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Future of work online meetings productivity remote work

7 Whiteboard Templates for Reimagined Collaboration and Improved Processes

Processes, workflows, and team goals are constantly evolving regardless of the size of your organization, and collaboration tools are essential for documenting and maintaining all of them. Among these tools, online whiteboard applications are indispensable for teams to brainstorm, plan, and track projects visually and collaboratively. To maximize the benefits of these tools, using the right templates can transform how your team works together. We’ve gathered seven of our most popular templates that you can use today to reimagine and reinvigorate any of your collaborative workflows.

7 Different Templates to Try

  1. Organizational Chart

While internal HR systems make it easy for team members to see who their leaders or direct reports are, they often take time to update and are often not as flexible as we’d like them to be. A standard org chart is useful, but a dynamic chart showing relationships between your team and other teams, departments, or external partners can better illustrate your workflows.

  1. Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping is essential for marketing teams as well as sales and product teams. -Mapping the entire customer life cycle helps your team understand your customers, their goals, and their experience with your product. Building a clear customer journey helps to surface potential gaps in both the market and the product that your team can work to fill in your industry.

  1. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis

SWOT analysis helps teams of all sizes and calibers make informed decisions and prioritize the next steps for improving the outcomes of any organization. By regularly identifying and leveraging their strengths, teams can achieve their goals more efficiently and boost morale, often leading to higher productivity. Recognizing weaknesses, spotting opportunities, and identifying threats help teams improve, innovate, and manage risks to stay competitive and forward-thinking. 

  1. User Story Map

While marketing, sales, and support teams will need to utilize the broader Customer Journey template mentioned above, engineering, product development, and quality assurance teams will find benefits in the User Story map. This helps teams visualize the end user’s journey within your product, ensuring a clear understanding of user needs and goals. Organizing and prioritizing user stories streamlines product development, ensuring efficient and focused progress. Additionally, user story mapping aids in identifying gaps and dependencies in various product workflows, so you can ensure a high-quality product is delivered. This approach can further enhance collaboration among team members, promote a user-centric development process, and ensure that the final product aligns with your users’ expectations. 

  1. Process Mapping

Process mapping offers significant benefits to your organization. It helps teams visualize workflows and understand the sequence of activities involved in a process. Documenting frequently repeated processes enables your team to work more independently, reducing the need for assistance Outlined processes also make it easier for leaders to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks, enabling teams to streamline operations and improve their productivity. Clearly outlining processes promotes better communication and collaboration for cross-functional teams, makes aligning team members on process steps and objectives easier, and standardizes procedures for consistency and quality.

  1. Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a tried and true approach to task prioritization. It helps prioritize tasks by categorizing them based on urgency and importance, ensuring that high-priority tasks receive the most attention. Doing so improves time management and helps reduce the stress in decision-making, as individuals can focus on what truly matters without being overwhelmed by less critical tasks. This approach increases productivity by helping people work more efficiently and effectively. Additionally, it ensures that focus remains on high-impact activities that contribute significantly to personal and organizational goals, ultimately leading to better outcomes and success.

  1. Kanban Framework

The Kanban method brings several great benefits to the table for task management and tracking. It uses a simple board system to visualize tasks, so teams can easily see what’s being worked on and spot any bottlenecks. By setting limits on how much work is in progress, the Kanban system helps keep your team’s workload balanced and aids in reducing inefficiencies. Use this board to help improve teamwork and communication since everyone can track progress and stay on the same page. Plus, Kanban encourages regular reviews and tweaks to processes, leading to better productivity and a smoother workflow overall.

Customizing Templates in Whiteboard

While there are many more professionally designed templates available for your team to use in Whiteboard,- you can also easily create and save your own templates to meet all of your collaboration needs.

When you’re ready to get more from your whiteboard, get started for free with Frameable Whiteboard.

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Hybrid work remote work Virtual Training

5 Essential Tools You Need For Effective Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Online learning isn’t just an alternative option to face-to-face training—it’s become the backbone of employee training and development. With remote, hybrid, and distributed work models cemented into many organizations, there is an increasing demand for powerful virtual training tools that can provide just as high of a return on your investment as in-person training. Dive into this exploration of five essential tools that promise to transform your Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) sessions, maximizing engagement, productivity, and impact.

1. Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards are indispensable for VILT, enabling instructors to present ideas and concepts visually and interactively. Tools like Miro or Whiteboard by Frameable allow participants to contribute in real-time, fostering a collaborative space where ideas can flourish and group thinking can affect productive learning. Whether mapping out timelines, drawing diagrams, or brainstorming with sticky notes, these whiteboards make virtual training sessions more tactile and engaging, helping participants feel connected despite the physical distance.

2. Polling and Quiz Tools

To keep participants active and engaged, incorporating interactive elements like polls and quizzes is an easy and quick solution to shake up any lesson. Tools like Kahoot! and Poll Everywhere facilitate real-time interaction, providing instant feedback to trainers and learners alike. These tools are fantastic for breaking up longer sessions, assessing knowledge retention, and encouraging participation, making learning both interactive and effective.

3. Digital Breakout Rooms

Platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams all offer digital breakout rooms, a crucial feature for successful VILT. These rooms allow participants to work in smaller groups on exercises or discussions, allowing training to function as it does in a classroom setting. Breakout rooms are perfect for small group discussions, working sessions, and teamwork exercises, helping to break the monotony of longer training sessions and ensuring that every participant can contribute meaningfully. For the most effective breakout sessions, try Overview by Frameable, which offers a single view of all concurrent training sessions in real time. It allows trainees to join the right sessions at the right time. It even allows trainers to easily host office hours so that any questions get answered promptly as they come up.

4. Multiple Screen Sharing

If your organization uses Microsoft Teams (and a whopping one million organizations do), you may have noticed the limitation in sharing multiple screens simultaneously during video conferencing. Yet, the ability to share multiple screens simultaneously is essential for effective collaborative training sessions. MultiShare by Frameable allows participants to share multiple screens in a Microsoft Teams call. Multishare is a tool that enables instructors to monitor the learning process effectively. With the capability to view all trainees’ screens simultaneously, instructors can effortlessly track progress and quickly identify areas where trainees may be facing challenges. This real-time oversight allows for immediate intervention and support, ensuring that no one falls behind during the session.

5. Asynchronous Learning Platforms

Not everyone learns at the same pace, and sometimes it’s impossible to coordinate a training time with a dispersed, global team. Having on-demand or recorded training sessions allows trainees to refresh and absorb all of the content at a pace that works best for them. Asynchronous tools such as Loom or Frame.io complement live training sessions by allowing participants to access pre-recorded videos, readings, and exercises at their convenience. These platforms empower trainees to review content at their own pace, which is particularly beneficial for reinforcing learning or accommodating different time zones.

Integration and Implementation:

Implementing new tools often causes a lot of complications and looping in internal technology teams to help with accessing your organization’s infrastructure. It’s essential to both identify the tools that work best for your training sessions and also integrate them with existing systems. To make it easy on trainers and organizations, consider solutions that are already available inside of the tools your organization uses, or explore add-ons that enhance existing functionality. Using familiar tools means your teams won’t have to spend more time getting acquainted with a new system before they can start learning.

The Future of VILT in Microsoft Teams

Virtual instructor-led training doesn’t have to be a second-best alternative to face-to-face interactions. With the right tools, VILT can be just as engaging, interactive, and effective in Microsoft Teams. Ready to transform your virtual training sessions in Microsoft Teams? Discover how Frameable can elevate your VILT experience. Whether you’re looking to foster better visibility, encourage spontaneous collaboration, or simply make your training sessions more engaging, Frameable has you covered for virtual training.

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Categories
Future of work Hybrid work Remotely Possible

The Remotely Possible™ Podcast: Insights from host Adam Riggs on Connecting Hybrid Teams in Fulfilling Ways

In the eighth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, we flipped the script, and I got to put our host, Adam Riggs, Founder and CEO of Frameable, in the hot seat!

In this episode, Adam shares his history working on distributed teams and how those experiences shaped how he’s building Frameable (and its products) to connect hybrid and distributed teams in more fulfilling ways. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including how to make the most of a company’s face-to-face interactions. 

Introducing Adam and His History With Distributed Work

Adam is no stranger to working with colleagues across the country and around the globe:

  • He started his career as a floor trader at the American Stock Exchange, where he regularly worked with a small group of people who weren’t located in the same building as him. 
  • He later worked at Shutterstock, which had a core office in New York and select employees scattered across the U.S. 
  • During his time at the State Department and U.S. Treasury, he regularly worked with colleagues he never met in person.

As he continues to grow Frameable, he aims to create products that enable deeper connections and meaningful collaboration on remote and distributed teams. 

“I started off [distributed work] in the 90s, where my remote collaboration was phone-powered, then email got added,” Adam said. “In this current incarnation, I’m focused on building a richer set of interaction types to power distributed work—everything from mapping software to adaptations of Microsoft Teams so people can have more transparency.”

Building Rich Connections With Hybrid Colleagues

Companies have tackled big challenges without being in the same room together for decades. To do so effectively, however, Adam believes that teams need to set time aside to learn about each other as individuals and how they prefer to work. This includes allowing fully remote teams to spend time together in person, too.

“It’s just a lot harder to do certain types of work if every interaction is scheduled and if you never get to learn about someone—their mannerisms, their preferences, their allergies, [and] about what they’re interested in,” Adam said. “It’s a very natural thing for humans to be able to fold that understanding of someone into the way they interact with them.”

I laughed when he mentioned the allergies, because, hello, that’s me! When I attended the Frameable offsite in Denver, my wheat and shellfish allergy meant I needed special accommodation at our team dinners. And to my delight, at one of the restaurants, the chef kept sending out bespoke plates so I didn’t feel left out. It inspired a number of conversations that wouldn’t have ever occurred online. But we’ll get to in-person relationship-building in a moment.

In many companies, there is a push for everyone to be on-camera all the time as a stand-in for being visible in the office. But forcing employees to always be on camera isn’t a smart way to build relationships. It’s exceptionally draining to be on camera all-day every day. When collaborating in distanced environments, the priority should be on the work asset—not on seeing everyone in the meeting. 

“I was one of the people who strongly preferred video to be on when I was having a remote interaction with someone. Now I have a better understanding of the special type of fatigue that sets in when you’re on video calls all day. It’s not as natural as being with people in person,” Adam reflected. “[For] certain kinds of conversations, someone might ask for cameras on, but, for the most part, we are sharing a screen or two and looking at an asset together (whether it’s a piece of copy or a piece of code or design exploration). It’s [more] important to be looking at that thing together than to be looking at each other.” 

The Frameable team meets in person at least once a year for a company offsite. Adam thinks it’s vital for people to interact outside of a work setting, like taking a cooking class, browsing used books and records, or going on a team hike. Again, the focus is on learning about what makes everyone unique. 

“It really helps deepen your understanding of them as a person,” he said. “We look at the time that we get to spend physically together as partially ‘hey, this is a treat, we get to actually look over each other’s shoulders’ so to speak… But there’s also an opportunity to fill that reservoir with a better understanding of your colleagues so that when your time is finished, you have something to draw on to do better work together.” 

Remote work has enabled companies to become truly inclusive and empower employees in ways that in-person work simply can’t. 

“You have to meet people where they are,” he said. “[When you engage remote talent] you’re not asking them quite as much. You’re not asking them to come in five days a week. You’re acknowledging there’s certain kinds of work that they can do very well from where they are in terms of their personal health, their schedule, [and] their commute.”

As Adam continues evolving Frameable to power the future of work and help companies innovate faster in Microsoft Teams, he focuses on creating solutions that fit naturally into people’s workflows. He encourages other entrepreneurs to focus on small, tangible improvements that build up to their bigger goals. 

“You can inspire people to change how they behave and how they work, but it’s not going to be an all-at-once ‘Eureka!’ moment. You really need to pay attention to their current work habits and their current preferences and try to weave the innovations into something that they already recognize,” he said. “Do more to recognize where people are, at this moment, already. And then try to go there in whatever way you can—whether it’s your team or your customers—because you’re gonna get better results and a better understanding of what your vision is. Your vision can be radical, but how you get there has to be one step at a time.”

For more of Adam’s insights into what technology will power the future of work, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 8. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be Adam’s guest for a future episode.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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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