance-oDesk. The company settled with its current name in 2015.

The UpWork head office is based in Santa Clara, California, USA.

What are the benefits of using UpWork?

  • Choose from more than 18 million freelancers from different countries.
  • Trusted by more than 5 million businesses.
  • 3 million jobs posted every year; UpWork is the biggest freelancer platform in the world.
  • Freelancer profiles contain valuable information such as client reviews, total earnings, and a summary of skills and certifications.
  • Work Diary feature allows you to check and verify the total productive hours worked by your freelancer.
  • The Payment Protection feature gives you the option of choosing between pay-per-hour and pay-per-project arrangements. 
  • UpWork is the only freelancer platform that offers a dispute resolution service.

Freelancer

Freelancer has staked its claim as the world’s biggest freelancer platform with a reported user base of more than 51 million clients and freelancers from over 247 countries. 

The company has acquired other freelancer sites such as GetAFreelancer.com, EUFreelancer.com, and ScriptLance.com. 

What are the benefits of using Freelancer?

  • Wide range of freelancers to choose from; you can find freelancers who can handle large-scale as well as small-scale projects.
  • Option to pay freelancers per hour or with a fixed price.
  • The chat feature allows you to communicate directly with freelancers.
  • Milestone Payment system gives you the protection of paying the freelancer only when you’re 100% satisfied with the result.

Guru

Guru.com was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh. It started out as eMoonlighter.com. In 1999, it was rebranded as Guru.com and was used to hire high-tech freelancers for an online clearinghouse. 

Presently, Guru has 1.8 million freelancers offering more than 4.4 million freelancing services to businesses around the world.

What are the benefits of using Guru?

  • A streamlined dashboard makes it easier to keep track of projects and the work of freelancers.
  • Communicate directly with the freelancers or “gurus” that you have contracted for the job.
  • Pay a minimum fee of US$29.95 to have your job or project posted for 30 days to attract more freelancers.
  • Multiple payment options such as electronic payment systems, credit cards, checks, e-checks, wire transfers, and direct payments to the website.
  • SafePay system lets you review and approve the work before paying the freelancer. 

8. Email

Email remains a critical part of communication. Despite the availability of various media and platforms, people still depend on email and regard it as the primary channel of communication.

The tech giants recognize this and have expanded their offerings to include apps that can turn your email into a central hub with all the apps you need to manage your business. 

The email service providers have also upped the ante on security and data protection. 

Office 365

Microsoft launched Office 365 in 2010 in response to growing competition from Google’s Gmail service. Office 365 was designed to provide subscribers with a wide range of Microsoft services that cover all of the key areas of a business. 

With the addition of MS Teams, the user base of Office 365 grew by 53% from 75 million users in April 2020 to 115 million users to date. 

What are the key features of Office 365?

  • Availability of apps for spreadsheet, word processing, slide presentation, online conferencing, and file sharing to name just a few.
  • A cloud-based platform means you can access Office 365 anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
  • Real-time collaboration with team members on any document or project.
  • Yammer is Office 365’s communication app that allows you to set up specific channels with different departments or individuals. 
  • Files are shareable with people who are not part of your company.
  • Workflows app keeps your team updated on deadlines and lets you monitor their progress. 
  • Top-level 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption. 
  • Built-in proprietary antivirus software.

Gmail

Gmail is Google’s game-changing, free email service that was launched in 2004. According to Google, as of 2019, there are 1.5 Billion users of Gmail worldwide. 

Once you open a Gmail account, you can access its other business apps such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Calendar, Google Maps, and Google Meet.

What are the key features of Gmail?

  • 15 gigabytes of storage; the largest among email service providers.
  • Email capacity for receiving emails can go up to 50 megabytes.
  • Send out emails that are as big as 25 megabytes.
  • Google’s mail servers immediately scan mail for spam, malware, and context-sensitive ads. 
  • Access to other services such as Google Drive and Google Photos.

ProtonMail

ProtonMail is literally the stuff of science. It was developed by scientists from Switzerland who spent time at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). 

Introduced in 2016, ProtonMail uses a proprietary client-side encryption program to safeguard email content before they are transmitted to the ProtonMail servers.

From only 2 million users in 2016, ProtonMail has over 50 million users as of 2021. 

What are the key benefits of ProtonMail?

  • High-level combination of encryption programs to fortify email protection and integrity of services.
  • Availability of Two-Factor Authentication process to prevent unauthorized access to email.
  • The addition of the Archive folder lets you store important communication while keeping your Inbox clean.
  • Label feature helps you organize your emails based on sender or by category.
  • Customizable themes to create a distinct look and feel for your Inbox.

Conclusion

You don’t have to include all of these apps in your digital toolbox. Give them a try and find out which products fit the needs of your business. 

Times may have changed and it might be a while before we develop a sense or feel of normalcy. The last thing we should do is to wait because the old normal as we knew it might take some time to come back – if at all. 

What we need to focus on is finding ways to adapt, survive, and ultimately, thrive in this new environment. Having the right apps in your belt will certainly help you tackle the challenge in 2021 and beyond. 

If you have questions about these apps and if you want to build a website for your online business, give us a call and we’ll schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns. We can use Zoom or MS Teams to get the ball rolling!

And if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your community.

SEO for Your Business

Good people are hard to come by. In a competitive industry, once you find top talent, you must do what you can to retain them. Otherwise, they will leave and potentially end up with your competitor. 

Retaining top talent not only helps you consistently deliver results and maintain the quality of output but it also lowers the cost of employee turnover which is estimated at 2.5 times the cost of an employee’s salary. 

So how do you manage top talent and keep them in your company? Is it just a matter of paying them a higher salary? 

You might be surprised to learn that money is not the primary motivating factor that keeps top talent from transferring jobs. 

Here are 5 ways to manage – and retain – the top talent in your company.

1. Present Top Talent With Frequent Challenges

Perception is what separates top talent from those in the lower rung. When presented with challenges, those at the top-end view them as opportunities to prove their abilities. 

In contrast, the ones who lag behind do so because they perceive challenges as threats. They believe they are put in tough situations to expose their weaknesses and shortcomings. 

Top talent lives for the challenges because it gives their work meaning and purpose. For example, if the company chooses them to manage a project, they perceive it as a sign of trust and confidence. 

However, you have to be judicious when presenting top talent with challenges. If the task falls too far off from their competencies, they might fail and blame you for having expectations they could not meet. 

The purpose of challenging top talent is to help them grow. You see potential but the skills are still raw. Instead, take them on a journey and be their guide. 

Present top talent with challenges that will help them achieve the next level of personal and professional growth.

To be faced with challenges creates pressure. But just like applying heat and pressure turns graphite to diamonds, challenges turn potential into future leaders of your organization.

2. Approach Them As Individuals

A person is recognized as a top talent because he stands out from the others. 

He could be working with a team but the performance data and keen observation have confirmed that his individual contribution was primarily successful for the success of the company.

If you took him out of the team, succeeding performances would fall below the standard he set and would be underwhelming. 

For this reason, you must treat him as a unique individual. 

To clarify, top talent is a team player. His motivation to perform at the highest level is the success of the team. 

A good example is an athlete who always wins all the individual awards and records the most impressive statistics but his team keeps losing. The individual accolades mean nothing unless the team wins.

However, top talent wants you to recognize his efforts and contributions. That without him, the team goes from “special” to “average”. 

The best way to go about this is to take a proactive approach. Don’t wait for the evaluations to come in or for top talent to come to you and ask for special considerations such as approval for his vacation leave. 

Reach out and take the initiative to show you care and appreciate his efforts. 

For example, if you know he has filed for vacation leave or paternity leave, approve it right away. Then,  give him the good news – personally.

“I just want to be the person to tell you that your vacation leave was approved. You deserve it! In fact, if you want to extend your vacation by a bit, let me know. I’ll see if I can work something out with HR. It’s the least I can do to show you how much I appreciate your talent.”

Extreme WordPress care - what types of plans we offer

3. Be Sincere When You Show Appreciation

One of the biggest mistakes made by supervisors and managers is taking an arms-length approach to handling their people. They associate indifference with strength and authority – that people have to do more to earn their praise. 

Thus, when someone makes an incredible accomplishment, they withhold appreciation and rationalize the achievement as just “part of the job.”

“That’s what the company pays you for.”

But here’s the thing: Top talent does care about being acknowledged. 

Not everyone can do what they do and that’s what makes top talent stand out. They’re special and without them, your company would not be where it is today. Chances are, they won’t show how they feel. The best managers are intuitive – they can sense it. 

So you must show appreciation and acknowledge the work the most talented people in your company have done. 

But do so sincerely. And it’s not as hard as you think.

You don’t have to pull out the red carpet every time someone in your organization hits a target or achieves a milestone. 

A simple pat on the back and a verbal acknowledgment will suffice. Don’t follow the formulaic “Good job!” but have a sincere conversation.

“The work you put in to close the deal with XYZ Company was amazing and timely. On behalf of the company, I thank you for that. I want to assure you that your talent and contributions to the company do not go unnoticed. Keep up what you’re doing and you will have a bright future with us. If there’s anything you need or want to be addressed, you can come and see me.”

4. Introduce a Career Path/Succession Planning Program

Career pathing and succession planning are key elements in developing talent in your organization. Many companies overlook the importance of both programs and believe that you can have one without the other. 

Also, some managers think the terms are interchangeable. No, they are not.

Career pathing is a mechanism that enables talent to chart their path within the organization. You can say that career pathing is viewed from the perspective of the employee. 

Basically, he undergoes an assessment test designed to measure his skills, abilities, interests, and aspirations so he can find out the best role within the organization that can help him fulfill his potential.

Succession planning is a process that helps HR identify and nurture talent to fill out key positions in the organization.

HR develops criteria for identifying, evaluating, testing, and selecting the best people in the organization for specific positions. The experiences and accomplishments of these individuals are also included in the process. 

Once the people – the top talent – are identified, they can be scheduled for training to improve specific skill sets and to develop key attributes. 

Both career pathing and succession planning provide an integral component in managing talent in your company – direction. Without the availability of these programs, your employees – even the most talented ones – will begin to feel they are in a dead-end career. 

5. Encourage Greater Involvement

Encouraging your top talent to be more involved in the organization is another effective way of treating them as individuals.

By asking for their advice on matters that are not related to their specific duties and responsibilities, you are letting them know their skills and abilities are not limited or confined – and that you recognize this. 

Imagine if you were assigned to Finance then the boss comes over to you and asks for your opinion on how to expand the business in another location or region of the world. 

Initially, you might think this is a head-scratching moment but then you’ll realize the boss has noticed your other abilities and talents. This is an opportunity for you to prove your boss is correct – that he approached the right person.

Wouldn’t this make you feel more assured that you are working for the right organization?

Getting your top talent to be more involved with the business accomplishes 2 things. 

First, it will motivate them to work harder because they feel valued. Second, you get to see how they perform in a different setting – where the risks, as well as the stakes, are higher. 

Conclusion

It will be heartbreaking to find out how you could have retained one of your best people during the exit interview. 

Don’t be the last to know. As the business owner or the manager, you have to take a proactive approach. It’s never too late to implement processes and programs designed to keep your people happy and motivated to work for your company.

By doing so, they may not only work for your company but in the future, they may end up working with you in your company.

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As the quarantine period is being slowly lifted in several states as well as countries around the world, many people are preparing to go back to the workplace. However, things at the office will not be the same. 

Without a vaccine, the risk of contracting the coronavirus or Covid-19 remains high. Places, where congregation takes place such as malls, restaurants, and even offices, will be asked to observe social distancing and proper hygiene. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has asked organizations to cancel events that bring in more than 50 people in one location. The rule of social distancing requires people to be at least six feet apart. 

So if your office is small, it’s possible that 50% of your team – or more – has to work from home. 

That adjustment in manpower can change the dynamic of your workplace. 

People that you are so used to seeing – perhaps having a morning cup of coffee with – will no longer be in the office on a regular basis. 

Although shared space collaboration will remain, the lack of physical presence will create a feeling of emptiness that may be difficult for some people to adjust to. A workplace environment that is dealing with emotional distress will not be conducive to productivity. 

The same can be said for your team members who have been assigned work from home duties. 

It may sound like a great idea to wake up every morning without having to worry about traffic, but the change in the work environment will take a period of adjustment.

For one thing, distractions abound inside the home. Second, not having familiar faces – and voices – in the workplace will give your home office a different vibe that will take some time to get used to.

But this is the new normal. 

To remain our overall health and safety as well as those of our loved ones, we have to observe social distancing which means working from home most of the time. 

Given the changes in the workplace environment, is it still possible to create and nurture a culture that is conducive for productivity?

How To Create A Productive Workplace Culture – At The Office And At Home

The answer is “Yes”.

As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds”.

It may take some time to get used to the new normal but in a few months, the “new normal” will just be normal.

The great thing about humanity is that we adapt. We are resilient. 

Not only will mankind eventually find a way to beat Covid-19 but we will ensure that the virus will not beat us.

Life – and work – will go on!

In the meantime, we’ll have to modify our business model to adhere to the guidelines in support of social distancing and other measures outlined by the government and health organizations.

Thus, if you decide to maintain an office, some of your employees will have to work from home to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Can you still be productive?

Yes! It’s a matter of finding creative solutions that can help maintain the dynamic within your organization.

Here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider when integrating a work from home or telecommuting program in your workforce. 

1. Mix It Up

Who’s going to be assigned work from home duties? 

Everyone!

Instead of designating specific people for office-based and home-based work, give everyone an opportunity to experience remote employment by coming up with a rotating schedule.

For example, if you have 20 employees, you can divide them into 2 teams with 10 members each.

  • Team A – Office-Based
  • Team B – Work From Home

After 2 weeks, switch up their assignments. Members of Team A will work from home while members of Team B will report to the office.

You should also change the composition of each team every month. 

For example:

  • Team A – Bill, Sally, George, Tom, and Raffy
  • Team B – Bob, Ted, Sarah, Tim, and Gina

The following month, switch around your team members:

  • Team A – Bill, Ted, George, Tim, and Gina
  • Team B – Bob, Sally, Sarah, Tom, and Raffy

By mixing up the composition of your teams, no one loses the vibe they had with the other employees. Everyone gets a chance to maintain the same high-touch connection they have with each other.

2. Update Your Mission Statement

Once you have your team assignments finalized, gather everyone together, and discuss your company’s updated mission vision.

Why should you update your mission statement?

For the reason that work – and life – as everyone knew it has changed. There are new challenges ahead and coming to work is no longer just about commerce or having a means of livelihood. 

Having a job is about helping the economy recover by generating employment, demand, and activity – all the while becoming mindful of health guidelines to remain safe and virus-free.

According to a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, more people are motivated to work if there is a stronger sense of purpose. The study noted that the rise in numbers extends across generations – Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. 

The mission statement should be revised to keep everyone together even if their office mates are working from home – and maintain their focus. 

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3. Schedule Get-Togethers

Some team members may be working from home but this doesn’t mean they are exempt from meetings – and the frequent water cooler get-togethers. 

At this time of the new normal, your mindset should be “Business as Usual”.

If you’ve been conducting pre-shift and post-shift meetings, continue the practice by getting your remote team onboard with the use of digital platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, or Skype. 

You can also schedule company water cooler breaks or “Coffee Time” and invite your remote team to join in. 

These informal “meetings” are a great way of helping the remote team to adjust to the work from home environment. The experiences they share can help the other team members prepare for their work from home assignments when it is their time. 

You should take note of these experiences and use them to fine-tune your work from home program and come up with a company manual on telecommuting.

4. Encourage Friendly Competition

The workplace is a venue for competition. If you want to get the promotion, you have to stay ahead of the competition by accomplishing more and contributing to the success of the company.

That does not change even if you shift to a telecommuting arrangement. 

You can spur productivity by encouraging friendly competition between the office-based and remote teams. 

For example, you can create a contest as to which team can accomplish more tasks. Establish benchmarks such as quality, accuracy, and timeliness. 

To the winner goes the spoils of victory – but they don’t have to be expensive. You can pay for food delivery for a week or give the winning team a day off from work.

Another benefit of having periodic competition is that it gives you a platform for measuring the effectiveness of the telecommuting program and the performance of your employees.  

Let’s say the telecommuting team has been struggling regardless of its composition, use the available data to find out why. 

  • Are there latency issues?
  • Are there distractions at home that have to be addressed?
  • Are there specific people who are just not cut out for telecommuting?
  • Are there individual behaviors that have to be addressed?

Like other new programs, you cannot expect to get the telecommuting arrangement right from the get-go. There is a learning curve to respect and growing pains to overcome.

5. Change Up the Scenery

With 50% of your team working from home, your office space will look – vacant. Meanwhile, those working remotely may find the surroundings more conducive to home life than getting work done. 

The solution? Change up the scenery at the office and at the home office. 

For example, add plants to fill out the open spaces in the office. A U.K. study has shown that plants can increase productivity in the workplace by 15%. 

Here are other tips you can use to make the workplace interesting:

  • Buy a couch and a few lounge chairs and create a lounging area where your employees can relax during breaktime. 
  • Introduce a standing desk area for employees who want to stretch out while working instead of staying cramped up in their seats. 
  • Buy succulents for your remote team. Succulents are plants that store a lot of water in their stems and leaves. They are highly resistant to drought which means succulents don’t require much water. This makes succulents very easy to grow and care for. 
  • Play music in the workplace. Music can help stimulate creativity. However, practice democracy in the main office. Make sure the music you play is acceptable to everyone. 

Conclusion

Over at Silicon Valley, tech companies such as Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, Slack, and Alphabet announced that their employees may continue to work from home until 2021. 

Other than safety concerns for their employees, adopting a telecommuting arrangement helps the companies save up on rental costs and expenses for travel and conferences. 

Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta Inc., was pleasantly surprised that productivity has vastly improved with the integration of a work from home program.

Therefore, if you’re worried that productivity might drop if employees work from home – don’t be. 

Simply look at the adoption of a work from home or telecommuting arrangement as a collaborative effort. Everyone will take part in it and do a good job as if they were back in the “old normal”. 

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As the old saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle” but what if the castle is about to house a place for work? 

Working from home is a great opportunity to build a career that affords you work-life balance. However, if you’re not careful, the balance could be tipped in favor of work and disrupt home life. 

Here are 10 tips that will allow you to productively work from home without turning the roof under your head into your old brick-and-mortar office.                                            

1. Don’t Work From Your Bed

Just because you are working from home does not mean you can work anywhere. There are areas in your home that can and will inhibit productivity. One of them is the bedroom. This isn’t just an opinion; the reason is supported by research.

The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University believes that working from the bed will weaken the mental association between sleep and your bedroom. 

According to a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, working with computers before bedtime will reduce the amount of melatonin that you produce. Melatonin is a hormone that influences your Circadian or sleep/wake cycle. 

The bedroom is for sleep and relaxation. To ensure a good night’s sleep, keep computers and other devices off the bedroom’s premises.

2. Stay On A Consistent Schedule

One of the perks of working from home is that you get to set your work schedule. You don’t have to follow a 9-to-5 or a 6 – 8-hour work schedule because you have the benefit of having flexible hours. 

Plan your schedule one week ahead. If you have family obligations – your daughter’s piano recital, your son’s soccer game, picking up a relative from the airport – mark them on the calendar. Then, plan your work schedule around them. 

Another option is to find the hours of the day where you are most productive. Oftentimes, these are the hours after you have taken care of the day’s other activities such as taking the kids to school or attending to banking duties.

The most important thing is to stay on a consistent schedule whether it is 9-to-5, 6 am to 12 pm or 1 pm to 7 pm. 

By doing so, you are dedicating time to get actual work done. You will be more focused and committed to accomplishing the day’s tasks. 

3. A Home Is Still A Home – Dedicate A Space For Work

The bedroom is not the only area in the house that you shouldn’t work from. 

Here are a few more areas that you should not set up office:

  • Living Room – You might get tempted to lounge around your comfortable sofa or watch the latest Netflix movie.
  • Kitchen – The refrigerator, oven, microwave, and cupboards are just a step away. Not only will you lose productive hours but you will gain excess weight.
  • The Family or Recreation Room – Ping-pong table? Dartboard? Billiards table? Pinball machine? Video games? These are great activities to do with the family but 100% detrimental to work.

If you are committed to building a work from home business, then dedicate a space for work.

  • Buy high-quality furniture
  • Buy a computer that is set up only for work.
  • Give it the look and feel of an office – wall clock, filing cabinet, and whiteboard. More on the whiteboard later!

Keep the home office off-limits to everyone during work hours. 

4. Use A Task Management Software

To be more productive, embrace technology. Integrate a few digital tools into the workflow to help organize tasks and stay on top of deadlines. 

You can find many wonderful software programs on the Internet that are very effective and come with a free version. At Mountaintop, Asana is our preferred task management software. 

Asana is easy to use and has features that make it the ideal tool for collaborating with remote teams. Every time a project is posted or completed, an email notification is sent to designated team members.

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5. Install A Whiteboard In The Office

The whiteboard is an old school office fixture that is simple, basic, and yet, continues to significantly contribute to productivity in this day and age of apps and smart technology.

Research has proven that writing with pen on paper improves cognition and helps establish a stronger connection between you and the task compared to typing on a keypad. The same can be said when writing on a whiteboard. 

Before ending the workday, write your goals for the following day on the whiteboard. There will be no guesswork. When the alarm goes off and after you’ve had your first cup of coffee, you know exactly what you’re going to do. 

Upon entering the home office, the whiteboard will be the first thing you’ll see. It will seem that your built-in laser sight has been triggered and you can’t wait to zero in and complete your targeted goal.

6. Remove All Forms Of Distraction

Once you’ve set up your home office with the right furniture, a spacious workstation, and the latest computer, there is still one thing left to do.

Remove all forms of distraction which include your mobile phone, video game portable console, social media, and other websites that have no relevance to your work. 

Unless there is a scheduled audio-visual call, we suggest closing Skype. Oftentimes, your contacts will send you messages. Most of these messages could just be personal in nature.

The constant blinking that notifies you of these messages can be a source of distraction. 

As we suggested earlier, the home office should be a no-entry zone during work hours. Unless it is an emergency, ask your family and friends to refrain from knocking on the door. 

7. Update Your Tasks As Needed

Even if you’ve written down the day’s goals the night before, don’t hesitate to change or update your tasks as needed. 

Business is unpredictable. 

For example, a client may request that you prioritize a project because he has a very tight schedule. It is also possible that a client whose project you designated as “Priority Number One” will ask you to put off additional work until further notice. 

Remember that one of the biggest benefits of working from home is that you don’t have a boss because you are the boss. You call the shots and that means you have full control over your work schedule. 

Yes, write down your tasks/goals the night before but adapt a flexible work schedule.

8. Don’t Work In Your Pajamas

It may feel nice to get out of bed and go straight to your home office but what you wear can affect how you work.

For one, dressing in office clothes will set the tone for the day. Similar to why you should not work from your bed, dressing up creates the proper mental association – pajamas are for sleeping, office clothes are for working. 

You don’t have to put on a tie or a dress suit. Wear something informal but appropriate enough for a Skype audio-visual call with a client or your remote team.

9. Exercise During Breaktime

Sitting for long periods may lead to chronic pain or discomfort on your back, shoulders, and neck. Working on the computer for long stretches can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. 

You need to get the blood circulation moving from time-to-time. If you spend 90 minutes working on a task, take a 30-minute break after and use the time to do some light exercise and stretching. 

You don’t have to go to the gym or change into your workout clothes. Perform sets of 10 repetitions of squats, pushups, and situps. Get in a quick 10-minute yoga or Pilates session. 

10. Use An Alarm Clock Or A Timer

Sometimes we get so engrossed in what we’re doing that we lose track of time. An alarm clock will be your constant reminder that “time’s up!”

Productivity is all about quality work. It’s not about the number of hours spent but how you spend those hours. 

You should also remember a very important reason why you made the decision to work from home – so you can spend more time with your family. 

Once the day’s work hours have been completed, shut off the home office PC then change from your office clothes to your stay-at-home clothes. 

Conclusion

Over the next few years, expect more people to work from home. As an entrepreneur, you save up on rent, avoid the inconvenience of the daily commute, and become more productive. However, your home should still feel like home. 

Think back to the time when you worked 9-to-5 in a traditional office. When work became stressful, you couldn’t wait for the clock to strike five so you can head out the door and drive to the waiting and loving arms of your home. 

You wouldn’t want your home to be a place for stress. It will affect your relationships with family and defeat the purpose of working from home. 

Do you have other tips that will improve productivity for those who work from home? Please share them in the comments section below.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to have similar content for your website, please give us a call or an email. We’re more than just a website design and development company. Our digital marketing program can help bring your business to the next level.

And feel free to share this article with your community!

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The idea of working from home is very appealing. Imagine not having to deal with the inconveniences of the commute – the traffic, looking for a parking space, errant drivers, just to name a few. 

You get to manage your work schedule and streamline your expenses. All of that plus the opportunity to become financially independent.

The transition from a 9-to-5 office environment to a work from home lifestyle is not as easy as you might think.

There are days that you wake up to an empty home and the silence can be deafening. Not having co-workers around or experiencing the hustle and bustle of a busy office will take some time to adjust.

Then, there are the unforeseen events that can disrupt the natural flow of work and life such as the coronavirus pandemic. 

10 Ways To Stay Productive And Remain Positive While Working From Home

Although the coronavirus or Covid-19 had been under the microscope of many leading scientists around the world, the outbreak happened faster than expected and spread far and wide.

It seemed that overnight, our lives were turned upside down. Across the world, people had to practice social distancing and were mandated  by their respective governments to self-quarantine. 

Even if you were working from home at the time the quarantine took effect, you, like many around the world, must have been thinking, “life will never be the same again.”

In addition to the usual challenges of managing projects while working at home and dealing with disruptors such as technical latency issues, now with the virus, we had something new – something we’ve never dealt with –  to worry about. 

Work and life may never be the same again but that doesn’t mean you should allow the situation to affect your productivity and positivity. 

It’s a global pandemic – yes – but not the end of the world!

Here are 10 ways you can stay productive and remain positive while working from home.

1. Remain Optimistic, Search for Opportunities

If you own a business that was affected by the lockdown, use the month-long quarantine period to search for opportunities. Perhaps the quarantine is a sign for you to adapt to an Internet-based business model. 

Think about it. The businesses that continued to operate during the lockdown were the ones with an online presence. 

These businesses either had a telecommuting program in place or set up a global remote team composed of virtual assistants and freelancers.  

Despite the situation, remain optimistic. Visionaries are those who find opportunities during times of chaos. 

2. Focus on the Solution – Not the Problem

Did you experience a power outage while in the middle of an important Skype call with a client?

Send an email to the client from your smartphone. Explain what just happened and inform him that you will be heading out to the nearest Internet shop to continue the Skype call.

The client may get back to you and suggest that the call be rescheduled tomorrow. At any rate, the client will appreciate your immediate attention to the problem.

When we’re in a difficult situation, we tend to spend more time focusing on the problem instead of finding solutions. Problems trigger powerful emotions such as despair, frustration, and anger, all of which drain us of much-needed energy.

That’s why the more you dwell on problems the worse they become because you are feeding them with your energy. 

To get out of a difficult situation, focus your energies toward finding solutions. The more time you spend formulating, testing, and evaluating courses of action, the sooner you can find resolution and move on to more productive endeavors.

3. Practice Effective Time Management

It’s easy to lose track of time when working from home. There are so many distractions – the couch, TV, social media, the kitchen, and your pet. Put them all aside by creating – and committing – to a work schedule.

Effective time management starts the night before. Summarize your tasks and arrange them according to the degree of importance. Pick out no more than 3 key tasks and prioritize them for the following day.

Dedicate 90 minutes of 100%, full and undivided attention to each task. Once the time period has been completed, take a 20-30 minute break to recharge. 

Managing your hours in a day will help you become productive. And when you’re able to accomplish many tasks, you develop a positive attitude. 

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4. Create a Productive and Positive Workspace

Your workplace does not have to be your “Happy Place” but it should be conducive to productivity and encourage a positive attitude. 

Here are 6 tips to help you create a productive and positive workplace:

  • Keep your workplace clean and organized.
  • Buy a comfortable chair. 
  • Use a spacious table.
  • Play soothing music.
  • Post positive and inspiring messages in select areas.
  • Make sure you have a nice view of the outdoors. 

Lastly, dress for work! Nothing too formal – a neat dress shirt and slacks will be fine. Wearing office clothes will put you in the right mood and frame of mind for work. 

5. Stay in Touch with Your Value Chain

Are you working with a remote team? Stay in touch with them from time to time. Don’t just talk about work. Find out how things are going at home and with the family. 

Touch base with your clients. How are they coping with the quarantine? Is everyone in their household in good health? 

The success of a home-based business isn’t just measured by dollars and cents. For the greater part, success is measured by the number of long-term relationships you were able to build. 

It’s great having a reputation for being productive and a consistent provider of high-quality products and services. But being remembered as someone who constantly exuded a positive attitude will help you maintain clients for the rest of your career.

6. Exercise Regularly

Exercise releases mood-enhancing chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good. That’s why exercise is popularly recommended by doctors to people who are suffering from depression.

Regular exercise strengthens your body and its immune system. It keeps your energy levels up and gives you the confidence to overcome difficult situations. 

It will be great to work out in a gym but you can get good exercise at home:

  • Do bodyweight exercises such as pushups, squats, and sit-ups.
  • If you have stairs, walk up and down the steps for 10 minutes. 
  • Take a 10-minute walk outside your house. 
  • Lay down a mat and do Yoga or Pilates.

You can set up a small home gym with a jump rope, resistance bands, a yoga mat, a few dumbbells, and a stability ball. 

You don’t have to train like “The Rock” to get fit – just keep moving!

7. Eat Healthy and Well

Eating pizza “with the works” might make you feel good but as soon as the food settles, you’ll regret having that extra slice. 

Starchy carbohydrates will get your blood sugar levels hitting highs and lows throughout the day that will make you feel sluggish. As your body struggles to digest all that fat from the cheese and processed meat, you’ll feel tired. 

Instead of choosing processed food, opt for natural sources of macronutrients such as fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of meat. They have fewer calories, rich in vitamins and minerals, and easier to digest. 

You will have fewer mood swings and more energy throughout the day. Likewise, eating vitamin-rich foods will help strengthen your immune system. 

8. Get Enough Sleep

If you’ve been exercising regularly and following a healthy diet, the third component of a fit lifestyle is to get enough sleep – at least seven hours every night. 

Recall the last time you got poor quality sleep. 

  • How did you perform at work? 
  • Were you sluggish? 
  • Were you able to focus on your tasks? 
  • How many tasks were you able to finish?

The health benefits of a good night’s sleep have been well studied and documented. Getting less than the recommended hours of sleep will affect all aspects of your health – physical, mental, and emotional. 

Here are a few tips on how to get good quality sleep every night:

  • Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime
  • Shut off all computer devices including your smartphone two hours before bedtime
  • Don’t work on tasks one hour before bedtime
  • Don’t go to bed with a full stomach

As much as possible, avoid taking sleeping pills and other types of sleep medication. Try meditation or going through deep breathing exercises.

9. Avoid Contact with Toxic People

Toxic people will complain about anything and everything. They bring negative energy wherever they go. Being around toxic people will stress you out and drain you of positive energy.

Can you encounter toxic people while working from home? Yes! Unfortunately, they’re everywhere. No one’s perfect; some of your family members may have acquired the toxic gene. 

Another place where toxic people thrive is social media. How many of your “friends” on Facebook rant on a daily – or hourly – basis? 

To stay productive and positive, avoid contact with toxic people. Follow our earlier advice – practice effective time management. Let’s add a corollary to that one – keep your office locked during work hours.

Limit your time on social media. These networks can be a great source of information but they can be powerful productivity and positivity disruptors as well. 

10. Look for Inspiration

Sometimes a moment of inspiration can give you a better jolt than a double espresso. 

There will be days when you feel that you’re not up to the task. Distractions may have gotten the best of you or perhaps all the white noise has drowned out the remaining voice of reason. 

When you start questioning the purpose – the “why” of working from home – look for a source of inspiration that can get you back on the straight and narrow. 

You can find inspiration anywhere – a book, a song, a phrase, the great outdoors or from your family. Use that inspiration to reconnect with your purpose and serve as a reminder of what makes you get up every morning to seize the day.

Conclusion

The coronavirus added another layer in our quest to achieve work and life balance. 

  • “Are quarantines and lockdowns the ‘new normal’?”
  • “How will this affect my family and work and for how long?”
  • “Can we ever go back to normal – the ‘old normal’?”

Such negative thoughts become the white noise that keep us awake at night and affect our performance at work. Many go through periods of mental stress and emotional distress. 

Collectively, these are conditions that cultivate an environment of negativity,  pessimism, and unproductivity. 

You don’t want that.

Your family doesn’t want that.

Your customers and clients don’t want that.

You should only focus on the things you can manage – work, family, and your health. You remain accountable to them and thus, should find ways to stay productive at work and remain positive for your family and yourself.

Do you have any tips to share about staying productive and positive that were not covered by this article? Please share them in our comments section. 

And if you need assistance in getting your online business off and running, give us a call or drop us an email. We offer web design and digital marketing services that will help grow your business.

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The coronavirus that was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) necessitated countries to require its citizens to self-quarantine for a period of one month. Businesses – except those that delivered essential goods and services – were forced to close down. Economies were held at a standstill. The businesses that remained “open” were those with remote capabilities – the entrepreneur and the employees work from home. 

The period of self-quarantine that is still ongoing as of this writing – put the spotlight on the importance of having disaster recovery protocols in place for small businesses. 

It shone the spotlight on a business development strategy we have been advocating for years. One that has its origins back in the 1970s but only came to the consciousness of private business in the mid-2000s. 

Integrating a work from home program for your small business is your best hedge versus uncertainties in the business environment. 

The Benefits Of A Work From Home Program

To be clear, we are using the phrase “Work From Home” as a blanket term for remote workers – people who work outside the confines of a traditional 9-to-5 office.

A person who works from home can be categorized as a:

  • Telecommuter
  • Freelancer
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Work at Home Mom (WAHM)

There are subtle differences between each type of remote worker.

A telecommuter is an employee who was asked by his employer to perform his duties and responsibilities from home instead of the office. 

A Virtual Assistant is a person who is hired by an executive or a company to manage specific tasks and functions from the VA’s place of work. 

A freelancer is generally a skilled professional who has decided to take his talents online and offer his services to clients that need his technical expertise. 

A WAHM could be all 3 – a telecommuter, a VA or a freelancer. She took the option to work from home to have more time with the family. 

Whether your business hires one or the other, the benefits of incorporating a work from home program for your business are the same:

1. Lower Cost of Business

According to a 2-year study that was conducted by Stanford University, a telecommuting program successfully lowered the cost of business by an estimated US $1,900 per employee.

The savings were attributed to lower onboarding costs; a reduced need to buy new furniture, computers, office supplies, and expand Internet capabilities. 

2. Increase Productivity

The same 2-year study by Stanford also revealed that the productivity level of the test company increased by 13.5%.

When you outsource tasks to remote workers – telecommuters, freelancers or virtual assistants – you free up more time for yourself. You have more hours in the day to focus on the main enterprise of your business. 

3. Improve Quality of Deliverables

Hiring or contracting the services of a freelancer or a virtual assistant will improve the quality of work because these remote workers are professionals. They have the experience and have undergone training to become good at what they do. 

Similar to freelancers, many virtual assistants crossed-over from the brick-and-mortar world to the virtual world. 

For the reason that they are focused on giving your assigned tasks their full and undivided attention, you can be assured of the quality of deliverables. 

4. Reduce Business Risk

If you had a telecommuting program in place or if you had a remote team composed of freelancers or virtual assistants, your business would continue to operate during the period of self-quarantine. 

Who would have seen this coming? Even the WHO downplayed the severity of the coronavirus’s effects. 

A work from home program gives your business a disaster recovery mechanism that protects it from events that may cause long-term interruptions in business activity. 

In business, time is money. For every second that you are not operating, you are foregoing multiple opportunities to grow your business. 

If you have clients, your remote team can continue to service their accounts. If you own a brick-and-mortar business, a remote team can manage customers’ orders and coordinate with the appropriate agencies for deliveries to conform with the guidelines of the quarantine. 

The bottom line is with a remote team composed of work from home personnel, your business would continue to run and earn money during periods of unforeseen and unpredictable events such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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How To Set Up A Work From Home Program For Your Business

Now that we’ve convinced you of its benefits, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of setting up a work from home program for your business!

1. Identify the Objectives and Goals of the Work From Home Program

Imagine moving from a shared-space collaborative arrangement to one where tasks are distributed across remote locations within 24 hours. Transitioning from an office to a work from home setup will take some time getting used to.

Before starting Day #1, spend some time – the entire day, if needed – to identify and discuss the objectives and goals of the work from home program with the remote team. 

The purpose is to get everyone on the same page.

If you’re running a telecommuting set up for the first time, your employees may have a hard time focusing on their tasks. 

This is especially true with an event such as the coronavirus pandemic which disrupted many aspects of work and life. Employees may be distracted.

Start out by assigning them a limited number of tasks – 3 tasks to accomplish on Day #1. Don’t overwhelm them with too many things-to-do as the quality of work may get compromised.

Make sure tasks are correctly assigned and clearly explained to everyone. Encourage the team to ask questions, strictly observe communication protocols, and offer help when needed. 

2. Select the Right People For Your Remote Team

The process of setting up your remote team is similar to drafting talent for your basketball team. You want to put together a variety of talented individuals who can work together as a team.

Not every employee is cut out for telecommuting work in the same way that not all freelancers and virtual assistants are qualified to handle the job. 

For the work from home program to be successful, you have to select the right people for your remote team. Again, you have to be clear about the team’s goals and objectives. 

Let’s assume you are managing customer service for clients:

  • What customer service channels will be used – chat, inbound phone system, email or social media?
  • What are the demographics of the clients’ customers?
  • Do you need bilingual agents?
  • Will you have outbound support services?
  • Will the service be available 24/7?

Once you’ve firmed up the details, it will be easier to identify the types of talent that you want on your team:

  • Prepare the list of hard skills required for each job – qualifications, years of experience, and certifications, if needed. 
  • Prepare a list of your desired soft skills – self-motivated, excellent time-management skills, ability to manage stress, ability to work with others – these are the personality attributes that fit your intended team culture. 

The hiring process does not start and end with the resume. Have the candidates go through interviews and practical tests. Include a dry run whereby the candidates will be asked to work on a task while grouped in teams. 

3. Set Up the System for Remote Work

A system for remote work should identify the processes and tools that will be used to support its framework. 

  • How will the remote team communicate?
  • Where will the team upload its work?
  • How will you account for total work hours?
  • What are the workflows?
  • Do you want the team to collaborate on specific projects?
  • How will you conduct team meetings?
  • What are the security protocols for the system?

Creating the system for remote work may not be as simple as opening up accounts in Skype, Asana, and Dropbox for the team. There is always a better way of running things!

This is a great opportunity to collaborate with your team. Solicit ideas. If you are working with virtual assistants, you will find that many of them are highly experienced in setting up workflows. 

The same can be said about freelancers. In both cases, they acquire knowledge of setting up remote work systems from their experiences working with different clients. 

4. Stay Connected – With Your Remote Team

This is probably the key to running a successful work from home program for your business – stay connected with your remote team.

Yes, it’s great to work from home! You don’t have to worry about traffic and being late for work. You can savor your morning coffee and have more time with the spouse and kids. 

However, for those who have no experience working from home, the first morning could be tough. The shift from shared space collaboration to working alone at home can take anyone out of their comfort zone. 

Let your team know that you are there to support them. Here are some ideas you might want to implement for your remote team:

  • Schedule daily meetings such as a pre-shift or post-shift briefing.
  • Ask everyone to post photos of the individual team members on their workstation. This is a technique developed by HR experts who reverse-engineered the habit of posting pictures of family members at the office workplace. According to the HR experts, the technique has helped remote workers cope with the challenges of working in isolation. 
  • Schedule a 30-minute “water cooler” or “coffee time” break where everyone on the team shows up online with their cup of coffee and discusses everything under the sun that is NOT related to work. 
  • Encourage everyone to share information about their workspace. This way, the team will develop a greater understanding and sensitivity of the conditions that could affect the performance of other members. For example, a team member may be a parent of a newborn that is incessantly crying in the background. You might have a team member whose house is located at a major thoroughfare. That explains the constant blaring of car horns during online meetings. 

5. Track Its Progress 

You should not expect to get your work from home program right on its first day. Expect problems to come up – whether technical issues or human error. Take note of these problems and try to resolve them as soon as possible. 

It would be a good idea to anticipate these problems before you run the work from home program. With your remote team, brainstorm on the potential issues you might encounter then collectively develop solutions and alternative courses of action. 

Collect as much data as possible from the software programs and tools you are using. 

  • Is anyone on the team experiencing latency issues? 
  • Are there problems in the uploading of files?
  • Are there causes of delays in the transmission of data?
  • Is the team consistently meeting deadlines?
  • How is the quality of deliverables? Are there complaints or issues raised by clients/customers?
  • Which processes and tools are giving you problems? Are there better alternatives?
  • How are the individual members performing?

Set aside time to track and evaluate the progress of your work from home program. Once you’ve identified the flaws, come up with improvements and implement them in the system. 

Conclusion

The coronavirus experience serves as a wakeup call; a reminder that the business environment is unpredictable. What is essentially a health issue has wreaked havoc in economies across the world. 

We don’t know what other disruptor lurks in the horizon. However, we cannot waste precious time and energy worrying about something we cannot quantify. The best thing we can do is to be prepared.

It used to be the case that companies would set up offices in other regions – local or international – to function as their disaster recovery site. 

If an event occurs that disrupts business in the principal location, the disaster recovery site takes over the functions and responsibilities of the main office. 

As we have seen – and experienced – from the coronavirus episode, regional offices can be rendered useless if people cannot report for work. 

The best solution to protect your business from uncertainty could be right under your nose.

Home sweet home.

How was your business able to cope with the coronavirus? What measures did you implement to keep your business running? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

If you need help setting up your remote team, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. 

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There was a time when we were obsessed with getting as little sleep as possible.

We’d brag with “I only slept five hours last night” or “I only got four hours on Monday” like it was something to be proud of: a genuine achievement we could boast about to our peers. We’d wear it as proudly as any other badge of honor.

Luckily for our collective sanity, we are slowly starting to realize the importance of sleep. Not only that, but we’re also shifting our focus to living a balanced life, as opposed to killing ourselves on the job and sacrificing as much as we humanly can. Finally, we’re putting our wellbeing if not first, at least in the top three.

Let’s explore why sleep is so intricately tied to success, and how you can work on yours.

Sleep Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease

Not that bouncing back from a heart attack wouldn’t be a great achievement – but clearly, forgoing the emergency room is simply common sense.

A major risk factor of heart disease and stroke is high blood pressure. Sleep helps our bodies keep it in check and regulate it better, lowering the risk of heart disease and its unpleasant complications.

Sleep Boosts Your Immune System

Getting enough sleep is a prerequisite to fighting off all kinds of illnesses, from the common cold to major inflammations and more serious diseases.

When our bodies are under constant strain, they will not be as good at preventing diseases and injuries as they otherwise would. Each night, we have to give them the time they need to repair and recover from what we have inflicted on them during the day.

Considering the fact that illness-related productivity drops have cost US businesses $530 billion a couple of years ago, the link between health, productivity, and success are clear to see.

Sleep and Mental Health are Profoundly Connected

Depression and anxiety are more prevalent today than ever before in the history of humankind. And while we have yet to understand either of these mental challenges fully, what we do know is that not getting enough sleep can intensify their symptoms and make coping all that more difficult.

When we are under constant stress (as we are), exposed to countless stimuli, and when our minds don’t have enough time to process everything that’s going on around them, we start to get more irritable, we lose our focus, and our moods tend to suffer.

Sleep Boosts Productivity

How much sleep you get is in direct proportion with how productive and focused you can be during the day.

Of course, it’s not the only factor that plays a key role, but it is among the more important ones.

Losing just a single night’s sleep will make your response rates 50% lower than someone who has a 0.1% blood alcohol level.

And thus begins a vicious circle. If you are less productive, you’ll want to make up for the unfinished tasks by staying at work longer. That will, in turn, mean you don’t get enough sleep again, and so on.

This will lead to all kinds of unpleasant consequences. Your mood will deteriorate, you will begin to worry more, your attention spans will shorten, and you won’t be able to rest even when you do get to bed.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Sleep?

Sleeping well is not just about sleeping for a certain number of hours. Sleep quality is also very important, as our brains truly get to rest only when we fall into deep sleep.

Here’s what you can do to help it get there:

  • Invest in a quality mattress that will help your body rest better.  
  • Maintain a sleep schedule. Regardless of what day of the week dit is, sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time.
  • Stop looking at a screen (including your phone) at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Read a book or meditate before going to bed, as opposed to engaging with technology.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and well-aired at all times, as temperatures and air quality have a large influence on how you sleep.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol before going to bed if you can help it.
  • Listen to relaxing music or sleep stories if you need help falling asleep.

While it may take some time to get used to, practicing good sleep hygiene will slowly get you into the right rhythm, and you will fall asleep more easily.

Wrap Up

Instead of trying to do more and sleep less, focus on getting enough sleep so that you will be able to do more. A well-rested and relaxed mind will be much better at performing all kinds of tasks. It will be more creative, more productive, and a much more pleasant space to occupy.