Categories
Hybrid work Microsoft Teams remote work

The 5 Best Microsoft Teams Integrations for Productive Distributed Teams

When it comes to distributed work, what sets successful teams apart from their less successful competitors is staying productive and efficient no matter your work style or location. To take your team to the next level of success, it’s critical to ensure they have the proper tools and training in how to use them. Even if your organization uses Microsoft Teams, you can still improve upon numerous workflows. Whether it is automating repetitive tasks, gathering information, or communicating with team members, some workflows can be disjointed, frustrating, or simply take way longer than they should! This post explores the best add-ins for Microsoft Teams to boost your remote, hybrid, or distributed teams to the next level. 

Trello

Distributed teams need clarity and efficiency when tackling projects. Making sure everyone is on the same page with real-time updates and a tool that is easy to use means wasting less time figuring out how to manage projects so you can spend more time completing them. Adding Trello boards directly to Teams channels means you never have to stray far to check up on related tasks and progress across multiple channels or projects. The Trello integration allows team members to receive real-time updates, send notifications, and access Trello boards directly within the Teams app. Not leaving Teams means fewer tabs open or programs running that slow down your devices, making it easier for remote and distributed teams of any size to stay organized and on top of their to-do lists. 

Polly from Microsoft

Clear and efficient communication lies at the heart of successful remote collaboration. The Polly add-in for Microsoft Teams facilitates engagement, feedback gathering, and data-driven decision-making inside and outside meetings. With Polly, teams can create polls, surveys, and quizzes within the Teams app, making it easy to gather feedback, involve all team members, and drive engagement in various settings. This add-in enables remote teams to foster a collaborative culture, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, even when working from different locations. By adding Polly, teams using Teams can better streamline communication channels, boost participation, and make informed team or project decisions.

Zapier

Helping your team stay on top of their to-do list is easier when everyone can automate repeatable workflows or send alerts automatically. Zapier connects with various other highly used platforms like Salesforce, Google Sheets, and Hubspot, just to name a few. With Zapier, you can create custom workflows, generally known as “Zaps,” that automate repetitive tasks, synchronize data across platforms, and trigger actions based on specific conditions. By integrating Zapier, teams can eliminate manual data entry, streamline workflows, and focus on tasks that add value, enhancing overall efficiency and productivity. For distributed teams or remote workforces, adding automatic notifications to project channels can help ensure everyone stays updated with the latest information necessary to remain as productive as possible.

Overview and MultiShare by Frameable

Whether you find yourself leading a large team for a multi-national organization or a small, bootstrapped remote team, you will need to collaborate effectively and efficiently. For teams using Microsoft Teams, having an all-in-one dashboard like Overview is akin to having a trusty guide by your side. It consolidates the cacophony of documents, conversations, and events into a tidy, digestible interface. The beauty of Overview is not just its utility, but in how it simplifies the often-overwhelming task of sifting through digital chatter to find what you need when you need it.

Whether you’re onboarding new recruits, leading a remote training session, or tackling a shared project, the ability to display up to 15 different screens simultaneously means you can handle just about anything. With MultiShare, the flow of ideas and collaborative energy feels more natural, like pulling up a chair to a coworker’s desk to work side-by-side. If your organization recently transitioned into using Microsoft Teams, this could also be a feature you’re used to but are now missing. 

Better Workflows for a More Empowered Workforce

In the era of remote work, maximizing the potential of collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams is essential for business success. By integrating any of the above tools with Microsoft Teams, remote and distributed teams can develop more seamless workflows that the keystone workplace tools just don’t offer on their own. 

Ready to elevate your remote collaboration? Explore Frameable for Microsoft Teams and unlock the true potential of your distributed team. Refresh your workflows, enhance productivity, and give your team the tools to thrive in any work setting. Explore Overview and MultiShare, or get started for free on the Microsoft AppSource marketplace.

Learn more about Overview and MultiShare for Microsoft Teams

Learn more
Categories
Hybrid work remote work

The Remotely Possible™ Podcast: Insights from Sabeen Malik on Enabling Innovation on Distributed Teams

Many tools on the market can help remote and distributed teams channel their creativity. But instead of forcing teams to use a small set of company-sanctioned tools for the team’s unique problems, it’s helpful (and empowering) to give employees the freedom to use the tools and processes that work best for them.  

In the seventh episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Sabeen Malik, Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy at Rapid7, to discuss building trust and enabling innovation on distributed teams. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including the three elements of trust and how to strike the right balance of synchronous and asynchronous communication when problem-solving.

Introducing Sabeen and Her Remote Cybersecurity Team

Rapid7 is a cybersecurity provider with solutions spanning detection and response, vulnerability management, and application security. Sabeen is building her team and currently works with five people in the U.S. and U.K. She is used to working with remote-first teams, partly due to her previous role at Thumbtack.

“Thumbtack very much is built around this idea [of] remote first,” she said. “Even pre-pandemic, the idea was to think about this model and how are we going to think about remote-first work in an environment where so many more tools were available for folks to work not only across time zones, but across different operational capacities, and what does that look like to bring that all together.”

Why Trust is Essential for a Healthy Distributed Team Culture

Sabeen recognizes that many teams use video calls to tackle challenges. She encourages companies to establish clear rules and expectations about when cameras can be on or off as a way to help employees process information in their preferred mode.

“I personally don’t feel like I need to see everybody when I’m doing what I need to do, which a lot of times is discussing concepts and information and deliverables,“ she said. “At the same time, I have found there is a little bit of a difference between consistently building trust in teams and having video on and off and everyone understanding what the rules are as to why someone may turn their video off and what the norms are around that.”

Trust is vital for enabling an effective distributed team that achieves the innate advantages of remote work. Sabeen encourages leaders to consider what trust means to them and their organization.

“It’s important to think about ‘what is trust at the end of the day?’ and ‘what are we actually looking for?’,” she said. “Thinking about how do you continue to use the tools and yourself, in terms of your ideas, to build it.” 

Sabeen shared her own perspectives on the three critical elements of trust. “I think about three elements: competency, integrity, and goodwill. For a team that has a lot of external stakeholders, trust is built by meeting them where they build trust. Internally, it’s more about how do you share with your teams the ideas around each one of those as a norm-setting behavior.”

Over the course of our conversation, Sabeen rejected the notion that in-person teams are more collaborative or innovative because of serendipitous encounters.

“[The idea] that you’re just sitting randomly and someone comes into a booth or someone stops by your workstation, and you have this amazing idea… I think that’s a little bit lionized or this mental model that I’m not sure most folks are operating that way,” she explained. “I think it has to be a little more structured than assuming it’s going to happen just because you all happen to be in the same space, and it’ll randomly happen.” 

When facing a challenge, Sabeen says that leaders should assess if they are explaining the problem well enough or if people need a change in time and space to let creativity flow. Innovation often comes down to allowing people time to think through challenges and work with their preferred tools.

“One of the things I’m doing more is asking folks the best ways that they think about creative ideas and how do they capture those,” she said. “If you’re at the early stages of a problem or a strategy, I tend to find that synchronous work tends to work better. What you’re truly trying to do is collect ideas and then shape ideas so everyone understands the end goal of executing on something. And then in terms of how and why and what the things are that are related to the execution, asynchronous tends to work a lot better.”

For more of Sabeen’s insights into building trust on remote teams, including a more detailed explanation of the three elements of trust and the tools her team uses, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, Episode 7. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

Listen to Remotely Possible wherever you get your podcasts.

Listen now
Categories
Future of work Hybrid work remote work

New Frameable Research Reveals the Benefits of Distributed Workplaces

As company leaders seek to deliver the most fulfilling workplace experiences, new research reinforces that remote, hybrid, and distributed arrangements present a clear competitive advantage.

Frameable’s first edition of The Remote/Hybrid/Distributed Work Index explores how remote and hybrid work arrangements affect employee well-being, productivity, and collaboration. We also examined how effective existing workplace technologies are in supporting distributed workplaces. Here are a few of the key takeaways.

Four Things We Learned About Distributed and Hybrid Work

Frameable surveyed U.S.-based workers who currently work in a remote, hybrid, or distributed team culture. The research, conducted in November of 2023, dispels several persistent myths about the modern hybrid and distributed workforce and provides actionable ways for leaders to improve their strategies. 

Employees are More Engaged in Hybrid, Remote, and Distributed Workplaces

More than half of employees (66.2%) agree or strongly agree they feel more engaged when working remotely than from a company office. Only slightly over 12% of respondents disagreed. This suggests that some types of work still benefit from in-person collaboration—and that some companies need to work on being more intentional about inspiring engagement with their team. More on that later.

Remote and Hybrid Workers are More Productive

The majority of survey respondents (84%) said they feel more productive because of a flexible workplace model. Only 4% disagreed, and 12% felt neutral. The good news is these productivity benefits will likely increase as companies refine their technology stacks and implement tools and processes built for a remote-first model. 

Microsoft Office Enables Engagement

Digging into which tools specifically are most effective in enabling engagement, employees ranked Microsoft Office as the No. 1 choice, followed by Gmail, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, Outlook email, and Zoom. Of course, leaders should set clear guidelines around how to use all workplace tools to their fullest potential. 

Workplace Flexibility Drives Retention

Adding to the productivity and engagement benefits, nearly three in four workers (73.6%) are more likely to stay with their company because of their workplace flexibility. This is likely in part due to benefits employees cited, such as having more flexibility to accommodate their lives, being more involved in their children’s daily routine, and addressing caregiving responsibilities. 

Prepare for the Future of Work

The above findings are just a glimpse at the reasons why remote, hybrid, and distributed models present a competitive advantage for companies—but there are several challenges that leaders should prepare to overcome. 

The full report provides advice on addressing some of the concerns workers raised in the research, including:

  • Essential skills for managers of a distributed team
  • Strategies to build and maintain trust in remote and hybrid settings
  • Technology recommendations to power an effective and secure distributed team

Download the full Frameable Remote/Hybrid/Distributed Work Index today.

Download the full Frameable Remote/Hybrid/Distributed Work Index report

Download now
Categories
Future of work Hybrid work

The Remotely Possible™ Podcast: Insights from Aaron Mackey on Powering Remote Connection

Although business leaders may view remote or hybrid workplace tools as an added expense, the reality is that many teams already worked across locations well before the pandemic—and distributed arrangements have allowed companies to make full use of their technology investments. 

In the sixth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Aaron Mackey, VP and Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at Sonata Therapeutics, to discuss how hybrid collaboration tools enable his data-driven startup to thrive. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including how to balance the need for in-person collaboration with remote flexibility.

Introducing Aaron and His Hybrid Startup Team

Sonata Therapeutics is an early-stage startup with approximately 60 employees. Most of its scientific staff work from its laboratory office space in Watertown, MA, and Aaron’s data team consists of 8 people (and growing!).  

Implementing a hybrid model was an easy transition for Aaron’s team, enabling them to focus on in-person connection when they go into the office.

“Because so much of our work is cloud-based now, that former necessity of being on-prem so you could go over and push the power button on the server to reboot the darn thing; those days are over. And it’s really freed us,” Aaron said. “You can be on-prem because you have a sort of human-human interface relationship to manage. But if it’s spent managing code and data and infrastructure, well, that’s all off in the cloud anyway. So you can really do that from just about anywhere.” 

Hybrid Models Maximize The Value of Workplace Tech Investments

Aaron reflects that his team has always been distributed, even before the pandemic, given that teams and clients across locations would collaborate regularly. 

“It wasn’t distributed in the sense that people were working from home; it was working for different corporations that had offices in Boston and Princeton and San Diego,” he said. “Everyone was in an office, but we were still having meetings that involved remote connectivity. There was still collaboration that required conference calls and shared resources.”

Because companies already invested in video conferencing tools and remote collaboration solutions, Aaron feels the pandemic helped them gain the most value from those investments. 

“The transition in COVID was not very hard for us, and it [allowed us to] make use of a lot of the investments that companies have made in that teleconferencing equipment and to continue to have those investments pay off in terms of employee productivity and well-being and overall job satisfaction,” Aaron said. 

Having the right tools alone isn’t enough, however. Establish clear communication guidelines and explain to hybrid workers how to use each tool effectively. The process requires flexibility based on individual preferences to ensure everyone feels supported in this hybrid work arrangement. 

“Whether it’s email or a chat, everyone has their preferred modes and their boundaries of how important or relevant it is,” Aaron explained. “Every team and every organization has to navigate to what extent does chat become almost a distraction versus email becomes the sort of wasteland.” 

Managers should allow team members to engage and interact in spontaneous ways and discuss matters that aren’t work-related.

“When you’re remote, and you don’t have the spontaneous face time that happens—the watercooler/coffee-cart interactions—you have to more actively manage those face-to-face relationships,” Aaron said. “Sometimes they’re going to be scheduled. Sometimes they’re the weekly team meeting or the daily stand-up. But you also have to carve out room and intention to have more spontaneous chats.” 

Aaron shares three things that hybrid teams need to thrive:

“You need tools, you need people who know how to use the tools, and then you need a process that people understand how to follow and that the tool actually supports.”

For more of Aaron’s insights into leading an effective hybrid team culture and his tips for interviewing candidates for hybrid or remote positions, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 6. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

Listen to Remotely Possible wherever you get your podcasts

Listen now
Categories
Hybrid work remote work

Making a Positive First Impression that Brings Out Your Brand’s Best, Virtually

New employees’ initial experiences can forever shape their opinion of your company and significantly impact their job satisfaction and performance. This is especially true for remote workers, whose success relies entirely on virtual interactions and engagement.

Building an engaging onboarding experience for a remote or hybrid team is understandably challenging. Workplace leaders face unique hurdles when onboarding remote employees compared to in-person onboarding: It can be easier to build relationships and create a welcoming environment in a physical office, and remote workers often face technical hurdles and social barriers like a lack of context cues or feelings of isolation.

To help you overcome these common remote onboarding challenges and set a positive first impression for all employees, let’s explore five proven strategies to drive engagement and set everyone off on the right foot.

5 Strategies For Setting a Positive First Impression With Remote Workers

A positive first impression can help you foster a sense of belonging with your new hires, build their trust, and ensure a smooth integration into the team. There are many ways that you can approach this, and we’ve found the following strategies to be particularly effective in remote and hybrid teams:

  • Provide Preboarding Information: New hires will likely feel anxious before starting their job, primarily because they don’t know what to expect. You can begin to alleviate this anxiety by sending them preboarding information explaining their role, how they can access your company on Day 1, and what to expect during their first week.
  • Set Clear Expectations: It can be disorienting for new hires to get started, especially if they need clarification on their responsibilities and goals. During the first week, present a clear overview of the new hire’s responsibilities, including their role, responsibilities, and reporting structure. Set specific goals for the new hire to accomplish within the first week, and align these goals with your onboarding process.
  • Give Resources and Support: Provide your new hires with training materials, access to relevant workplace software or tools, and dedicated support channels so they can do their jobs effectively. This support system will be beneficial as they first navigate your virtual workspace and encounter the inevitable challenges they’ll face when getting comfortable in their role.
  • Schedule Virtual Introductions: During the new hire’s first week, schedule them to meet 1:1 with their manager, direct teammates, and mentor, as well as group meetings with the teams they’ll be working with. Encourage everyone to discuss their roles and responsibilities at the company and explain how they’ll collaborate with the new hire. It can be helpful to include icebreaker activities during any group meetings to help new employees learn more about their colleagues and encourage future conversation. 
  • Take Them on a Virtual Tour: If your company is hybrid with a physical office, you can give a virtual tour for remote workers during their onboarding process. You can conduct a live tour with video conferencing tools or share pre-recorded videos highlighting key office areas. If your company is fully remote, walk your new hire through the virtual workspace and explain how they can find and connect with their colleagues. 

Virtual Onboarding Is Essential For The Future of Work 

Despite lacking an in-person element, a remote onboarding experience can still create a great first impression. Reimagine your new hire’s experience in a virtual workspace to ensure you answer their questions, connect them with their teammates, and explain how they can thrive in their new role.

Be sure to provide a clear schedule for the hire’s new week and check in frequently to see how they are doing. There are many considerations for crafting an engaging virtual onboarding experience, and we’re here to help. Download our virtual onboarding ebook for a complete guide on everything you need to know, including a checklist of opportunities to build meaningful connections in virtual offices and tips for more effective virtual training. 

Set your new hires up for success with our latest e-book

Download now
Categories
Future of work Hybrid work online meetings remote work

Distributed Work Isn’t Anything New, But Its Tools Have Evolved Significantly

This article originally appeared on Fast Company.

Distributed work arrangements are far from new territory; large companies have enabled their teams to work across offices or service clients around the globe for decades. 

The difference now is that companies of all sizes can unlock the benefits of a remote or hybrid workforce. And we have more proof than ever that distributed teams can be just as productive as (and even happier than) office-bound workers—if given the support they need

Workplace tools are a vital component of enabling effective hybrid or remote work. Our tools have evolved significantly over the past decades, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how they will advance further to address our modern workforce needs. 

Let’s look back at where we’ve come from with workplace tech and examine what’s needed to enable our hybrid or remote teams to thrive in the future.

A Brief History of Workplace Technologies

Sparing an exhaustive review of how workplace technology has changed over time, a few landmark technological breakthroughs have helped us get where we are today. 

It may come as a surprise, but the foundations of remote workplace tools were laid decades ago (primarily in the 1970s and 1980s). In my early career as a trader at the American Stock Exchange and later as President and CFO of Shutterstock, all we needed was a phone, computer, and email to collaborate across the country. 

The following innovations in particular have been monumental in enabling us to conduct work from anywhere:

  • Telephone: Telephone systems have existed for more than a century. They became common for business use in the 1920s and got a significant lift in the 1970s with features like voicemail and call forwarding.
  • Email: The first email was sent in 1971, and in the 1980s, IBM integrated email into its office automation suite, PROFs. 
  • Home and personal computers: Personal computers became available in 1977 and quickly spread as they got smaller (the first laptop came out in 1981) and more affordable. That award-winning Apple 1984 commercial helped, too.
  • Fax machines: In the 1980s, the fax machine enabled us to send documents without relying on the postal service. Eventually, email would allow attachments, limiting the need for fax machines.
  • In-app messaging: Chat rooms existed as far back as the 1980s. AOL Instant Messenger became popular for business and personal use in 1997 (and lasted until December 2017). Now, messaging features are commonplace in our collaboration tools.
  • BlackBerry: The BlackBerry launched in 1997 and was one of the first personal devices that combined phone, email, and web access capabilities. Smartphones are now ubiquitous (and most knowledge work can even be completed with a smartphone).
  • Workplace technology suites: Microsoft Office 97 was an early workplace technology suite that introduced Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Today’s businesses frequently purchase technology packages or suites that give them everything they need (usually at a discounted price for their loyalty).
  • Video conferencing: People recognize Skype for revolutionizing video conferencing and making international communication seamless with its launch in 2003. Today, there are dozens of video conferencing tools available.

Each of the above tools still exists today, albeit with significantly different looks and expanded capabilities. And each of them has been critical in allowing teams to collaborate worldwide.

As we look forward to the future of work, we can expect these tools to come together in even more impressive ways to drive fully integrated and intuitive workplace experiences.

The Next Technological Revolution: Digital Workplaces

Virtual workspaces and enterprise collaboration tools are essential for the next phase of workplace transformation. In a hybrid and remote world, the virtual experience should be a priority, and digital or virtual workspaces can serve as a supercharged version of our physical offices. These should combine our tried-and-true technologies to connect employees with everything they need, from crucial files and information to avenues for collaboration and tools that enable their day-to-day work.

Forrester asserts that personalization is a digital workplace requirement, meaning that employees should have individualized workspaces with customizable interfaces that deliver content, apps, and notifications in targeted ways. Company leaders should actively listen to their employees and explore innovative solutions to improve their digital experience and help them engage with colleagues around the world.

IMPROVING YOUR TEAM’S DIGITAL EXPERIENCE

As a fully remote company, we’ve understood the importance of creating a positive digital employee experience from the start. We give each of our employees the ability to personalize and optimize their digital workspace, starting with:

  • The choice of a PC or Mac computer, a second monitor if they want one, and any peripherals that will improve their daily work experience
  • Excellent whiteboard software we’ve developed where colleagues can collaborate with each other over time, asynchronously, or in real-time
  • A meeting culture that encourages live voice and screen sharing, saving being on camera for when it makes the most impact instead of an every-meeting expectation
  • Regular requests for feedback (direct and anonymous) with an expectation people share what is and isn’t working for them

If you are looking for some easy wins to improve your employee digital experience, I suggest you start with a stipend for upgrading employees’ home offices, including updating equipment and furnishings. 

Of course, workplace tools can only get you so far. Teams should also develop a digital skills roadmap that guides their technology strategy and helps employees stay resilient as tech stacks change. Investing in team offsites that allow distributed team members to get to know each other can also go a long way to improve hybrid workplace environments.

By combining modern workplace tools with human-focused policies that help employees overcome the natural hurdles of distributed work, companies can reach heights they never could have imagined. 

Explore how you can evolve your digital office experience

Explore Frameable

Categories
Hybrid work remote work

The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Zach Rattner on Empowering Global Remote Teams

There are undeniable advantages of working with a global team that can keep your company running at all hours. But juggling time zones can quickly become a headache—or a significant source of burnout—without a flexible plan.

In the fourth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Zach Rattner, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer at Yembo, to discuss how his global team keeps projects moving seamlessly without forcing a structure that frustrates them. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including how he builds connections with his remote team and the importance of asking for feedback.  

Introducing Zach and His Fully Remote Team

Yembo is a computer vision company providing estimation services for home services brands (primarily moving and property insurance companies). Its team of approximately 70 people is fully remote, spanning India, the Philippines, Ukraine, and the U.S. 

“If we’re starting a new product, it’s always an inconvenient time for somebody. We’ve had to put together processes and workflows so that people are able to be productive and make meaningful progress when it’s not business hours somewhere else,” Zach said. “I feel like the benefits way outweigh the cons and that you can make 24-hour progress without burning anybody out because everyone’s working an eight-hour day.”

Zach and his team have developed a strategy that empowers each department to decide how they work, focusing on flexibility.

“You should strive for harmony, not homogeneity. Things don’t have to be identical across different teams, but everyone needs to get along,” he said. “One-size-fits-all solutions compromise something in a way that leave things to be desired. Letting each department head figure out what their team needs to do has been a bit more impactful for us. [We’re] able to be flexible and nimble and adapting to the needs of folks on the team, as opposed to trying to impose a top-down organizational structure that makes nobody happy at the end of the day.” 

How To Build Connections And Stay Efficient When Working Remotely

Savvy remote work leaders understand that teams must come together occasionally for some work or at least to get to know each other. And there needs to be a budget for this.

“Shared experiences are what drive a team to gel. If you are remote and not careful about this, you don’t have shared experiences; everybody is a Slack interruption in your day, a little red blip that can show up in the corner,” Zach said. “We aim to go out of our way to make opportunities so that people can get to know each other, get to know each other’s strengths.”

Yembo hosts an annual company retreat, YemboCon, and quarterly executive offsites. If teams are facing a particular problem that’s easier to solve in-person, there is a process to request an offsite. The key, however, is that Zach prioritizes free time during all company offsites.

“The unstructured time is actually super productive,” he said. “You have a unique opportunity when you’re a remote company and you bring everyone together, so I’ve been focusing less on trying to pack the schedule with all these productive outcomes—work meetings and things like that. Leaving enough room in the schedule so people don’t feel overwhelmed. And not just making that OK, but encouraged.”

During day-to-day operations, Zach’s leadership team prioritizes clear communication across teams, ensuring everyone understands what they need to do when they first sign on for the day. Part of this involves using the right tools to assign work and communicate updates, and Zach shares his tech stack in the recording. 

“If someone’s on vacation, they shouldn’t have to go read 100 messages and scroll back to figure out what went on,” he said. “The end result should be somewhere that they can pick it up.” 

At the end of project planning meetings, to foster an environment of continuous improvement, Zach surveys his team to understand if they gained value from the meeting, asking:

  • Did you get what you needed out of it? 
  • Was it helpful? 
  • What would we have done better?

For more of Zach’s insights into running an effective remote team, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 4. You can also read his book Grow Up Fast: Lessons From An AI Startup to learn more about the challenges his team has overcome.


Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

Remotely Possible is now available on all platforms

Listen now
Categories
Hybrid work remote work

4 Quick and Free Games to Play with Your Virtual Team in Microsoft Teams

Whether you’re part of a fully remote organization or joining calls with clients across the country, you’re bound to find yourself joining a video call and needing to fill a few minutes while everyone logs on. While Mondays are great for asking folks about their weekends and catching up on the usual small talk, by the time Wednesday rolls around you might find yourself searching for new ways to make the most of the first five minutes of meeting time before digging into your agenda.

We’ve curated this round-up of the best free, work-friendly games you can install today to Microsoft Teams or other video applications so you can banish those awkward silences and start hosting the virtual meetings everyone is excited to attend. 

Install these before your next virtual meeting

Frameable Anagrams

If you and your team have been fans of Wordle, you’re sure to love this new game that teammates can play solo or during a meeting. Unscramble letters to make words from 3-6 letters long. Playing Anagrams is a great way to collaborate with your team to solve a quick and new puzzle every day. 

Race to complete puzzles with your colleagues in a meeting or play by yourself as a quick brain break throughout the day from the Anagrams app in the Teams sidebar.

Kahoot Trivia

For the days when you have a few more minutes or want to break out into teams to build connections, a round of Kahoot trivia is a great way to get everyone’s attention and start your next meeting off on a positive note. 

Install the Kahoot add-in to connect your existing Kahoot account and access trivia games without having to leave Teams. Kahoot is great for quick, fun trivia questions everyone can take part in, engaging breaks during long meetings, or checkpoints during learning sessions to be sure your lessons are effective. 

Microsoft’s Games for Work

Last fall, Microsoft released its Games for Work application to provide users with classic games like Microsoft Solitaire, Microsoft IceBreakers, Microsoft Minesweeper, and Microsoft Wordament in their in-call experience.

Microsoft’s native games application is a great option for large meetings, with options for up to 250 players at once so you can engage and excite even your biggest gatherings or break the ice in smaller groups and kick-off calls with a quick, fun game. 

Polly for Quizzes

Polly is an excellent addition to meetings as you can develop quiz questions based on your upcoming meeting topics, your organization’s history, pop culture or current events, and plenty more. Many organizations will have already approved and installed Polly, so playing it should be a breeze.

You can also start with polls to kick off meetings: ask your team what drink they’re currently enjoying, what they’ll have for lunch, brain teasers, and more. 

Create moments for connection and celebration

While it is common to simply think that connection with remote colleagues, clients, or teammates will come with time, it’s important to create space for these small, fun moments to happen as they are crucial for building a sense of connection with your team. These interactions help foster trust between coworkers and help to remind us that we are working with real people with real emotions who want to celebrate big and little wins alike. Although every meeting is different, I’m sure most of us wouldn’t mind an extra dash of fun here and there.

Add Anagrams to Microsoft Teams and explore all that Frameable has to offer with our full suite of productivity enhancements.

Learn more and install Anagrams for Microsoft Teams

Explore Anagrams

Categories
Future of work Hybrid work remote work

Why a Virtual Workspace is Essential for Productivity, Whether You Work in the Office or Not

This article originally appeared on Fast Company.

We’re no longer debating whether hybrid work is the future of work. The question now is if leaders should prioritize the in-person experience or the virtual experience to optimize their distributed workplace strategy.

It’s understandable why many executives want to focus on their company’s in-person experience. Shared office spaces carry a perceived sense of normalcy that many have missed, and it is seemingly easier to brush the dust off our old playbooks for designing in-person workplace cultures than it is to tackle the challenges of distributed workspaces. But to achieve the full benefits of hybrid and distributed workforces, and enable all employees to be productive and fulfilled, the virtual experience must be the priority—even if your company primarily engages in person. 

The Enterprise has Been Distributed for Decades

With all the talk about hybrid work and remote work, many people have lost sight of the fact that traditional office environments were often also distributed. We just weren’t as aware of the ways in which the friction between people who sat together and those who worked in distant offices detracted from their experience. 

It has always been rare for an entire company to work from a single building in one location. Large companies had offices globally, or a few regional offices around the country. Over time, team skills and information inevitably became siloed. In the worst cases, company tools and resources were restricted to the corporate headquarters, leaving everyone else—including freelancers and consultants—to fend for themselves. Not a great recipe for a productive and engaged workforce. 

A shared virtual workspace can remove these barriers and empower everyone with the same tools and resources. Now that the future of work is here, we have the opportunity and means to fulfill this potential. 

How a Virtual Workspace Empowers Teams

A dedicated online workspace allows everyone to work together more effectively, regardless of where they are located. To get work done, employees can access the same information, resources, and people through a purpose-built virtual workspace instead of needing to work from a specific office location.  

There are several reasons why it’s smart to align your company around a virtual workspace: 

1. Workplace Inclusivity

More voices can be heard, and people can more easily engage when online collaboration is the standard for your company. Asynchronous communication channels and modern video conferencing solutions give people opportunities to connect and share their feedback. Contrast that with sitting in a conference room, where they may be spoken over or ignored, or putting colleagues in distant offices on speakerphone. Furthermore, people can more easily balance their work and personal priorities when they can access a reliable virtual workplace from anywhere.

2. Analytics

Unlike in in-person environments, everything you do in a virtual setting can be utilized and shared to improve your company culture. For example, you can use a virtual meeting tool that analyzes how much each attendee talks. This data can help you notice if specific people dominate meetings or talk over their peers. 

3. Knowledge Retention

The most effective teams rely on shared templates and central resource hubs that streamline their work. Building your virtual workspace to have rich information libraries means employees have a go-to place to overcome their challenges—instead of asking around the organization and across offices to get the information they need. The key is to train them to navigate your virtual workspace and access these resources effectively.

4. AI Capabilities

When everyone operates from a digital-first mindset, you’ll get the most value from your software—especially AI-powered tools. When you have a bot attend your meeting to take notes, for example, it can automatically transcribe your conversation and analyze that meeting content to generate to-do lists for your team. 

Futureproof Your Organization With the Right Virtual Tooling

Providing an optimal in-person working environment requires your team to first focus on the remote experience. By using the right tools—and training your team to use them effectively to boost productivity and increase knowledge sharing—your team will be more productive and connected with your culture regardless of how they choose to work.

Keep your organization future-proof with top-of-the-line collaboration tools

Explore Frameable
Categories
Hybrid work online meetings productivity remote work

6 Tips for More Effective Virtual Training

Virtual training has become essential in the new age of work, and it comes with benefits!

Virtual training sessions are less costly than renting out a venue and catering a meal for hundreds of trainees, meaning you can allocate that budget elsewhere. And because you can record a virtual training session, you can repurpose its content to provide lasting value. Further, people with accessibility needs can join virtual training sessions more easily from wherever works best for them.

Given this incredible potential, companies should ditch their old new-hire process and build a modern training strategy to reflect the needs of remote and hybrid work. 

How To Host Successful Virtual Training Sessions

Effective virtual training offers many of the same elements of in-person training—small group exercises, Q&A, and hand-outs—while using the digital environment to its fullest potential.

As you restructure your new hire training, consider these best practices for hosting virtual training sessions:

  • Include Breaks Between Training Sessions: Employees need a mental break between training sessions. Breaks also allow them to grab a snack or use the restroom. Ideally, you should provide at least one 5-10 minute break per hour to achieve optimal retention.
  • Provide Engaging Content: Trainees are most focused when given visually engaging presentations and opportunities to interact with the training content. When creating your training slides, include brief details on slides and use bullet points when possible. Further, you should continually outline the processes you are working through and create opportunities for new hires to analyze and think critically about what they are learning. 
  • Recap Material Twice Daily: At the end of a training day, summarize key points and ask team members what concepts stood out. Host a similar conversation the following day and ask if there are questions that trainees may not have realized they had when you initially covered the material. 
  • Vary Your Training Structure: Your training content should be as easily accessible as possible, whether it’s a presentation, video, or hands-on project. Experiment with each training structure and switch up your style across training sessions to keep the content engaging.
  • Ask Employees How They Like to Learn: Employees have different learning styles and may prefer to consume your training content in specific ways. Ask employees about their training experience and how they prefer to learn. Consider catering your training to individual needs and creating resources that repurpose the content for different formats.
  • Create Spaces to Connect: Whenever possible, enable trainees to collaborate during the training. Onboarding is a valuable opportunity for them to get to know each other and build a meaningful connection. 

Virtual Training Is Essential For A Fulfilling Employee Onboarding

Regularly seek feedback about your company’s training and ask employees how you can improve their training experience. By experimenting with different training structures and repurposing your content for new formats, you can appeal to the range of different learning styles within your company.

One of the most common times you train employees is during their new employee onboarding, which can make or break your new hire’s future with your company. Don’t worry: we’re here to help. Download our virtual onboarding ebook for a complete walkthrough of how to deliver a fulfilling virtual onboarding experience, including how to develop a virtual onboarding plan and strategies for engaging new hires. 

Upgrade your virtual trainings with multiple screen share

Explore MulitShare

Learn more about Overview and MultiShare for Microsoft Teams
Learn more