4 Most Productive Ways to Communicate as a Remote Team

Remote teams are becoming commonplace as the workplace continues to evolve and new technologies make communication across time zones simpler and more effective. With cloud storage an increasingly convenient means of accessing information, it’s become possible to share the same information easily with people all over the world through various software applications. As easy as it is to use these tools, though, how easy is it to communicate with the people you’re sharing them with? Here are four tips to consider when communicating as a remote team: 1. Find a Collaborative Platform that Works There are a variety of collaborative software programmes available, from Slack to Teamwork, which all offer similar functionality. Essentially, a collaborative programme allows you to track the progress of tasks transparently, and to be able to keep track of all communication that happens within the team. While various applications will offer the same ability to send messages, assign tasks and create documents, some applications suit different kinds of teams better than others. For example, a team with structured, routine tasks might benefit from a more structured platform, while a team that is focused on creative tasks would benefit from a software programme that allows them more flexibility. 2. Weekly or Regular Check-Ins While it can be very convenient to be able to track the progress of tasks and follow threads of communication on collaborative software programmes, it’s important to make sure that team members still communicate their progress with regular check-ins. One of the ways to make sure that everyone is on top of their assigned tasks is to get all employees to post a... read more

Is Technology Shortening Our Attention Spans?

We often like to think that if we just try hard enough, we could concentrate for hours at a time and get everything done. It gets frustrating when we struggle to focus on one task at a time, when the truth is that we’re constantly dividing our attention between all kinds of distractions, from phone calls to emails and from news feeds to other on-screen notifications. 1. Are Our Brains Are Working Differently? Recent research on attention spans conducted by Microsoft, revealed that our average attention spans have fallen from 12 to 8 seconds over the last fifteen years. Microsoft delved deeper into their research on the different ways that we pay attention: sustained, selective and alternating. Sustained attention is focus on specific tasks, and selective attention is being aware of distractions around you but still being able to focus on priority tasks. Finally, alternating attention is the ability to switch between different tasks across platforms. The summary of their research suggests that selective and alternating attention are becoming increasingly important skills in today’s world, as our attention spans adapt to working across different devices and using various online tools. This means that while we may still try to focus on doing one thing at a time, the truth is that the actual structure of our brains is changing. This is because, according to neuroscientific research, the brain actually changes in response to behaviour, for example having to learn how to use new technology. 2. Our Attention Spans and Productivity While we might become frustrated with our inability to focus for longer periods of time due to increasing distractions,... read more

How to Ensure Productive Communication with Clients

In an increasingly competitive world, a client-supplier relationship can be an exciting opportunity for growth, innovation and development. When communication issues aren’t addressed though, dealing with clients and suppliers can unfortunately be an extremely frustrating exercise, something we’ve all experienced I’m sure. Whilst challenging relationships might allow us to really grow and allow us to learn, here are some of the ways to avoid any unnecessary complications in a world where we have access to so many different communication channels. 1. Set Clear Expectations at the Start The way we work with clients may differ depending on the work we do, and is no doubt influenced by varying personalities and work styles. Whilst the importance of developing a rapport with a client may make a frank conversation slightly awkward early on in the relationship, setting out very clear expectations from the beginning will help to prevent disappointment and resentment down the line. To make sure that clear expectations are set out, listen to the client’s needs carefully. This will allow you to be able to respond appropriately, even if it means you might need to adjust your proposal and timelines. 2. Discuss the Fine Print Upfront It might be tempting to gloss over the inevitable fine print that comes with contracts, proposals and cost estimates, it can be helpful to go through any legal considerations upfront to avoid any unnecessary communciation issues at a later stage. It can be painful to read extended legal documents, but being able to communicate any important considerations can create a productive relationship that allows any issues to be discussed immediately. Outlining everything from... read more

How to Manage Meetings Productively

We set up meetings hoping to achieve a certain objective, but sometimes in practice we don’t cover everything that we intend to when meeting with either colleagues or clients. If we don’t set an agenda or have a clear goal in mind, we can often get caught up in off-topic conversation with an interesting client or get distracted by day-to-day issues. To make the most of meetings, whether you’re using VoIP software or having a face-to-face meeting in a boardroom, follow my five tips for organising and executing effective meetings: 1. Set a Clear Agenda As most people are cramming in as many tasks into a day as possible and stressed about getting everything done, it’s important to be clear about what is going to be discussed in a meeting to avoid wasting anyone’s time. While this can be done in different ways, it’s essential to make a point of clarifying what is going to be discussed, even if it’s done via email and not always a formal agenda document. This can even include a quick Skype chat message or meeting request to confirm a date, time and a short one-line summary. 2. Select Your Attendees Carefully While it might seem productive to include everyone on your team in the same meeting, sometimes it’s more effective to have shorter meetings with less people, more often. In the past face-to-face status meetings were essential to keep everyone in the loop, but with email and an increase in the use of collaborative software, it’s no longer essential to have meetings. Including the right people in a meeting will lead to greater... read more

Deskbound: Dealing With and Preventing Chronic Pain

We all know what it’s like to work behind a desk all day. After staring at a screen for a while, we get completely absorbed in what we’re doing and become oblivious to the fact that we’re slouching and sticking our necks out. Attractive or what?! Whilst stand-up desks and ergonomics have gone a long way to improving the way we work at a computer, many people still struggle with the latent injuries that come with sitting. Here are five ways to deal with, and prevent the chronic pain that comes with being desk-bound: 1. Be Aware of How You Sit Holding any position for extended periods can have painful consequences, so it’s important to be aware of the way you’re sitting. Ironically, according to physiotherapist Megan van Schoor from Samantha Dunbar Physiotherapy, many people actually try to sit up too straight, which can also cause problems. Some companies have trained physiotherapists that will help you to set up your desk correctly, but even just having an awareness of your posture can help to prevent what is known as work related upper limb disorder. 2. Be Aware of When You Sit Sitting for extended periods in an incorrect position can cause problems. Even being at a standing desk all day can be problematic if you aren’t standing correctly. Be aware of taking regular breaks to walk around, and work on strengthening your stabilising muscles to prevent unnecessary injury. Exercise such as Pilates can help to strengthen your core muscles, which play an important role in keeping your body aligned and stable. Breaking up your day into alternating periods of... read more

The Benefits of Co-Working Spaces

All over the world, freelancers and entrepreneurs are creating co-working spaces in order to make the most of shared resources and establish a sense of community for those working independently in professions that can be quite isolating. While co-working spaces might differ in size, aesthetic and concept, the essence of a shared work environment remains the same: to have access to an environment where work is meaningful and collaborative, autonomy is celebrated and where interaction and network is refreshingly authentic. Would it work for you? Here are some of the benefits of working in a shared working space. Shared Resources One of the advantages of working in a shared working space is that all resources are communal. For example, in some countries around the world, the price of a fast internet connection might be expensive for a single entrepreneur to take on alone, but in a shared working environment, this cost can be lowered significantly when divided between other members. Even sharing other kinds of resources like coffee and a kitchen counter can provide an additional sense of interconnectedness that can lead to new conversations and lower overheads. Sociability For those who work independently but do enjoy interacting with others, a co-working environment can provide a welcome social element in a day mostly spent staring at a screen. Many co-working spaces are also proactive about organising events and establishing a sense of community, which can be beneficial for those looking for both social interaction and networking opportunities. These aren’t enforced but a good way to collaborate and share inspiration. Diversity While diversity is inevitable in our multicultural world, in... read more

Self-Awareness and Productivity

In order to be our most productive, we need to be constantly evaluating our behaviour and what works for us. We read books about productivity, advice from successful entrepreneurs and work hard to refine our routines. However, often it feels like we’re back to square one, just when we think we’ve got a hold on our workload and all of the challenges we face on a daily basis. With all of the literature available on productivity and self-improvement, could just being more self-aware help to alleviate the potentially exhausting cycle of falling down and picking ourselves back up again? In order to be more self-aware, we need to be conscious of what we’re good at and acknowledge what we still need to work on, according to an article by Inc.com, which explores the way in which self-awareness is essential for effective leadership. By being receptive to all kinds of feedback, we are able to become more aware of our limitations and work on improving certain skills, even though our instinctive reaction may be to pretend that we know it all and justify our behavior and decisions. Whilst being self-aware might be the end goal, the truth is that it is a constant work in progress, and there are many things we can do to constantly improve the way we approach all aspects of our life. One suggestion from Lifehacker includes writing a journal, which assists us in becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and what’s really going on inside our heads. Another suggestion is asking for feedback. This could be anything from a formal request to co-workers... read more

Optimise Your Workspace for Productivity

We all have our preferences when it comes to where we work best. Some of us might prefer the buzz of a coffee shop or open plan office, while many of us might need to be in a quiet spot with lots of natural light to be inspired. When it comes to setting up our desks, what should we be looking at? Is a blank wall best for focusing, with a view too distracting? We look at some of the factors to consider when designing your workspace: 1. Creating More Intentional Spaces There has been a big move towards more collaborative workspaces, where innovation and ideas are encouraged through the deliberate design of office spaces. With a more holistic insight into health and wellbeing becoming more and more common too, this is also becoming more of a consideration when creating workspaces. People like Kelly Robinson, who has designed office spaces for companies like Soundcloud and Airbnb, believes that spaces need to intentional, and that many factors contribute to the way that employees work and feel in a given space. As a yoga teacher, Robinson sees that ways that everything fits together, and that there needs to be distinct areas for certain activities to avoid confusion. 2. Current Trends in Office Design With a move towards more collaborative spaces, everything from the furniture to the arrangement of desks and even staircases in an office becomes important. In a workspace where innovation is key, many offices have now created more flexible and mobile desk options, so that groups of people can spontaneously work together and people can move around without being... read more

Left or Right Brain? Make It Work for You

Do we actually make the most of our day according to how our brains work? This essential piece of information alone could save you loads of time and frustration… 1. Left and Right Brain: Truth or Myth? Many of us have grown up with the notion of the left versus the right brain, and what that means for your preferences or personality. Recap: those who are more logical and organised are said to be more left-brain orientated, while those who are more free-thinking and creative are said to be right-brain dominant. When it comes to productivity, people who support this distinction advise different ways of approaching your studies or work. Left-hand dominated people are advised to work alone and be aware of their need for structure, whereas right-hand dominant people are told to try and be more organised and to focus on finishing a task. While we might all subscribe to this dichotomy to some degree, can we as complex humans be so easily divided into one of these two categories? Recent research suggests that this way of looking at how our brains work is limited, and that although there are focused centres for processing different kinds of information in certain parts of the brain, overall, activity takes place across the two hemispheres. Neuroscientists believe that maths skills are thought to be more logical and left-brain orientated, being good at maths actually requires processes that take place in both left and right hand regions of the brain. 2. Making the Divide Work: Brain Gym Take control and mesh the two sides together for optimum functioning. One method to improve... read more

Your Circadian Rhythm and Productivity

You wake up and expect to be alert and ready for the day, you’ve done your best to get enough sleep but for some reason you just can’t manage to get going in the morning like the others around you. Could it be that your natural biological rhythm is just out of sync with the predefined work day? 1. Get in Tune With Your Own Rhythm As much as we might try to conform to a predetermined schedule, our body clocks often work differently. For many years, scientists and those interested in productivity have been studying what are called circadian rhythms, our natural cycles of being awake or asleep. Understanding the way that these cycles work allows us to be less critical of ourselves when we don’t conform to the usual 9-5, as our bodies actually go through natural energy peaks and troughs throughout the day. By being aware of our own unique rhythms, we can actually find what works best for us, and give ourselves an advantage when it comes to being more productive. Besides from being able to get more done, paying attention to our body’s natural rhythms can also help us to function better in daily life. Our entire physical functioning is dependent on different cycles within the body itself, for example, the different hormones that are released in response to stimuli such as light. According to research by Dr. Steve Kay from the University of Southern California, your cognitive abilities are also better at different times of the day, most notably around late morning when the body reaches an optimum temperature after waking up. 2.... read more