‘Remote’, But Still ‘Present’: The Secrets to Managing the Virtual Workforce

Did you know that according to The State of the Remote Job Marketplace by Flexjobs “3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005.” And, “It is predicted that 38% of full-time staff will be working remotely in the next decade.”Believe it or not, “Remote workers are made up of almost equal numbers of male and female at 52 and 48 percent respectively, with the average age coming in at 46 years old.”Although popularity may be growing in this relatively new commuting option, not all companies are prepared to manage remote workers. And let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for remote work.Working remote for over twenty years for my own company, and gaining my Masters degree online as well, I feel I have mastered the art of being ‘remote, yet present’.Let’s consider the minimum skills required to work remote. The person should be:

Tech savvy (able to utilize all of the remote software for project management, time tracking, file sharing and all types of communication)

Organized (able to log, order and prioritize files on and offline, as well as manage their time effectively)

Honest (able to commit to the same work hours per day with minimum supervision and log those hours accordingly)

Trustworthy (able to complete the assigned work and meet deadlines with minimum supervision)

Professional (able to conduct themselves the same as they would in an office environment during meetings, including proper business attire during video conferences)

Additionally, the remote worker should have an environment set up that is quiet, free from distractions and have all of the necessary equipment, to conduct their work each day. For example: reliable Internet, a printer, and a desk. All of these requirements should be documented in some type of written format and signed by all parties when agreeing to remote work.Some of the software solutions I use for my remote consultants are:

One Drive for file sharing.

Join.Me for screen sharing, phone and video conferences.

Smart Sheets for collaborative project management tracking.

Google Hangouts for online chats.

Now that we have defined the minimum skills required, we will define what is needed by employers to manage them effectively. The two most important challenges that must be addressed with remote teams are participation issues and meeting expectations, such as completing tasks and meeting deadlines. Many remote workers find it hard to self-manage their time appropriately in a remote setting with minimal supervision.This is why it is especially important to have frequent check-ins in both teleconference and video conference formats. This will make it easier to identify problems earlier, rather than later, and clear up any miscommunications. Usually, these check-ins fall under the responsibility of a project manager or supervisor.So, what are some ways employers can effectively manage their virtual teams? I’ve outlined some of my own tips that I use when I am managing large teams below:#1 Conduct a brief icebreaker for the first five minutes of weekly calls that allow everyone to participate and get to know each other. i.e. Describe your state without saying the name of it while participants try to guess where you are from. Remote work can sometimes feel isolating, so personal connections such as this improve the synergy of your team.#2 Get everyone to sign a remote work Honesty and Integrity contract, which includes the skills I listed above).#3 Develop a standards and guidelines document for all deliverables to ensure overall consistency.#4 Use agendas for all meetings and stick to the times allotted for each discussion topic, and distribute a recap/action item summary after each meeting. Remember to be flexible when scheduling meetings, as many remote workers live in different time zones.#5 Assign tasks based on each person’s skill set. There is nothing that will decrease a person’s morale than having them work on something that is not within their job description or skill set. Take the time to ask if unsure.#6 Be available. I always make sure I am on the assigned chat tool with the team or available by phone for my consultants when they have questions. If you have to jump on a quick screen share session, than do so. It’s better than having your remote worker confused and producing an incorrect deliverable.When all of these aspects of remote work come together, the results can be positive for both remote workers and employers.Remote workers save money on items such as gas, tolls, work clothes and childcare, because “Work-life balance, family, time savings, and commute stress are the top reasons people seek flexible work”.On the other hand, employers gain “increased worker productivity and efficiency, improved recruitment and hiring, reduced employee turnover, decreased real estate and overhead costs, greater employee engagement and satisfaction, and positive environmental impacts”.So before you decide to put in for a telecommuting role, be sure you have the skills, tools, and environment to do it effectively. And, as an employer, before you open up the option of telecommuting to your employees, or hire external remote freelance workers, be sure to have some guidelines and standards in place first. Believe me, it will save you a lot of headaches in the future.Until next time…

How to Find Joy in a Job You No Longer Enjoy or Simply Tolerate

Without question, the business world has been changed and “business as usual” is no longer the case, and it may likely never be again. For those who are fortunate to still have gainful employment, the change in responsibilities has created a new focus on how work is performed. Those who are essential workers must guard their lives in a manner unlike anything they could have imagined. Those who made a transition from working in an office environment to becoming remote employees may now find themselves feeling a sense of performing in isolation.One of the challenges for becoming a remote employee is the lack of interactions and camaraderie available in a physical office environment. This is an especially difficult learning curve for those who were used to working in an open office environment and had the sounds of activity ever present during the workday. Now at home, the only aspect of the job each day to focus upon is the required tasks. There are no diversions, unless there is some type of web meeting, conference call, or traditional call. Suddenly the day no longer involves “water cooler” talk or anything else interesting; it requires undivided attention to the task at hand.This reminds me of the time when I made a transition 15 years ago from being a Manager of Training and Development in a corporate office environment, to teaching in an online classroom. There was a similar sense of feeling disconnected at first, from the employer and its employees, and not knowing how to fit in or engage with others. When I was in the virtual classroom, or attending faculty meetings, I began to develop a sense of belonging; and yet this took time to fully experience. The feeling of being an outsider when working as a virtual employee was very real and is for many who work in this manner as well.I also experienced a learning curve with my ability to adapt to communicating by written words alone. As someone who spent the first half of his career speaking and presenting in person, this was a very new experience for me. It took some time and practice to be able to effectively convey my thoughts in an academic and professional manner through classroom posts and messages. Yet I found it was something I enjoyed, since I was first an online learner and had the initial experience of engaging with others in this environment. However, learning to adapt does not always result in the same outcome for everyone who has to switch to working virtually.When the focus changes from working in an office to becoming a remote employee, it can highlight underlying feelings about dissatisfaction with the job. These are the negative feelings which may have been overlooked because of the enjoyment experienced interacting with coworkers and/or a supervisor, or any other positive reasons. Now that the focus is on the job alone, the negative feelings may be difficult to ignore. If this is the case for you, and you are finding it difficult to enjoy or tolerate your job, there are strategies you can use to bring some joy back as you adapt to a new normal. While it is possible a job change is the ultimate solution, at least for your well-being now you can find a means of coping with your job in a manner that allows you to feel a sense of calm.Make Time for IntrospectionIf you experienced changes in how you perform your job duties, which for most meant leaving the office, the most important first step to take will be the need for introspection. More than likely you were put into a situation that occurred suddenly and with little time to prepare. This would have caused feelings within that you may or may not have yet acknowledged. It is time to go back to the moment when the changes began and reflect upon how you felt and what your reactions were when you had to switch where and how you work. This will help prepare you for the strategies to follow, as you consider your ongoing feelings and reactions to your job and your performance.How to Find Joy in a Job You No Longer Enjoy or Simply TolerateYou can begin to find joy again in your job, even if this means you resolve the initial reaction to the changes experienced and decide to find new employment. It is possible you will also see your job in a different light and be able to adapt to the new working conditions, leading to an improved sense of well-being overall.Strategy #1: Reflection on How it Began Looking back at the transition for your job and how it began, how did you feel? Were there any aspects of the transition that caused internal negativity? This is a time to reflect upon the initial time period without any sense of blaming yourself for the way you felt, just allowing yourself to accept the initial feelings. If there were no noticeable negative feelings, recognize that as well. Either way, take note of the beginning transition to prepare for the next set of strategies to follow.Strategy #2: Separate Feelings from the JobNow that you have developed a clear sense of the initial transition, and how you felt or reacted to it, this next strategy involves separating your feelings from the job. This involves making a determination of what actually caused you to become upset. Was it the job requirements that triggered the feelings? Or was it the nature of the change and the events surrounding it that created negative feelings? This is important as you want to determine if there is any sense of unhappiness still with the job, once you take away negative feelings that were created as a result of the circumstances which led to the initial transition.Strategy #3: Assess Your Job PerformanceAt this point you should know if you have developed negative feelings about the circumstances, the job, or both. For this strategy, mentally self-assess your job performance. Consider how you performed on the job before you had to make a transition to work as a remote employee for example. Then evaluate your performance after the transition. Have there been any changes? If so, what do you attribute those changes to since the transition? Can you evaluate those changes without feelings, positive or negative? It will help your assessment if you can become objective in the analysis and not use feeling statements.Strategy #4: Assess Your Career GoalsAfter you have evaluated your job performance, another helpful strategy would be the assessment of your career goals. Consider why you accepted this job offer and how it is contributing to your overall career plan. What skills have you gained and will continue to acquire as a result of what you will learn? If the primary purpose of this job is to maintain financial stability for your household, is it possible you are still gaining knowledge of yourself and what your capacity is as an employee? If you do not have career goals established, this would be an excellent time to establish them and ascertain how you can continue to develop and grow professionally. Every job you hold will contribute something of value to your career.Strategy #5: Develop a Mindset Tune-UpBy the time you have completed the first four strategies, you should be in a productive frame of reference. You have worked to identify triggering emotions due to circumstances, separate emotions from your job, and evaluate your career goals. Now you are ready to tune-up your mindset and prepare yourself to get back to work with a fresh new perspective. Is your work going to magically change? No. However, you are going to view it from a new perspective, one that is free of negativity. This is a job you can and have performed.Now you need to continue to adapt to conditions which have changed, and you acknowledge you are capable of rising to the challenge. You can become focused on the task at hand, and discover methods of connecting with others in this new environment, to avoid feeling alone or disengaged. You know that even though you are working alone, you are never working in isolation. These strategies have also taught you to monitor how you feel and by acknowledging the negative feelings, it is possible to resolve those feelings and bring joy back into the day.To Discover Joy is To Know Peace of MindFor anyone who feels as if they are just tolerating their job, and they are now working from their home or remotely, the job requirements can quickly lead to a sense of dread. Any sense of enjoyment can soon dissipate as unresolved feelings are never properly addressed. The days begin to blend into one another and it seems as if there is nothing positive to say about the job, other than it produces a paycheck. Those feelings will likely spill over into the person’s job performance and show up in less-than-enthusiastic results. Perhaps the job was better tolerated in a physical office environment when co-workers were present and perks were available. But now as a remote job by itself, tolerance and enjoyment are challenging to experience.The circumstances in the world itself are certainly stressful enough now, and to add to it a job that cannot be enjoyed or even tolerated, is going to weigh heavily on the health and well-being of remote employees. These are a group of employees who cannot be seen to know how they are adapting, other than by an occasional webcam meeting, and even then, it can be challenging to ascertain their state of mind. This is why any change must be done on an individual basis, and it begins by acknowledging what was felt at the transition and working through to the point when a mindset tune-up can occur. No one can change your view of a job but you.You have to decide that you want to feel better, regardless of how circumstances around you may be, or how difficult your work transition has been. When you take that first step, you are on the path to rediscovery and healing. It is possible to experience joy with your job, no matter how challenging it may be. You are contributing not only to the success of your role; you are contributing to the success of your team and your employer. You are also demonstrating to yourself you are adaptable to demanding times and have a capacity to learn. These are but some of the many reasons why you will be able to feel and experience joy in your career once again.

Remote Job Sheet Sign Off Using CRM

If you’re struggling to find a solution to decrease the amount of time it takes to get a legally binded signature straightaway using CRM solutions then a CRM mobile signature application is what you need. You always have the tendency to go through one document format to another (for instance as consultant, you’ll need a job sheet approved and signed by clients); getting it signed from a CRM causes a bit of delay having to send it out via email, then print, sign, fax, scan and again integrate into CRM document to reach the client. Nowadays, it’s not anymore a problem because it has now developed a better solution to create faster transactions and that is utilizing Customer Relationship Management with mobile applications. Through this, your clients can sign off job sheets and other relevant documents from their consultants’ mobile device (on a touch screen) via a central access from the client portal. Once they sign a document, it will be automatically saved as their CRM file along with the attached secured signature. Once the signing is done, it already captures their signature directly on the web portal that saves time, eliminates use of numerous papers and errors, and as a result, optimizes time, reduces costs and increases the ROI because of the fast turnarounds.Gone are the days when clients need to wait a bit longer to be able to receive the documents that are due for signing or even having to meet face-to-face always to make sure everything’s signed securely. Having CRM mobile signature already provides a one-stop solution to get things done as easy as that because from there, their signatures are guaranteed to get into the right place and stored to the right system. Therefore this makes it everything centralized. There’s the access to job details whether on the web or remotely by just logging into the web portal using secure log in, the job sign off and the email confirmation. The way it works is that once the client signed the job sheet, an email will be sent to them confirming all the signed documents within the CRM system. This includes a PDF attachment of the signed-off job sheet containing all the captured details plus the client’s signature. The email confirmation on the other hand contains record of the job sheet approved by the client and further details regarding the job signed-off which completes the communication process.CRM mobile signature is definitely a portable advantage for both consultants and clients wanting to have smoother transactions when signing documents. With the use of this technology, customer relationship management becomes a stronger business platform as you and your customers can reduce chances of errors, lack of security and compliance. Do business on-the-go without having to go to the office. This is widely compatible with a number of devices e.g. iPhone and iPad, Android phones and Android tablets.