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Workplace Productivity During COVID-19: What to Expect

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

Businesses that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic face unique challenges. Despite continuing to operate, the situation is far from “business as usual.” They face major workforce disruptions in the form of beleaguered employees, newly transitioned remote workers, and non-traditional work schedules. The volume of work coming through the door might be the same, but workplace productivity during COVID-19 is likely to be down.

This isn’t the time for employers to crack the whip. Likely, the opposite. Employees need support during this challenging time. Employers need to prepare for lagged productivity and take a compassionate stance by delivering aid to frazzled workers.

Productivity dips

Dips in productivity will happen. It might be in the amount of work an employee can handle or their turnaround time on tasks and projects. It could show up in the caliber of their work. You might even find employees working fewer hours, exhausted by stressors like media overstimulation or a hectic home life. It doesn’t matter how productivity issues show up; what matters is accounting for them.

Coronavirus affects every person differently—directly or indirectly. While work is a top priority for most people, they’re also afraid for their health, economic stability, and community. They can’t escape with friends or go out to blow off steam, and they’re likely suffering under some level of stress about some or all of these things. Your employees are only human, and it’s human to face worry and distraction amidst a global pandemic.

Here’s how to compassionately recognize productivity setbacks and support your workforce as coronavirus uncertainties linger.

Transition to remote work

If you have the capacity to offer remote work arrangements, do it. Don’t just hand out laptops and expect employees to keep up with their usual job duties. The transition to remote work needs finesse—especially for those doing it for the first time. Here are a few ways to ease the transition:

  • Ensure remote user access to all relevant aspects of the business’ cloud
  • Provide access to apps and software that enable seamless off-site work
  • Set expectations with clear guidelines on working hours and etiquette
  • Keep IT resources on-hand to quickly troubleshoot user and network issues
  • Phase in remote work to avoid confusion and disruptions

Employees may not feel confident maintaining productivity levels in the middle of a transition to remote work. Let them know it’s okay and provide them with assurance and resources to build their confidence in their new work situation.

Provide helpful tools and resources

If you haven’t already, adopt cloud technologies that enable seamless remote work. Many enterprise software platforms offer cloud options—Microsoft and Adobe product suites, project management tools, messenger applications, and task management apps. Adopt cloud solutions before you transition remote workers. It’s easier to troubleshoot in-house than it is with distributed teams.

It’s not enough to provide these apps and platforms. You also need to offer guidance on how employees can use them. Offer tips and insights, and encourage employees to share what works for them. As remote workers get more comfortable with different software, they’ll find their own strategies and slowly regain their productivity.

Manage employee workload

One of the simplest ways to proactively recognize a lapse in productivity is to moderate employee workloads. Scale back and distribute work differently as people ease into remote work for the first time or in a new capacity. You might reallocate work to team members with less on their plate, or even bring on contract employees for a short period of time to ease the transition.

Be upfront about managed workloads. Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re in danger of losing their jobs or be insecure about the company’s stability. Frame it as a courtesy and be upfront about it. “We’re scaling back your workload temporarily so you can get adjusted to working from home.” Simply said and effective.

On the flip side, be cognizant about how you ramp things back up and monitor any productivity issues that linger. Offer help to employees who need it and listen to their concerns.

Account for gaps in productivity, without penalizing it

For some employers, productivity issues may never arise. Your employees may already be proficient in remote work or productive as part of a decentralized team. Regardless, it’s better to forecast gaps in productivity before they become a problem. Have a plan to tackle them, such as re-shuffling staff, work with temporary contractors, or moderate individual employee workloads.

The goal is to maintain business output without overexerting employees. Mounting pressure to keep up with regular productivity levels will only stress them more, and can lead to more problems like burnout or poor-quality work. Be compassionate and adopt creative solutions to give your employees a little reprieve in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 Workplace Safety Protection Checklist

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success
SpaceIQ

As businesses scramble to organize amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the fate of many workplaces remains uncertain. Some employees still go to an office each day, but it’s far from business as usual. Companies need to adapt their workplaces to the current environment, which is why we’ve put together this COVID-19 workplace safety protection checklist.

Below you’ll find actionable steps to ensure the safety of on-site employees. OSHA has also prepared a comprehensive guide on workplace safety precautions specific to COVID-19. Use these resources to plan for and address hygiene concerns and minimize possible transmission of coronavirus in your workplace.

Pre-screen employees and visitors

Health and safety begins even before you enter the workplace. Self-screen and pre-screen policies can keep the virus in-check and alert potential carriers to seek medical attention. Employees and visitors should monitor for symptoms that include fever, cough, and body aches, and avoid coming to work if they feel under the weather. Along these same lines, enact policies that reduce the comings and goings in the workplace, which works to minimize exposure.

  • Encourage employees to self-screen before work
  • Ask visitors to report symptoms before checking in
  • Institute symptom reporting policies
  • Offer alternatives to in-person interactions

Hand washing and workplace hygiene

Encourage employees to be mindful of their personal hygiene and the cleanliness of their workspaces. Make clear the importance of hygienic habits. It may seem like a reiteration of basic concepts—and it is—but it’s nonetheless vital to keep good habits top-of-mind. Cover personal habits like hand washing and face touching, as well as office cleanliness.

  • Institute mandatory hand-washing policies
  • Provide hand sanitizer at key touch points around the office
  • Supply paper towels and tissues
  • Encourage proper cough and sneeze action (into the elbow)
  • Enforce sanitizing protocols for all shared workspaces
  • Contract with commercial cleaners for routine sanitization

Provision and distribution of PPE

The CDC recommendeds people wear masks in public—including in the workplace. Employers should accommodate these guidelines and support employees who wish to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Create policies that comply with CDC guidelines and, where possible, provide access to PPE for employees. Set rules for acceptable PPE and educate employees on proper ways to wear it.

  • Determine the need for PPE in the workplace
  • Purchase and provide PPE for employees
  • Share best practices and proper utilization of PPE

Social distancing in the workplace

Social distancing is a key part of the plan to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Workplaces bring us close together, but they shouldn’t needlessly expose employees to risk. Social distancing in the workplace is possible. Companies can make a variety of changes to reduce person-to-person contact throughout the day—for example, turn meetings into video conferences, or rearrange floor plans to position desks at least six feet apart.

  • Create and share distancing guidelines (min. six feet apart)
  • Reorganize workplaces for social distancing
  • Post guidelines and suggestions for social distancing
  • Provide alternatives for proximity-based tasks (ex. video conferencing)

Symptom reporting and quarantine

Coronavirus prevention in the workplace extends to when someone reports symptoms. A confirmed case doesn’t necessarily mean your workplace is a hotspot. Swift and decisive action can stymie the spread. It starts with proper symptom reporting protocols and reactive policies for dampening exposure. The most important consideration for employers is to avoid turning COVID-19 into a taboo. Employees need to report symptoms or self-quarantine without fear of being ostracized or penalized for their honesty.

  • Create a policy for employees to privately report symptoms
  • Create action plans for notifying employees of possible exposure
  • Institute policies for self- and mandated-quarantines
  • Create ready-to-go remote work alternatives for employees

Take precautions and plan ahead

Use this checklist to be proactive. To keep your workplace virus-free and your employees safe demands careful consideration of all the ways the virus spreads. This COVID-19 workplace checklist is the basic foundation for an action plan that every employer needs to develop specific to their workplace. The more you do to protect your employees, the less disruption you’ll see and the quicker you can return to normal operations after the pandemic passes.

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COVID-19 Workplace Planning and Readiness

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused widespread disruption to every workplace, regardless of business size or industry. COVID-19 workplace planning and readiness needs to be at the top of every employer’s list of immediate concerns.

To ensure a smooth pivot and continued operation, executives and facilities managers need to work together to determine what effect the pandemic has had on business, what precautions to take, and how to plan going forward.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last or what unforeseen problems it will cause. All we can do is be prepared. Here are some of the most important questions employers need to ask themselves about COVID-19 workplace planning and readiness:

Is your business essential?

Nearly every state has enacted some form of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Because these are state-level policies, they expire at different times and are subject to different rules and standards. Make yourself aware of your state’s policy and its status—when it’ll expire or to what date it’s been extended.

If you operate in a state under a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, you need to determine if your business is “essential.” Essential businesses can keep their workplaces open with social distancing in place. Non-essential businesses must offer a work-from-home alternative or shut down until the state lifts the at-home order. If you’re considered essential, take appropriate steps to evaluate your operations. Do you need to shift to remote work or enact new workplace policies to protect employees?

Formulate a remote work plan

When it comes to remote work, there are three types of businesses that have:

  • No experience or infrastructure to accommodate remote staff
  • Some remote work experience and limited means
  • Robust remote work practices and an active telecommuting staff

Figure out where your company falls on the scale, then plan from there. If you have zero experience with remote work, channel your energy into building out an infrastructure and processes. Invest in your business cloud platform and explore resources that enable easy, safe, accessible data sharing. Pinpoint your most essential business functions and find ways to port them over to remote work. Remote work is possible for most companies without tangible work assets. Prepare for a transition; don’t expect to flip the switch on a fully productive remote workforce. It’ll take time for employees to acclimate.

For businesses with experience accommodating remote employees, lean into the processes and standards you’ve already developed. Get every employee up and running with the permissions and accesses they need, starting with the most important contributors.

While some businesses can undoubtedly transition to remote work quicker than others, the more important metric is the productivity of newly remote employees. Make sure your workers have the full capabilities to do their job—even if it takes a week or two to get acclimated to the new environment.

Update workplace safety standards

Essential businesses that remain open need to strategize new standards for employee health and wellness at work. Specifically, they need to focus on ways to mitigate the presence and spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It’s a threefold approach for most businesses:

  • Social Distancing: Enact policies that keep employees at least six feet apart at all times. Rearrange and modify workspaces to accommodate employees while maintaining safe working distances. Minimize the number of in-person meetings and interactions. The goal is to reduce and eliminate transmission opportunities in the event the virus reaches your workplace.
  • Hygiene: Maintain high-level cleanliness and hygiene standards throughout the workplace, including employees’ personal hygiene. This is as simple as providing hand washing reminders and setting up hand sanitizing stations throughout the office. Another smart solution is to contract a local company for more frequent cleanings or sterilization.
  • Communicate: Advise employees on what they can do to keep their workplace safe. This may include wearing a mask, minimizing workstation sprawl, or observing new forms of distancing etiquette. Be clear on whether they’re recommendations or enforceable policies, and make all employees acutely aware of them—either via workplace signage or company-wide communications.

Beyond heightened safety, make sure to support your employees any way you can. They’re likely unnerved about coming to work in a pandemic. Take the time to listen and show them you care about their health.

Adopt an agile response plan

The future of the coronavirus pandemic is rife with uncertainties. No one knows when we’ll develop a vaccination, and there’s continued tension between states and the federal government about when to lift isolation orders. Businesses can only speculate when their workplaces will open—and those with essential workplaces need time to reacclimate themselves to normal operations.

The best thing any business can do is to plan ahead and stay flexible. Create an agile response plan for your workplace—one that accounts for remote and in-house work possibilities. Stay cognizant of CDC and WHO recommendations for sanitization, and develop processes for protecting employees who remain at work. There’s a lot we don’t know, but much we can do.

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Mobile Collaboration Tools Help Decentralized Teams Succeed

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

Team collaboration is only successful if every individual does their part. This is easy when everyone is in the same room. Persons A, B, and C can each claim responsibility for X, Y, and Z, and they always know how their contribution affects the big picture. If they have questions, need help, or need to get their bearings, their teammates are right there. But today’s teams aren’t always in the same room—let alone the same building or even the same city. To work together successfully, these teams rely on mobile collaboration tools.

Mobile collaboration tools take proximity out of group communication. Team members don’t need to congregate around a desk or sit in a conference room to work together. They use chat apps on-the-go, collaborate on documents at all times of the day, and video conference when face-to-face communication is essential. Every member of the team needs a toolbox of mobile apps they use to contribute meaningfully.

Five types of mobile collaboration tools

Mobile collaboration happens in a variety of different ways and requires diverse mediums to accomplish it. Brainstorming via a chat client is much different from marking up a document, which demands capabilities beyond what a video conferencing app offers.

There are five pillars of collaboration that on-the-go, decentralized teams need to maintain group productivity:

  1. Messaging and chat apps. Easier than talking on the phone, more organized than email, messaging apps are the de-facto communication mode for teams—decentralized or otherwise.
  2. File sharing applications. From text documents to graphics, teams need access to important project collateral to work together. Mobile file sharing apps give them secure access anywhere.
  3. Video conferencing tools. Sometimes there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. When you can’t be in the same place at the same time, video conferencing tools gives teams the visual they need.
  4. Document editing software. Collaboration across tasks requires a way to share and modify documents. Cloud-based editing software enables changes, so everyone can provide consolidated feedback.
  5. Project management platforms. Good project management requires an overview of all tasks and timelines. Teams access mobile project management dashboards to understand the big picture better.

These pillars cover every mode of communication a team might use in-office and adapt it for decentralized work. Instead of congregating around a desk, teams can host a group video chat. No more passing around a printed document for the group to redline; online editing software tracks and organizes changes. More than enabling teams to work remotely, mobile collaboration tools help them work better.

A note about cloud-hosted apps

The best mobile collaboration tools for business aren’t just cross-compatible between devices and operating systems—they’re cloud-hosted. Every person has their own preference between Mac and PC or Android vs. iOS, but the cloud component transcends these preferences. You can’t collaborate without a medium to facilitate communication. That’s the cloud.

The Slack message you send to the group needs to live in the cloud as part of the chain of communication. It’s the same for file storage and project management data. This information doesn’t do any good if it’s stored on a single person’s device or lost in translation due to a poor network connection.

Cloud-hosted apps establish the links between decentralized teams. This way, everyone stays on the same page. Groups spend less time worrying about whether they have the most current version of something and more time focused on the task at hand. The same goes for messaging or video—cloud-hosted apps remove barriers to communication, like software compatibility or device preference. It’s all online, and everyone observes the same standard in the cloud.

Keep the team in constant collaboration

Thanks to mobile collaboration apps, teams working a traditional 9-to-5 are actually at a disadvantage over their decentralized counterparts. They get the benefit of face-to-face, real-time interaction, but that collaboration caps off at eight hours each day.

Consider mobile team collaboration. Person A works from 7-to-3 each day; Person B keeps 9-to-5 hours; and Person C works a 2-to-10 shift. Their hours overlap, which gives them time to work on individual tasks, as well as collaborate in real-time with their teammates. The total scope of their workday: 15 hours—nearly double the in-office team, without adding any extra strain to any single member of the group. Moreover, in this example there’s only nine hours between when the last person stops working and the first person starts, which puts projects on a shorter cycle.

Do mobile collaboration tools work?

There’s a myth that decentralized teams can’t work as effectively as in-house groups. Mobile collaboration tools prove this theory wrong. They not only allow members of a group to work in their own fashion, they enable better synergy and productivity. Ask yourself, if mobile collaboration didn’t work, why are there so many apps, platforms, resources, and technologies devoted to helping decentralized teams stay productive?

Keep reading: 10 Remote Working Tools That Boost Team Collaboration

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Eight Benefits of Remote Working

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Working from home has always been a coveted perk, but it hasn’t been until the last decade that it’s become a reality for many employees. While the privilege of working from home was once a status symbol, today more people are making the transition. In fact, the shift to remote work is happening on a grand scale. It’s a great opportunity for employees and businesses alike to reap the benefits of remote working.

Some benefits are obvious. Employees cherish the autonomy, privacy, and flexibility of a remote position. Businesses keep overhead costs low and better retain talent. When we delve deep into the advantages of remote work, it’s clear there are broad benefits all around. So why has it taken this long for remote work to become commonplace? In short, fewer technology barriers stand in the way of off-site workers delivering in-house levels of production. Today’s workers are also attuned to technologies that make adapting to remote work simpler.

Here’s a look at why companies trend toward decentralized teams and the enticing prospects remote work offers.

For employees

The benefits of working remotely for employees revolves around empowerment. The opportunity to assume a more flexible work schedule gives individuals the ability to tailor their work experience around what makes sense for them. The benefits associated with this freedom include:

  • Increased productivity. Given the ability to work however best suits them, employees get more done. Instead of accepting a rigid workplace structure and schedule, employees adapt their work to a mode they’re comfortable with. Their chosen environment, schedule, habit, and even the way they dress all contribute to comfort, which translates to focus and productivity.
  • Less time spent commuting. The daily commute puts a damper on any workday. Dealing with traffic jams on both sides of the workday means hours wasted in the car. Working from home or a nearby coworking space or coffee shop means fewer hours spent yelling at the radio and more time to relax or get a jumpstart on work.
  • More autonomy. Employees gain a certain confidence and respect for a business that trusts them to work remotely or gives them the flexibility to work from home. That autonomy manifests in employees in numerous ways—whether it’s confidence in the work they’re doing or a willingness to do more when asked.
  • Improved morale and happiness. At the end of the day, remote work is still a perk and one many people are happy to have. Granting employees the opportunity to work remotely gives them a reasonable shot at work-life balance and can take some of the stress out of a fast-paced environment.

For employers

The benefits of remote work for employers are more nuanced, less about the actual work. A remote workforce leverages benefits into the company’s bottom line and boosts intangibles like culture and access to talent. For employers, giving up some level of control and oversight is its own form of freedom. The benefits include:

  • Improved employee retention. Keep employees happy and productive and they’re more likely to stay on. In fact, they’re more likely to develop an appreciation and affinity for their job, and lend positivity to the company culture. Any executive knows how detrimental turnover is for a business; remote can lower it.
  • Access to a wider talent pool. With remote work, the physical location of a job doesn’t define the talent pool. If you want the best Web Developer, you don’t need to restrict your search to your city or state—you can cast the net worldwide. It’s part of strategic positioning in an increasingly globalized economy.
  • Lower overhead costs. If you have 20 in-house employees, your workplace needs space for 20. If you have 10 in-house employees and 10 remote employees, your workplace might only need space for 12 people. Unneeded square footage adds up in overhead dollars saved.
  • Technology benefits. Technology gives businesses a competitive edge. Because remote work relies on technology, it forces businesses to adapt and grow their strategies in a responsible way. Remote workers help a company adapt quicker and find smarter solutions out of necessity.

Remote work isn’t without drawbacks

Remote work offers an abundance of benefits, but not without potential drawbacks. Trust is a major component of remote work arrangements, for example. Employers need to trust that their employees will stay productive and maintain expectations; employees need to trust that their employers won’t abuse working hours or develop unrealistic expectations. There’s also the need to develop healthy work habits and maintain personal accountability, which may be difficult for some people.

Setting the right expectations for remote work leads to its many benefits. As with all work concepts, there’s a give and take between employer and employee that demands balance. Finding that balance is beneficial for everyone.

Keep reading: 10 Remote Working Tools That Boost Team Collaboration

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What is Remote Work?

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Remote work is more than a trend—in fact, you might call it a movement. The number of remote workers has grown exponentially over the last decade to 4.7 million today. But what is remote work beyond the concept of not going into a central workplace each day?

Stereotyping might say remote work is sitting at a laptop in your pajamas and logging in at the crack of 10:30 a.m. to start your workday. Remote work involves adapting to decentralized work trends in a productive capacity. For most, it means the need to develop new habits, learn new skills, and explore new modes of work. Remote workers need to transcend the concept of a static workplace and embrace one that’s less structured.

Remote work offers employees freedom and autonomy, and creates cost savings and improved ROI for businesses. To make it work, both sides need to understand its nuances.

It’s not about where you work…

Most people define working remotely in a physical sense. If your business has an office but you don’t go there to work, you’re a remote worker. Or, if your company is decentralized with no physical home base (like a startup), you’re a remote worker by default. But this definition only scratches the surface of what remote work is.

Today’s remote workforce has adapted to work anywhere. Coffee shops, coworking spaces, airport terminals, train stations, hotels, and just about anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection constitutes a workplace. It leads to a broader concept. If you can work from anywhere in the world, how can you define remote work by a physical place?

The traditional definition of remote work still applies in the broad sense. If you can choose where you want to work, you’re a remote worker. But there’s also a habitual component to recognize.

…it’s about how you work

If you’re a consultant and you meet with clients five days a week at the same coffee shop, are you still a remote worker? Or has that coffee shop become your workplace? If you have a home office that you exclusively work from, are you remote or is that office your workplace? Trying to define remote work by the presence or absence of a physical workplace can be tricky, which is why it needs a broader definition.

Working remotely goes beyond the physical workplace to encompass how a person works. Are you collaborating with your team via video chat for conferences? Do you upload documents to an online repository and collaborate through document markups? Relying on technology to facilitate your interaction with team members and clients contributes to your status as a remote worker.

When do you work? Do you keep the usual 9-to-5 or does your schedule hop around—8-to-12, 1-to-3, 5-to-7? Are you online 12 hours a day but working for six? Flexibility is a huge part of remote work, and employees adapt their schedules to accommodate work-life balance not otherwise possible. Here again, the idea of remote work transcends physical space. You might work part of your day in the office, part at a coffee shop, and part at home. The “remote” part of work isn’t about the space; it’s about distancing yourself from the traditional mode of work.

How do people work these days?

Today’s remote worker is unique. He has his own work habits. She has her own work schedule. They have their preferred workplaces. Remote work enables people to create their own concept of work within the confines of their job expectations. Autonomy is central to remote work. Take a look at a few examples of what remote work looks like as a diverse concept.

Lucy works in a new coworking space every week, chatting with her team on Slack about strategic marketing initiatives. She uses project planning software to coordinate their efforts and automates communications to ensure they go out on time no matter where or when she’s working that day.

Mike keeps the same hours every day: 9-to-1 and 6-to-10. He has clients in several countries, so he needs to split his hours between them. In the mornings, he works from the corporate office; in the evenings, he works from his home office. Regardless of his location, he uses Zoom to video chat with his clients.

Inez is a creative designer and welcomes sporadic inspiration. She rarely works in the same place and has a constant stream of projects. She uses her tablet when she’s traveling and her laptop when she’s working near home, and she relies on cloud apps like Dropbox, G-Suite and other remote working apps to keep her connected to various projects at all times. 

These examples not only show people working in different places, but also using different technologies and devices, on different schedules. They’re all remote workers, who represent an increasingly diverse workforce.

Does remote work…work?

The growth of remote employees over the past decade indicates that remote work is worth it. The workforce has learned to adapt to work without the need for a traditional office, and employers have embraced technologies that keep their decentralized teams connected, accountable, and productive. Whether it’s from a home office, a coffee shop, or a coworking space, employees are quickly learning how to work, no matter where they work. In short, remote work works!

Keep reading: 8 Benefits Of Remote Working

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Boost Team Collaboration with 10 Remote Working Tools

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

In an office, it’s easy to sit around a conference table or congregate at someone’s desk to discuss work. For decentralized teams, lack of proximity is a problem. Team members scattered across the office, at home, in a coworking space, or across the globe can’t assemble in a few minutes. Instead, they rely on remote working tools to give them the same collaborative opportunities.

Collaborative software has changed how decentralized teams work together. No more lengthy email chains. No more individual note keeping or communication gaps. No more files scattered throughout individual team members’ hard drives. Digital tools bring remote teams together in the same way the office does—the only thing missing is physical proximity.

Here’s a look at some of the best tools for remote teams and how they remove the collaborative barriers decentralized teams face. Keep in mind, this is just a smattering of the most-used, most-trusted apps on the market today. There are hundreds of viable tools for teams big and small.

  1. Slack: Slack’s organization of channels, direct messaging, and numerous integrations make it a central communication hub for some of the largest companies in the world. It’s more than a messaging platform; it’s the de-facto platform for chatting, collaborating, planning, and sharing for decentralized teams.
  2. Zoom: Video chat is the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting. Zoom stands as a leader among video-based remote collaboration tools for many reasons. It supports large groups, offers low-latency video, and delivers screen-sharing features. It’s a platform far beyond other video-based sharing apps.
  3. Trello: Decentralized teams love the Kanban-style project organization capabilities of Trello. With various boards, tasks, and workflows, it’s the visual tool keeping teams on-track, organized, and focused. Assign boards and cards to group members and stay up-to-date on progress with an interface that’s easily synced to numerous other apps.
  4. Salesforce: A cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) tool, Salesforce brings powerful client information to teams, for concerted efforts to close sales, deliver projects, and negotiate contracts. Salesforce supports decentralized sales, marketing, and account management teams, for vertical integration across the company.
  5. G-Suite: Google’s app suite is the gold standard in remote working software because it has the widest user base and the simplest baseline functions. Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Forms offer real-time collaboration, easy sharing, and seamless integration with virtually every other major platform.
  6. Dropbox: Dropbox continues to evolve as a must-have tool for remote teams. It’s first and foremost a file storage and sharing platform. But it also works as a collaboration tool, visual file viewer, secure delivery platform, and much more. Dropbox bridges many of the gaps inherent to sharing numerous files across remote teams.
  7. Asana: Project management tools are essential for remote teams. Asana’s unique interface puts a visual workflow together for real-time monitoring of team member progress and tasks. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, when they’re doing it, and how individual efforts impact the overall project.
  8. Monday: Monday’s broad customization capabilities make it useful for decentralized teams with unique project management needs. Build workflows and databases for each person or project, so the whole team can see where priorities are and what’s upcoming. It’s an important app for long-term planning by remote teams.
  9. Airtable: Airtable combines the demand for everyday spreadsheets into a database-style system with powerful capabilities. For remote teams sharing large amounts of data—marketing, sales, and finance—Airtable’s broad customizations help teams aggregate, sort, and look up data that’s vital to the big picture.
  10. Basecamp: Basecamp is a digital workplace. It offers teams an inclusive array of features to give them everything they need to communicate and collaborate in one place. It’s a task manager, messenger, project tracker, data log, and more, all rolled into one. For teams that miss the workplace feel, they’ll find it in this digital ecosystem.

There are infinite variations of these platforms, as well. What works for some teams might not work for others, and there are always alternatives to try. Teams need to find pillar programs that facilitate important aspects of collaboration: communication, organization, project management, information, and accountability.

Think about how people collaborate when they’re face-to-face with each other. That same dynamic is available to decentralized teams through the right suite of remote working tools. It’s a matter of understanding what people need to collaborate effectively.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success

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How Remote Working Tech Transformed the Way we Work

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
SpaceIQ

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz is best known for taking the coffee shop from a small, local chain in Seattle to a multibillion-dollar global brand. It wasn’t Frappuccinos and lattes that Shultz capitalized on. Rather, he embraced the idea of a “third place.”

He argued that people needed another place in their lives—somewhere outside of home and work. Starbucks sold the idea of occupancy and happened to offer delicious coffee products on the side. It’s a concept that continues to pay dividends with the rise in remote working technology.

Today, the third place in people’s lives flirts with the workplace, and in many cases, is the workplace. Someone can pop open a laptop in Starbucks and work for a few hours thanks to the ever-growing suite of remote working technologies. It’s part of the reason Starbucks is an $80B enterprise today, and why the coworking industry as a whole is worth $26B, growing at an annual rate of 6%.

Technology supports mobile employees with the freedom to choose their own work environment. Today, the workplace is the suite of tools people use to create, collaborate, and communicate with peers. The physical surroundings are just the backdrop.

A snapshot of remote work

What is remote working? In a physical sense, it’s the ability to work from anywhere outside of a central office space: at home, a coworking space, or in a Starbucks. Remote work is more than a change of surroundings. It’s the ability to work autonomously and bring personal accountability to tasks and time management. It’s about being an individual who’s part of a greater whole.

Remote work is video conferencing with three people to collaborate on a project. It’s uploading files to an online repository where someone on the other side of the world can access them. It’s messaging one person, while working in a collaborative document with someone else. These tasks happen against a revolving backdrop of workspaces.

The beauty of remote work is that it’s a different experience for every person. In the same way someone might’ve personalized their cubicle 20 years ago, people now create the workspace that’s right for them by simply going to it. For some, it’s a short walk to their home office; for others, it’s a new place every day.

Technology made us mobile workers

Working remotely is possible thanks to digital technologies. Imagine trying to collaborate on a visual project over the phone or emailing a document to a dozen people, waiting for everyone to provide revisions. Today, these problems are solved by apps like Zoom and Dropbox. We’re not just capable of diverse collaboration on-the-go. We’re able to work in real-time without being face-to-face.

Digital tech and cloud-based apps power the decentralized workforce. Our ability to communicate, collaborate, automate processes, and maintain security does mean sacrificing autonomy and flexibility. Tech brings us closer together, even when we’re far apart. The distance from desk to desk and the distance from Los Angeles to London are the same for the remote workforce.

Remote work essentials

There’s an ever-growing, always-improving spectrum of remote work software meant to bridge the gaps distance creates. The best technology for working remotely are those with three traits:

  1. Broad adaptability and integrative functions
  2. Seamless, easy-to-use interfaces
  3. Critical functions that improve the work experience

Take employee apps like Slack, Dropbox, or Zoom. Each has a different function—project collaboration, document storage, and video communication. They share the same value proposition: make remote work seamless. Decentralized employees need a full suite of tools to stay connected to the company, their peers, and mission-critical information. It’s these apps that make remote work possible, regardless of physical location.

Beyond the apps that directly enable remote work, digital technology has helped more employees adapt their personal habits to accommodate remote work. Digital timers keep employees on-task. Notification blockers minimize distractions. Project trackers create visual workflows for accountability. These personal tools are just as essential as the collaborative ones, and give remote workers power over their habits and tendencies to help them adapt.

Growing the business cloud

The leap to remote work seems like it happened overnight, and more companies continue to explore remote work options for employees as business evolves. But despite the many remote work technologies available, there’s still a long runway of opportunity ahead. Technologies like blockchain, augmented reality, virtual reality, and human-machine interfaces will further enable remote employees to do their best work in whatever physical workplace they choose.

Howard Shultz’s concept of a third place is still worth betting on, with one small caveat. With the ability to work from anywhere, connected at any time, the true third place for most people will be a digital one.

Keep reading: Remote Working Trends and Options

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Top 10 Germiest Places at Work

Compiled by SpaceIQ

We spend more than 90,000 hours of our lives in the office, and our hands come in contact with a lot of items that aren’t the most sanitary. Here are the top 10 workplace items and areas that may make you want to wash your hands—a lot—in our COVID-19 world.

 

Keyboard/Mouse

Those crumbs aren’t the only things stuck in your computer keyboard. An estimated 16 million microbes that can include E.Coli, Staph, salmonella, and norovirus (a cousin of COVID-19) cover the nooks and crannies. Your mouse? There’s 46,000 times more icky stuff than on a toilet flush handle. Clean It Up: Sanitize at least once a week with antibacterial wipes; spray between keys with canned air. And don’t forget your cell phone!

 

Desk

Research by the University of Arizona found that your desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat and is 100 times less hygienic than your kitchen table. Common cold microbes can last on a desktop for 72 hours; dangerous bugs like MRSA can last up to seven months. Clean It Up: Wipe the top down at least once a week with antibacterial wipes. Do your office chair handles at the same time.

 

Cell & Desktop Phones

Your phones may be even worse than your desktop, with an average of 25,000 germs per square inch. Think about where you take your cell phone, then consider you check it 50 times a day. And do you know who else is using your desk phone? Clean It Up: For cell phones, remove the case and use approved cleaning products so you don’t fry the circuits. Use a soft rag and disinfectant on desk phone keys and headset.

 

Coffee Mug

According to WebMD, communal coffee mugs may not be the best to use in your office. One study found that even when they’re washed and dried, about 90% had significant germs, including some with fecal matter (that’s poop). Clean It Up: The problem isn’t with who uses them, it’s how they’re cleaned. Ideally, run mugs through a full dishwasher cycle that uses hot water and detergent. If you hand wash, make sure brushes and sponges are clean, use hot water, and rinse in a diluted bleach solution.

Kitchen Sponge

Know why your coffee mugs are riddled with poop germs? Blame it on the sponge. These popular cleaning items are wet and absorbent, which makes them perfect for breeding germs. Most new sponges will have bacteria like E.Coli and salmonella within three weeks, according to WebMD. Clean It Up:  Put the sponge in the microwave at least once a day for two minutes to kill most bacteria. Don’t leave it in the bottom of the sink; place it in a drying rack. Don’t wait for the sponge to disintegrate–replace it every two weeks.

Refrigerators

Did that take-out container just move? It wouldn’t be surprising, considering how long people leave leftovers in an office fridge. And it all might be making you sick. One study found the average refrigerator contains about 7,900 bacteria CFU (colony forming units) per square inch. A UK study found the produce drawer houses 750 times the amount of safe bacteria. Clean It Up:  Clean out and wipe down the office fridge every two days with a strong antibacterial cleanser.

Non-Automatic Soap Dispensers

You go to the bathroom and you wash your hands. Nice and clean, right? Not if you used a manual soap dispenser. A University of Arizona researcher found fecal matter on 25% of all office soap dispensers. Clean It Up: If you touch the handle, don’t worry. Scrub your hands and nails for at least 20 seconds and rinse under warm water. But most people stink at washing their hands, so you might want to use antibacterial hand products after using the restroom…just in case.

 

Copier Start Button

Copiers may be going out of style, but they still see a lot of use—particularly, the Start button. Template maker Hloom found that this single button had more than 1.2 billion germ CFU (colony forming units) per square inch. The average school toilet seat? 3,200 CFU. Thank goodness for the cloud. Clean It Up:  Sanitize the entire copier keypad with antibacterial wipes or a soft cloth with disinfectant at least once a week.

 

 

Kitchen Sink and Faucet

When it comes to germs, the office kitchen sink and faucet may be the dirtiest. Scientists use an ATP measurement to determine the presence of bacteria on surfaces. An ATP level for a clean surface is 25. Kimberly-Clark researchers found 75% of office faucet handles had ATP counts of 300 or higher. If that doesn’t prompt you to go out to lunch, metal sink drains registered ATP levels of 1,391. Clean It Up: Keep dirty dishes out of the sink. Scrub the bowl, drain, and faucet at least once a week with a clean rag or sponge and antibacterial cleaning solution.

 

Water Fountain

South University researchers found that the spigot on a public water fountain can harbor as many as 2.7 million bacteria per square inch. And standalone water coolers aren’t any better. Employees routinely touch the spigot to fill glasses and bottles with germ-laden hands. Clean It Up: Wipe spigots with antibacterial wipes at least once a week. Even better, bring a water bottle from home and make sure not to touch the spigot when filling. Run your water bottle through the dishwasher at least once a week.

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Work Experience Gleaned from an Agile Environment

By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
SpaceIQ

When you vet résumés for potential job candidates, the skills section can be telling. Your company might look for industry-specific skills or mentions of commonly used software or equipment. But what about experience working in an agile environment? Is that a skill you’re looking for? Is it even worth mentioning on a résumé?

In the era of agile work, experience in free-assign and flexible workplaces is important. Like any other trait in the skills section of a résumé, it speaks to that person’s ability to thrive when put in certain situations. Workplaces play a big role in how people do the job they’re hired for. Just because they have the qualifications doesn’t mean they’re equipped to do a good job in an environment they’re unfamiliar with. Conversely, someone who knows what it’s like working in an agile environment might not have any trouble getting up to speed.

Not only is experience with agile working a skill, it’s one worth looking for on incoming résumés. The newest addition to your team is likely someone familiar with the work styles and culture already present in your agile environment.

Why is prior experience important?

Consider someone who’s only ever worked in a traditional office. They have their own desk and personal private space with a phone extension and computer. Now, imagine taking these things away from that person and telling them to do the same job they’ve always done, only in an agile environment. It’s apples vs. oranges; Mac vs. PC. Say goodbye to what they know.

For most people, adapting to a new workspace is stressful enough. Change the entire dynamic of what a workplace is and your new hire may feel even more out of their element. This isn’t to say they can’t learn to embrace agile working—they’re just at a disadvantage.

What does agile workplace experience say about someone?

Experience working within an agile workspace translates into many other traits. Think about what an agile workplace represents, then track these traits back into skills:

  • Workplace agility teaches a person to adapt quickly to new situations.
  • Using different types of workplaces imbues workers with strategic understanding.
  • Collaborating in agile environments develops strong communication skills.
  • Self-managing in free-assign workplaces teaches accountability.
  • Familiarity with agile workplace systems promotes critical thinking.

All these traits come secondary to working in an agile work environment, but come with real ramifications when it comes to developing productive habits. Agile work experience shows a person’s ability to function at a high level, in an environment that’s ever-changing. This type of person is an asset to the business and someone who can continue to adapt to the demands of a growing, changing business.

If it’s not on the résumé, ask about it

Not every employee will think to put “experience working in an agile environment” in the skills section of their résumé. Employers shouldn’t overlook it during interviews and applicant surveys. Like any other skill a candidate brings to the table, agile work experience is an asset.

If your company hiring process involves a questionnaire, focus one or two of the questions on workplace experience or willingness to adapt to an agile workplace. For in-person interviews, ask pointed questions about it. “How do you feel about working in an environment that changes every day?” or “How do you adapt to environments that force constant change?” Make it clear that you operate an agile workplace and talk about what it means for your company.

Workspace conversations are much more productive in the interview phase, as opposed to after a hire. The last thing you want to do is hire the perfect candidate, only to find they’re incompatible with the workplace culture of an agile environment.

Make the transition into agile work simple

Every agile workplace has its own degree of dynamism. A workplace with 10 employees has a much different feel than one with 100 coworkers. Likewise, adapting to different types of breakout spaces, a new floor plan, and different workplace protocols is all part of easing into a new environment.

Whether they have agile work experience or not, take time to ease a new hire into your workplace. Immersion time is often lower for workers familiar with agile workspaces, but a well-run workplace will foster inclusion for anyone, experienced or not. The smoother you make the transition, the easier it is for your new hire to integrate.

Keep reading: Understanding Agile Workplace Pros and Cons