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Future of work remote work Research

Do You Have the Right Technology and Tools to Support Hybrid and Remote Work?

Thanks to workplace technologies, distributed work arrangements have existed for decades in large enterprises. Given the massive push toward remote and hybrid work in recent years, companies of all sizes can now also benefit from these arrangements.

The Conference Board reports that just 4% of CEOs worldwide will prioritize returning to the office in 2024, reinforcing the demand for flexible work arrangements. The key now is for organizations to sift through an ever-evolving landscape of tools and technologies that each promises to be the cure-all for the potential hurdles of remote and hybrid work.

To understand the current state of hybrid and remote work —and uncover which tools are actually worth the investment —we conducted our inaugural Remote/Hybrid/Distributed Work Index by surveying hundreds of workers in the U.S.

The findings provide clear insights into which technologies are most effective for enabling team engagement and innovation. Let’s dig into a few highlights. 

Technologies that Power Remote Collaboration

Our research reinforced that workers at hybrid and fully remote companies overwhelmingly feel more engaged and innovative compared to working in a full-time office setting.

When we looked at how these employees ranked the most effective workplace tools, there were several clear distinctions between which tools enable engagement and which foster innovation. 

Remote Work Tools for Engaged Employees

Our research found that 39.8% of distributed workers agree, and 26.4% strongly agree, that they are more engaged in a remote and hybrid setting. Only 12.3% disagreed —and those workers may benefit from new or improved tooling.

We asked these engaged employees about the specific tools they think are most effective for powering their distributed workplace. The following are a few of their clear favorites:

  • Workplace management suites: Microsoft Office was the top-ranked tool by engaged employees, with Google Drive following closely. Complementary tools, including Gmail, Microsoft Teams, and Outlook email also ranked highly. These rankings reinforce the need for remote and hybrid teams to access, store, and share documents in a centralized place.
  • Video conferencing tools: Given the need for more personalized collaboration, it’s no surprise that Zoom is a top favorite, followed by Microsoft Teams and Skype. Regardless of which video conferencing tool your team uses, ensure that you create guidelines around its use to reinforce how team members can collaborate effectively. 
  • Workplace messaging tools: Microsoft Teams was our research’s highest-ranked instant messaging and collaboration tool. Slack and Discord, however, ranked as the bottom two tools for engaged workers. These rankings could suggest that companies need to encourage engagement on messaging tools more consciously, or that it’s time to transition away from Slack to Teams
Frameable 2024

Remote Work Tools to Inspire Innovation

As another lens to examine the best workplace tools for remote and hybrid teams, we asked employees whether they feel they are part of a culture of innovation. From the 58.8% of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed, we asked which workplace tools they found to be most effective.

Notably, the tools achieved a more level baseline than when ranked by workers in engaging cultures. Previously low-ranking tools like Slack and Discord appeared much closer to the middle of the pack than before, with a smaller difference between the top- and bottom-ranked tools. 

  • Workplace management suites: Microsoft Office was again the top choice from our research, followed by Google Drive.
  • Video conferencing tools: Zoom was again a top favorite, with Skype following closely. This data reinforces that video conferencing tools are essential in inspiring innovation, which could be amplified by features that support healthy brainstorming and collaboration. 
  • Project management tools: The project management tools in our survey as a category were ranked more favorably by innovative organizations than engaged ones. Smartsheet, one of the lowest-ranked tools by engaged employees, surpassed Monday, Miro, and Wrike in this data splice.
Frameable 2024

Design A Remote-First Workplace

Organizations should prioritize their investments from a remote-first lens to maximize the benefits of any workplace technologies. 

Why? Dedicated online workspaces create a central hub for all company knowledge, regardless of whether employees work in an office part of the time. A well-built virtual workspace can foster workplace inclusivity and knowledge retention while enabling analytics and AI capabilities that empower workplace leaders to measure and optimize their team outputs.

If a workplace is built to prioritize the in-person experience, distributed workers will inevitably lack the resources and tools they need to embed in the company and support its mission effectively.  

Strategies to Empower Hybrid Teams

Workplace technologies are an integral part of an effective distributed team —but they are just one piece of what helps remote and hybrid workers thrive. 

To learn more about overcoming the potential challenges of distributed work and maximizing the opportunities with your remote or hybrid team, download the full Frameable Remote/Hybrid/Distributed Work Index today.

Explore our full Future of Work research report

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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

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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.

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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

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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
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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

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Categories
Future of work remote 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.

Remotely Possible is now available on all platforms

Listen 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

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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.

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Future of work remote work

The Remotely Possible Podcast: Insights from Adam Dole on Thriving As A Distributed Team

When your company has an inspiring mission, it’s understandable that applicants will flock to you—and you don’t want to turn away the best talent because of geography. 

In the third episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with a fellow Adam, Adam Dole, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Bento, to discuss how he built a rock-solid culture with his global, distributed team. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including the advantages of a remote work model and why it’s essential to prioritize human connection, regardless of the remote work tools you use.  

Introducing Adam and His Approach To Remote Work

Adam has aimed to improve the healthcare system throughout his career, building products, services, and businesses that help people live higher-quality lives. After serving in roles at NASA, Method, Inc., and Not Impossible Labs (among several other companies), Adam founded Bento to eliminate hunger and food insecurity in the United States. 

“We started Bento at the beginning of the pandemic when remote was the default,” Adam said. “We didn’t intentionally want to start a team that was going to be remote/distributed, but it was just what had to happen at that time. Fast forward three years, and we’ve got 25 people not only spread across the United States but internationally as well. It’s been a wild ride personally for me to see how good it can be to have a remote distributed team, especially in the ecosystem that we’re operating in now.” 

Adam recognizes that a distributed model has empowered his team to fulfill their mission in ways that in-person work couldn’t. 

“The advantages are numerous across the board,” he said. “First, just being able to attract talent from any location and not being limited to a certain region—or have to have those conversations with a really talented candidate about what it would require to move them… It’s been a crazy, positive competitive advantage for us, just in terms of our effectiveness to work in a distributed way, for a variety of different reasons.”

The Importance of Prioritizing Human Connection On A Remote Team

Building a strong work culture, regardless of your working arrangement, takes a conscious effort. Remote work has forced Adam’s team to be intentional about how they operate in ways that in-person teams can often neglect.

“There can be this expectation that because people are coming to the office, it’s easier to build culture, it’s easier to get on the same page,” Adam said. “But the reality is, it still requires a lot of intention, and a lot of thought and choosing how to do that. And I think it doesn’t always get prioritized when people just make the assumption that because everybody’s coming to the same office, that’s going to happen. Not being in the same space has really forced us to prioritize that as a company… how we’re going to build culture, how we’re going to make sure we’re all on the same page, how we’re going to interact with each other as humans in ways that might not be as obvious when you’re not with each other in the same room.” 

Adam’s team uses a mix of video conferencing and project management tools to complete their work, including a different tool for happy hours than their usual virtual meeting platform. But the tools don’t matter as much as how you frame them, he says. 

“The tools are necessary but not sufficient,” he said. “What has allowed us to get the most out of these tools—but also perform as a company and to be a company that people want to be at, that people get excited to show up to every day—is because the intention of getting to know each other as humans first, and not relying on the tool to do that for us.” 

How does he accomplish this human connection in a remote culture? For starters:

  • Not every meeting is purely transactional. Adam’s team talks about things going on in their personal lives, and they prioritize this opportunity to do so.  
  • They set clear guidelines around how to use each digital communication tool in a healthy and fulfilling way. The goal is that everyone knows each other well enough that they can interpret their tone through messages.
  • At strategic times during the year, his company comes together in person—just like we do at Frameabe at least once a year. It’s an investment that is well worth it. 

For more of Adam’s insights into building a thriving and human-focused culture as a remote team, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 3. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.

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