I’m in college and thinking about entering a family business, it would be interesting. But I think there are other opportunities. Is it a good idea to enter a family business? Or should I get experience from elsewhere? (Male, 20s)
The benefits of entering a family business include that you gain in-depth knowledge from listening to family discussions, it will support your loyalty and responsibility to your parents and elders, and it is a ready-made job, and you are (probably) the only candidate people.
However, assuming you have the skills and experience needed for this position, how much freedom do you have? Do emotional bonds constrain you when you make difficult but necessary decisions?
When you consider where to go after college, you will want to conduct due diligence on any potential employer, no matter how much you already know about the employer. As a caveat, family businesses are not always the most secure organization. In a 2012 article by Harvard Business Review, George Stalk Jr and Henry Foley noted that 70% of family businesses took over in the second generation It has been closed or sold before. Only 10% of family businesses are still active in the hands of third-generation operators.
If you decide to join a family business, you need to make sure that you can separate work from other activities, that is, treat it as a business, communicate clearly, preferably in writing, and that you need to be outside the family business Discover mentors.
The skills needed for your job and the appeal of the job depend on what type of family business it is. For example, street corner stores, farms, or large multinational family businesses such as BMW, Samsung or Walmart will have very different challenges and responsibilities. And, fundamentally, are you interested in the products or services of the family business?
You do have a choice, both in the past and the present, which is better than some others. If you were born in the royal family, you will have little choice unless you choose to abdicate publicly.
In college, you still have the desire to learn. If you don’t join a family business now, but continue to upgrade your skills and gain experience, you will have more choices in the long run, no matter what you choose to do.
You can work for another organization for 10 years before entering the family business. Maybe you can get further related qualifications, such as MBA.
So for yourself and the boss who provided you with this job, the final answer is: “Yes, someday in the future.”
Check the company’s accounts to see if this company is profitable. Do you think you can add value to it? ——Steve
Do something else first. There is nothing better than starting a career working for someone who doesn’t feel obligated to feed you. You will have to do things you don’t want to do, and you will meet people who treat you rudely. All of this is part of life education. When you prove your ability elsewhere, you can still join the family business. By that time, you will be a professional, not a child eligible for inheritance. Your life will be better for it. ——Stefan17
When you join a family business, you want to make sure that your relatives have higher expectations of you than their average employees. You don’t want to be seen as a lazy person on a ride. —- ITU
If someone expects you to run a mature business at the age of 21, they are all lunatics and you should avoid them. If this family business is big enough to give you different experiences in different fields, then go for it.
Leaders and managers have a lot of exciting reading next year
I am constantly amazed by the number of leaders and managers who say they are so busy reading. Leaders who do not have time to read are leaders who do not have time to learn.
One typical complaint: “There are a lot of books, and most of them are not worth my time!” To take this excuse off the list, I spent part of my vacation looking for leaders and newcomers.
To start this decade, here are my top picks for books that have the potential to have a lasting impact on your thoughts and actions. The main topics: problem solving, relationships, work and life rhythms, identity, and happiness. *
Think like a rocket scientist by Ozan Farol (14 April)
A rocket scientist turned law professor makes his amazing first appearance. It is an engaging reading full of practical insights to think differently from problems. Houston, this book has solutions.
What is your problem? By Thomas Wiedel Fedsburg (March 17)
Structure is not an enemy to solve problems; it is actually a resource. The innovation expert provides a framework that will not only help you generate more creative ideas and make smarter decisions – it will teach you to see those around you.
Sourced by Dan Heath (March 3)
Now that you have the best problem solving remedy, it is time to know how to prevent it from occurring in the first place. The co-author of my favorite book on Change, Switch, has a real gift to finding captivating stories, using them to illustrate compelling evidence, and weave them into useful patterns.
Clearer, closer, better than Emily Balsitis (Feb 25)
This amazing book, from a New York University psychologist who studies vision and perception, is full of bright ideas and exciting studies. It may change how you see what you see.
Together from Vivek Murthy (April 28)
As the US Surgeon General appointed by President Obama, one of VIVIC’s major contributions has been to draw attention to the unitary epidemic that is undermining mental health and social well-being. His long-awaited book examines the causes of loneliness and how we can overcome it by building community and communication.
Friendship by Lydia Dunnorth (Jan 28)
Friendships exist across cultures, centuries, and even species. A popular science journalist explains why the links we make up are just not fun – they’re vital.
Social Chemistry Marisa King (June)
When it comes to personal and professional networks, quantity and quality are underestimated. Yale University’s leading sociologist outlines three different approaches to improving the quality of your communications – expansion, brokerage, and advocacy – and reveals how you can define and adapt your style.
All you have to do is ask by Wayne Baker (Jan 14)
Baker taught me one of the most important lessons from my career: The biggest obstacle to generosity is not the unwillingness of others to provide it, but we are afraid to ask it. As a University of Michigan sociologist specializing in organizational networks, he demonstrates how we can become more skilled at submitting applications and more comfortable in receiving assistance.
You Do Not Listen To Kate Murphy (Jan 7)
If you love most people, you won’t listen to it as much or like it. No one is better qualified than a talented journalist to show you the right mindset and skills – this book does science and humor.
Work and life rhythms
10 – Tightrope Posted by Nicholas Christoph and Sherrill Wooden (Jan 14)
Pulitzer Prize-winning authors paint a vivid and painful picture of the challenges facing the American countryside. When choosing where Hilly Eligy and strangers stop in their land, they track how public policies have harmed working-class families and reflect on the possibilities of change.
Life in Transition Bruce Feller (May 12)
The changes in our lives are fraught with uncertainty but filled with opportunity. As a journalist who combines his business and story sharing, Feiler provides the tools to rewrite your articles.
A Week 4 Days by Andrew Barnes and Stephanie Jones (Jan 20)
The five-day work week is an arbitrary human invention. A New Zealand entrepreneur knows that in many jobs people can be productive – and more creative – working four days a week. After transforming his company and sparking a global conversation about flexible work, Barnes offers a roadmap to cut business hours by 20% at your workplace.
Do Nothing by Celeste Headley (Mar 10)
A strong case that productivity is not an inherent virtue – if you are not keen, you may become a vice. If you’ve ever felt compelled to work harder, then this book by a longtime radio host and journalist is a clear call to work smarter instead – because sometimes you do more with less work.
Identity and happiness
Strange by Olga Reservoir (April 7)
If you’ve ever felt like a stranger or a weirdo, you’ve had the downside of being a stranger – but there are sudden fluctuations. The Atlantic writer has an impressive track record of shedding light on the mysteries of human psychology, and as a Russian immigrant who grew up in West Texas, she is well aware that the same factors that prevent you from adapting can finally help you stand out.
Totally Confident Without Moore (May 5)
In every decision you make and every goal you set, there are two easy ways to fail: to have a little confidence and to have a lot. As a psychologist in Berkeley, Don Moore spent his career studying how to find the beautiful place, and his book is full of data-driven guidance to make more accurate assessments of your abilities and opportunities.
Joy at Work by Mary Condo and Scott Sonenshein (April 7)
Finding joy at work is not magic – it takes action. But it might seem more like playing thanks to practical advice from a professional organizer and management professor at Rice.
Notes and biography
Have a peach by David Chang (April 21)
The famous chef behind Momofuku and Ugly Delicious prepares honestly and modestly. His relentless pursuit of self-improvement and social contribution will make you hungry to do more in your life.
Myself More by Alicia Keys (Mar 31)
The award-winning musician, actor, producer, entrepreneur and activist opens up about perfection, courage, privacy and identity.
Powershift by Diamond John (March 10)
Shark Tank superstar and FUBU founder share lessons of experience building reputation and relationships.
The Rise of Lindsay Phone (March 24)
In the wake of her retirement, the Olympic champ reflects on an epic career as the most ornate skier in American history.
Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Caen, Dan Pink, and I’m reading some of these books now for consideration for the Next Big Idea Club Winter and Spring Funds Club, a book club that offers discussions with authors in an online community and donates books to schools in resource-poor societies.
I’ve been working on and leading remote teams for two decades, and I’m going to share a bunch of tips that I’ve seen covered rarely or never before. When you know these, you can be more intentional, and thus more successful, on distributed teams.
First, let’s note that not all distributed teams are the same. There are fully remote teams with no shared physical space; partially remote teams where some people work in an office and others work from home; satellite offices where people work in the company’s physical spaces but not in the same ones as their teammates; and various variations on these themes. Many of the tips here apply equally to each of these setups. But some setups — in particular those in which many people are in one office and others are not — require deeper diagnoses and more systemic solutions to really thrive.
In addition, there can be different roles in distributed work. They may include people who manage distributed teams or who manage individuals in another location; individuals who are remote from their team or manager; people at HQ who work with remote folks or people in satellite offices; and company leaders who can set norms. I’ve structured this piece by role, to help give you clarity about how you can have — and help create — the best experience.
If you’re in the office and you have coworkers who are elsewhere
Video is going to be a huge part of how you connect with people outside the office. Don’t leave it to IT alone to set things up. Instead, understand the big social differences that small technical changes can make and lead by example.
#1. Practice “one on video, all on video.”
This is one of the most powerful norms you can set in any situation where some people are colocated (i.e., in an office together) and some are remote. If you do nothing else, adopt this practice alone for huge benefits. In a nutshell: if even one person is joining a meeting via video, everyone else joins via their own camera, too (laptop or phone) — -even if a lot the attendees are in the same room and it has a video camera. The individual video is critically important to allow anyone remote to fully see the others and participate. A camera that shows the whole room inevitably cannot show everyone’s faces adequately, and it often cuts off some people in the room altogether. The people in a room together can share a speaker and mic from one laptop or the room system, if there is one. (When you’re sharing sound, everyone else should mute the speakers and mic on their laptop, or you’ll get echoes and ear-piercing feedback.)
I cannot overstate how big a difference individual video cameras makes for remote participants and meeting quality overall. While this norm requires that everyone schlep their devices to meetings (and that they learn how to reduce distractions from those devices, discussed below), it pays off in better and sometimes shorter meetings, as the remote attendees are able to understand and engage much more quickly and thoroughly. And, happily, it doesn’t lead to any change of connection between the people who are together in person.
#2. Make some meetings video only.
Again, if you have some colocated coworkers and some remote, it’s worth deciding which meetings are better held with everyone joining via individual video, from their own desks (even the people in the office). Contrary to what you might expect, many large meetings that tend to focus on presentations rather than discussions, like company or department all hands, can make for great all-video sessions. Rather than feeling like a one-way broadcast, a meeting where everyone joins via video can feel participatory, letting you see your coworkers’ faces. Plus, a dedicated chat — in the video software or the chat software — can bring additional energy and community vibes to these meetings, along with an easy way to share feedback or ask questions on the fly (designate a moderator or two for bigger groups).
#3. Designate somebody in the room to make sure all the folks on video can see, hear and raise their hands.
Tell the people in Videoland who their designated rep is, and have that person tell everyone the best way to reach them if something goes wrong (e.g., Slack or Zoom chat).
#4. Use meetings to connect with each other, not for status updates.
A short daily video call that you use for things other than status updates can make a huge difference in the cohesion and productivity of a team. You might try a running agenda of questions for the team; information people have discovered; small triumphs; lessons learned. Rotate who runs the meeting. (For status updates, try statusbot in Slack, or keep a running list in Trello, a Google doc, or wherever your team captures stuff.)
#5. Create an agreement about roughly what time you’ll all start and stop messaging and emailing each other.
The research on this is crystal clear: one of the things people most fear and dislike about remote work is that there’s not an obvious end to the day. Without a commute to break things up, or any other boundaries, you can easily work all night, especially if you’re receiving messages around the clock. Solve this with team agreements about the hours you’ll send out things on Slack, email and other communication tools. In other words, create a start and end of the day by drastically reducing or eliminating the incoming messages that everyone gets and by increasing the expectation that that time away from work is valuable. You can set these agreements by team or for the whole company.
For example, when I was CEO at Lean Startup Productions, we agreed that nobody would send anything after 7p on weekdays, in whatever timezone they were in, or on weekends. We made exceptions for the week or two before big events that we produced. We didn’t limit the hours people could work; if somebody liked to work evenings or needed the flexibility to get something done on the weekends, we had the freedom to do that. But our work couldn’t fill up anyone else’s inboxes during off-hours. Even though we spanned time zones, so you’d still get messages before and after your normal work day, you got far fewer of them — and our shared agreement that we wouldn’t see each other online during certain hours was a powerful incentive to stop working and spend time on our lives outside the company.
Software can really help you out here. In your email app, look for an option like “schedule send” or use a tool like Boomerang that will let you schedule messages to go out at a time you choose. Write messages during vampire hours, schedule them to arrive in your coworkers’ inboxes during normal work hours. On Slack or other messaging systems, look for “Do not disturb” settings to turn off notifications after hours. Conversely, when you can see your coworkers have those settings turned on, don’t worry about sending them messages! They won’t see them until they log in.
#6. Make it friendly.
Some teams find it helps them feel more co-present to say hello via chat when they log in each morning and goodbye when they head out each night. Agree on a standard and model it.
#7. Say hello to each other’s families and pets.
There’s a distinct kind of intimacy you get from seeing people regularly in their homes, among their things and beloved people and animals. Take advantage of that by encouraging people to bring their families and pets in front of the camera and to give tours of their homes. This can have the bonus effect of making parenting a more respected part of people’s lives, often a particular challenge for women. (Of course, be sensitive to people who don’t want to bring their families or homes onscreen. It’s comfortable for a lot of people, but not everyone.)
#8. Set up coworking time over video.
Book team time for long blocks (an hour or two) when you’ll all be doing heads down work quietly together. Sounds hokey, works incredibly well.
#9. Make it normal to jump on video to ask quick questions.
If your team is used to asking each other questions casually, agree that if you have something short to discuss, you’ll ping each other and ask for five minutes on video, rather than book calendar time or try to work out complicated things in Slack. (In Slack, use the command /zoom to get an instant Zoom link for anyone in that channel/DM.) Of course, if you discuss something that other people should know, bring it back to a team channel or meeting.
#10. Use software to suggest informal meetings.
Tools like Donut, which integrates with Slack, will automatically suggest coffee dates for coworkers. While colocated team members can go out for coffee, remote coworkers can simply share coffee over video or can jump on a call while you each take a walk in your own locations.
#11. Use standalone chat (like Slack) sometimes and the video system’s built-in chat other times.
When you’re holding a big video meeting, designate where the group will ask questions, share kudos for presenters, share files, etc. While the chat that’s built in to most video systems is usually easier to monitor while you’re onscreen, it may have limitations: people might not be able to see the chat transcript from the minutes before they joined; the transcript may be automatically erased at the end of the meeting; it may not have good emoji support; it may not be well integrated with your file system; it may be hard to find. On the other hand, it can be hard to keep an eye on a second system that probably has all those features, like Slack. Decide which set of benefits and tradeoffs are most important to you and announce early and often in the meeting where attendees should join for chat. In most video systems, you can turn off the chat feature, which is helpful for larger groups that you want to steer to another system. Again, for bigger groups, designate a chat monitor or two.
#12. Use the video mute/unmute button to your advantage.
One the most useful things about video calls for smaller groups- — under about a dozen- — is that if everyone but the speaker sets themselves to mute, you can each unmute when you want to signal that you’d like to talk. In many meetings, this visual cue lends to smoother conversation, where more people can participate without interrupting each other to get attention. (In bigger meetings where it’s hard to see each other unmute, it’s often necessary to use the video system’s hand-raising function or chat feature to signal that somebody wants to chime in.)
#13. Hold team dinners over video.
A couple times a year, book an evening to join each other for dinner (or drinks) over your laptops, from home. Include family members, show each other what you’re eating (you can even all try cooking the same thing), and talk about anything not related to work.
#14. Play an online game together.
At Mailchimp, where I work now, many distributed teams are fond of online Pictionary-like games, like skribbl.io, for occasional bonding.
If you manage individual reports who are somewhere else
#15. Have one or two short video calls per week to talk about anything but work — especially when the relationship is new.
10 minutes is a good amount of time, scheduled.
#16. If you’re not clear what your reports are focusing on, set up a status bot in Slack or use another mechanism that automatically asks people what they’re up to.
It can ask for a sentence once a day, once a week, every other day — you get the idea.
#17. If you’re not clear what your reports are producing, agree on a standard for updates.
That might be a weekly bulleted list, a daily note, or links to work artifacts.
No matter where you are, you can use video better
These tips refer to Zoom as the video software. But most video systems will give you similar options.
#18. Fill your screen with the video display.
You’re in a video meeting, but maybe there’s something interesting happening in Slack! Your brain wants to check! It really wants to check! But your coworkers can tell — -no, really, everyone can tell — -when you’re reading something else. Colocated teams sometimes ban laptops and/or phones for this reason. But distributed teams have to sit in front of screens to see each other. Reduce the temptation to check messages and increase your ability to focus on your meeting by setting your display to fill the screen — ideally the screen with your camera, as noted above. If you need to have a document open for the meeting, try setting the video display and the document side-by-side, and using both to fill the screen. If you don’t want to fill the whole screen with video, you can achieve a similar effect by turning off or hiding all your other software. But I find there’s something extra effective about maximizing the video display.
(Bonus points for turning off distracting notifications from the rest of your software: email, Slack, calendar, etcetera. If you find you’re still distracted by the option to check your messages, lots of people say that taking notes, especially by hand, or doodling on paper during the meeting helps them stay focused. Just remember to look up regularly, especially in smaller meetings, so everyone else can see your lovely face.)
#19. Actively choose Speaker vs Gallery View.
Zoom lets you choose whether the screen is fully filled by the active speaker or whether you see everyone tiled equally in a gallery, like the Brady Bunch opening credits. (In the upper right corner, look for “Speaker View” or “Gallery View.”) If you’re in a 1:1, try speaker mode so that you aren’t distracted by looking at yourself next to your coworker. If you’re in a meeting that’s more than two, choose Gallery mode so that you can see how everyone else is responding to what’s being discussed. People often say that in remote meetings, they lose the ability to read body language; but if you use Gallery mode, you gain the ability to read more faces during the meeting .
#20. Screenshare with care.
In Zoom, when one person is sharing their screen, it blocks everyone from seeing each other readily. Turn on screensharing only when you’re actively using it, and turn it off as soon as the presentation is done or during any mid-game discussion so that everyone can see each other. Alternatively, have everyone following along in the deck or doc you’re presenting, rather than screensharing it.
#21. Split Zoom to see the meeting participants and the screenshare.
If somebody is presenting in Zoom, you can split the screen so that you can see at least some of the people. First , choose Gallery View (in the upper right corner). Next, once somebody has started screensharing, mouse over the right edge of the shared area to get a little bar that you can grab and slide to the left. That lets you reduce the screenshare window and see more people. Or, if you have two monitors, Zoom video settings let you have dual windows open- — one for seeing the other people, and one for seeing the presenter or shared screen.
#22. Look in or at least toward the camera.
A common problem: you have two screens set up, and the thing you’re looking at — the display of other people or the meeting notes or screenshare — -appears on the screen where you don’t have your camera. So what other people see is you looking away from them, or they may be staring up your nose. I hope it’s obvious that this is bad for teamwork. You can solve this problem by intentionally looking at the camera, especially when you’re speaking (this appears to them as if you’re making eye contact, which is desirable!). Or you can find settings that ensure the display you see and your camera are on the same screen. In some cases, you may have to drag the display into the right spot.
#23. Avoid backlighting.
When you’re in front of a window or bright light, your camera will focus on the lighted area, and you’ll appear dim, sometimes to the point of being impossible to see, as if you’re in witness protection. (Click around to see yourself on camera — -in Zoom, Gallery View will show you everyone in the meeting, including yourself — -and gauge whether you need to move.)
#24. Add your full name to the screen name other people see.
Displaying names is especially important if you’re in meetings where the participants don’t all know each other.
#25. Add a photo of yourself to your profile.
Sometimes you’ll need to turn off your camera for bandwidth, or because you’re moving around and don’t want to make everyone else seasick. In those cases, seeing a picture of you can help others feel more connected to you than staring at a blank screen or anonymous avatar.
Four more good ideas
Here are a handful of additional ideas to try to improve the dynamics of your distributed workplace.
#26. Meet in person sometimes!
If you have the budget and coworkers who are able to travel, encourage periodic team meetings in person, and consider an annual company all hands in person. Generative meetings — for planning or other creative work — are particularly good candidates for getting together, especially if you need to spend a full day or more on the topic. With a baseline of in-person interactions, your distributed communications will feel deeper and easier.
#27. Hold an internal conference via video.
To help generate good energy across the organization, book a four- or six-hour internal conference once or twice a year, and do the entire thing over video. Pull together an organizing group with input from different departments. Pick some themes you want to emphasize. Let people who don’t normally get a lot of air time hold lightning talks for everyone and run discussion sessions in breakout video rooms. Designate Slack channels or other spots for chatter throughout the day. I’ve run these at Mailchimp and 18F. They’re a low cost way to have a high impact on company cohesion, and we always get a lot of requests to hold them repeatedly.
#28. Change starts at the bottom and the top.
Many of the tips I’ve described here work best when company leaders are modeling them and the practices are widely adopted. But if you’re not the CEO, you easily start using some of the tips at the team level or even for your 1:1s. Often, grassroots efforts pay off, and when other people see small-scale successes, they start trying the tactics, too.
#29. Change is hard!
I’ll end with a very useful meta-tip. Let’s say you want to try something new to improve your distributed practices — maybe “one on video, all on video” — but your coworkers are resisting the change because they don’t want to carry their laptops to meetings, and they don’t see the benefit of individual video. Change is hard! You can lower the risk that they’ll wind up committing to something they hate, and thus lower their impulse to say no, by asking them to try the new approach for a limited period of time (three weeks, or three months, or whatever makes sense for your situation). You’ll put a date in the calendar for the end of that period, and at that point, you’ll all discuss whether and how the change is working.
At the end of the time period, not only will you have more relevant experiences to draw on, but you’ll also all have a chance to be more intentional about how you’re creating your distributed environment. Ultimately, that’s the key to making any workplace work well — and you’ll gain that advantage almost incidentally.
Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a first-year university student, the topic that’s on everyone’s mind worldwide as we head into Spring of 2020 is the Coronavirus. Governments across the globe are advising people to stay away from large groups, schools are evacuating, and many businesses are opting to have employees work from home (in many cases, for the first time).
We’ve come a long way from the world that was shaken by the Spanish Flu in 1918, so it’s important not to panic while still taking seriously the precautions encouraged by health officials. We need to be safe but must do our best to prevent business (or education) from coming to a grinding halt. We at MyCrypto are sensitive to the fact that not everyone has the luxury of maintaining business as usual without having to venture to their job sites, especially for blue-collar workers in the US. If you think your occupational duties can be met without coming into the office (or whatever location you’re usually required to turn up at) and your boss hasn’t already followed the lead of Twitter, Amazon, Google, and others, it might not hurt to ask them. You might be best served to stress the practicality of this option, as sick people are not going to be as productive or able to perform their job to the best of their abilities, and that hurts the bottom line. If you’re an employer who is reading this, I urge you to seriously weigh your responsibility to ensure the safety of your staff. We’re all humans, after all.
For those of you finding yourself as a work-from-home employee or employer for the first time, MyCrypto wants to share some insights that we’ve learned as a remote team of international contributors.
Timing is Everything
Our company has people in quite a few different countries and we allow everyone to set their own hours as long as the work is getting done. Depending on how dispersed your team is, you might find yourself struggling with varying time zones and schedules. There are lots of websites and apps out there that help align your time zone with others. It’s also helpful to set reminders for yourself to check on things you’re not going to get an answer to for several hours.
Some people thrive in a remote environment. I, for one, hate being interrupted when I’m deeply concentrating on something. I really appreciate being able to finish what I’m doing or finding a natural breaking point every so often to check my messages. If you like to shut out all distractions and hack away at whatever you’re working on, great! But make sure to periodically check in with your team. Set notifications that suit you. Many apps have great tools to help you stay on top of things, so it would behoove you to look into what features might be available for the software your company uses to communicate.
It’s important to know what matters are better hashed out over video conferencing and what can be addressed asynchronously. Don’t hold a meeting for what can be in an email or discussed on a messaging platform.
If too many synchronous calls are held or if they go too long, no one is going to have any time to do their actual work. You may benefit from timeboxing calls and/or designating someone to keep conversations from getting in the weeds. Sometimes issues will need to be worked out between fewer members of the group. In these cases, the smaller groups should “take the conversation offline” so as not to hold the others hostage.
Communication is Key
However, as a remote worker, it’s very important that you maintain adequate communication with your team. If someone asks you a question, answer them. Even if you’re in different time zones and the question was asked hours ago, communication is the key to any relationship. It’s important for people to feel heard. When asynchronous communication breaks down, that’s when you get more meetings taking up your time!
Benefits and Challenges of Working Remotely
I spoke with a few people who have both worked from or attended classes from home as well as in centralized locations, and they have had mixed experiences. Some really love the freedom it allows, while others struggle to maintain productivity. One medical professional in a hospital management position (who wishes to remain anonymous) reflected that they were “more productive because you don’t have everyday foot traffic and distractions when you’re sitting in an office.”
They went on to say they appreciated the web and video conferencing app, and the office management software that allows them to “stay connected to staff without exposing them to danger.”
Even before this most recent outbreak, many medical practices had already turned to online consultations as a way to reach more patients in ways that were more convenient to both parties.
However, one graduate student hasn’t found being separated from their team so easy, and feels that their university’s learning management system (LMS) leaves much to be desired. (This individual also asked to remain anonymous. Hey, privacy is important, people!)
“Coming from someone who has experience with both in-person and online classes, working remotely requires a greater deal of self-discipline than a traditional setting. It caters towards individuals who are intrinsically motivated versus externally motivated.”
While this student appreciated the theoretical ability to work at their own pace, preferring “bursts of energy rather than marathoning,” many of the collaborative classes in their program didn’t allow for this freedom in practice. “Working remotely when being a part of a group is a challenge, to say the least.”
Fortunately for the thousands of college students that are abruptly being evacuated from their dorms and asked not to return from Spring Break (possibly for the rest of the year), most institutions of higher learning already have LMSs in place to facilitate assignments, communication with teachers, digital textbooks, or even quizzes and tests. But, for many, the quality of the system will play a big role in the quality of education they receive.
The student I spoke with lamented, “The majority of my online classes have terribly designed and organized class platforms that impede the synthesizing of information.”
It may be difficult to sway the sprawling bureaucracy of a university or giant corporation to re-evaluate and migrate to a different system, but if you’re at the operations level of a smaller company, it could wind up making all your employees less frustrated and more productive. Last year, MyCrypto migrated its entire project management system to a new tool. It was a freaking headache, but I’m so glad we did!
I’d like to point out one final benefit of having a decentralized team (because those of us in the blockchain space can’t go more than 20 minutes without mentioning decentralization): The minimization of single points of failure. If the power goes out in a centralized office, everyone sits around in the dark or goes home anyway. In a remote environment, if I lose my internet connection, I can jump on our group messenger’s phone app and communicate with my co-workers who are still plugging away.
How to be in a Team From Afar
You may have a preferred method of communication, whether it be text-based, voice only, or by incorporating facial expressions and gestures while on camera. Remember that it’s important to establish yourself as a valuable member of your team. You should be contributing substantial work, noticeably contributing to collaboration in text, and/or shining in video calls. If you’re not doing at least one of these, it will likely be noticed and is a cause for concern. Don’t disappear! Our team has a daily, text-based stand up prompt — in our messaging app to help track what everyone’s up to.
We’ve touched on how some people enjoy the peace and focus that comes with working in isolation, but some people find it lonely. One challenge to having a remote team is building camaraderie. In the absence of a water cooler, MyCrypto has found it helpful to have messaging channels dedicated to sharing music, posting interesting articles about our industry as well as current events, or generally shooting the breeze.
I’ve had many experiences at jobs with a much more rigid culture, where socializing was completely discouraged. In my experience, this breeds animosity and ends up with people not enjoying going to work. If you are an employer, remember that the people who work for you are human. This is important whether they’re working from home or in an office. Happy employees equal better output and better quality work. Make them feel appreciated and they will put in more effort for positive reinforcement.
Allowing people to have more freedom with their schedules will make them happier. In-kind, as an employee, you must be responsible for monitoring your own time. It’s a two-way street. If you find yourself struggling to manage your time, find tools that work for you. These can include calendars, time management apps, heck, even post-it notes if you want to go old school. Just make sure the tools are working for you and not the other way around, and make sure to budget your time so that you’re not alternating between procrastinating and panicking.
Tips for Being a Healthy, Happy, Home-worker
Take breaks when you need them! If you’re like me, you might get into the zone and not realize you need a break until your back starts hurting. Maybe set a timer to remind you to get up, stretch, and look at something that isn’t your computer screen. The American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology both recommend looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes (aka the 20–20–20 rule).
Make your home working environment as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Brighten it up! It can be easy to fall into a habit of hunkering down in your hobbit hole workspace and closing out the entire world, but the sun is a good thing. Open the blinds and windows, and let the sun and fresh air in!
Keep your workspace organized. This goes for both working in the office and at home, but if your workspace is disorganized or cluttered, then it can clutter your mind and reduce your productivity.
Plants! Get some plants and put them around your workspace and your home. It helps to have something alive other than yourself to take care of. One study showed that having plants in the workplace can reduce stress and increase productivity by 15%.
Maintain a regular sleep cycle — it’s important for your body and brain. And forget about the stigma surrounding naps. Naps are awesome.
Dress appropriately. It can be freeing to work from home in your pajamas or casual clothes, but consider dressing like you would if you were going into the office. This can help get you into the ‘work’ mindset even though you’re at home.
Separate your business from your pleasure. Oftentimes, working from home makes people blend their work time with their leisure time. This isn’t terrible on its own, but a lack of boundaries and limits can blur that line too far and lead to less productivity. Designate time boxes for focusing on tasks and relaxing.
Eat healthy meals and snacks, and keep a regular meal schedule. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to eat!
If you live with other people, make sure to set boundaries. When you’re at your job, it’s your job. Get some noise-canceling headphones if you can, and don’t let others in your home distract you during work hours.
Got any more tips? Feel free to reply!
I hope you’ve found this a helpful read. Remember the importance of finding tools that work for you, and keeping the lines of communication open. And remember to wash your hands!
According to the latest researches, in the next few years the process of project management in companies will change a lot. The main trends will be a wider use of analytics and Agile principles, a great impact of artificial intelligence, large-scale integration of various fields of activities and, of course, an increased number of remote teams. Today more and more people are working remotely, while the need for a structured way of task management and strict compliance with deadlines still remain in force. So, new approaches require certain changes in the whole company management and some rules which you should follow when organizing your teamwork not to become a victim of a failed experiment and common troubles related to remote working.
Hiring Right People
Wherever you work, you try to find the best employees for your company, but remote work demands additional traits and skills from them. Hiring new people, make sure that they meet these requirements:
Self-reliance and self-organization. You won’t be able to ensure full control and support for remote employees, so you should encourage independence and responsibility of developers. Remote workers need to manage themselves most of the time, make their own decisions, cope with difficulties on their own and stay organized without any effort on your part. Otherwise, you risk that all work will be stopped when some of their co-workers are offline, or you will have to constantly control your team to make them keep working.
Work enthusiasm and trust. There are many ways to ensure that remote workers really stay online during working hours, however, there are even more ways to override the system. Working from home means much less control, while it also causes a lot of distractions. A passion for work is the only guarantee that an employee will be able to concentrate on his duties despite not the most suitable working conditions. At the same time, remote working requires a high level of trust on the part of managers. Good remote workers are those who can be trusted to do the right things even when nobody is observing.
Good communication skills. Although communication among remote employees is much less frequent, this only imposes greater requirements to their communication skills. Remember, they have no watercooler talks, no overheard conversations in the smoking-room. A weak interaction between all team members makes it difficult to understand what the current project state is and only really good communication skills of every remote worker can compensate this lack of knowledge and rare personal meetings.
Do your employees have the necessary qualities? If so, the rest is up to you. In addition to hiring right employees, it is also necessary to properly organize the workflow, choose efficient tools and prevent a number of shortcomings in remote work.
The key to the success of the remote project management is setting up the workspace with appropriate tools. First of all, they must provide constant communication within a team. It may be email, an instant messaging platform, intranet or something else that covers your company expectations. For instance, you could use Skype, Telegram or Slack to communicate within teams. In addition, make sure that you have everything you need for teamwork cooperation, for example, file sharing apps like Google Docs & Sheets, Github or similar. An important step to success is the choice of the project management and collaboration tools such as Riter, Trello, etc. Screen sharing and time tracking software could help you to organize work in the best way and free managers from constant control over developers. Integration of different areas of your employee’s activities, maximum automation of the workflow will not only save your time, but also make the management process more transparent for all team members.
Specific Process Management
Remote project management requires a specific approach. To begin with, lack of project vision is a frequent problem for all remote workers. Poor communication and documentation, narrow specialization and division of duties lead to the fact that each individual developer does not see himself for what purpose he is doing this or that task, how it will affect the project as a whole, in what way it will be used and so on. This can cause serious problems, right up to the misunderstood problem and, consequently, incorrect implementation of his own part of work.
To deal with this, set clear goals to developers. Avoid short project description and ambiguous instructions. Encourage, within reason, communication within the team, awareness and interest in the project as a whole. Spend time communicating with all interested parties to discuss tasks and create a general picture of the work ahead.
The next challenge your team should overcome is a poor feedback. According to the survey, most remote employees lack feedback on their job from managers. As a rule, the absence of reaction means that the work is done correctly and managers don’t have questions or remarks. However, a short review could help developers to feel more confident about their results, and not feel left behind. At the same time, too persistent attention on the part of managers can be annoying and reduce developer’s efficiency.
One of the most serious problem in remote working is employee’s overburn. The fact is that remote employees tend to work more than their office colleagues, skipping coffee breaks and other distracting factors usual for an office team members. This can be caused by the guilty feeling: they suppose that their colleagues may think they waste time working from home, so they often overwork, exceed traditional 8 working hours, working late at night or even on weekends. This should be regulated by the company’s policies to prevent worker’s overburn.
Remote work involves more flexibility, however, it also requires a certain order and structure to avoid complete chaos. Set up rules and make sure that all team members follow them. They will have less meetings and less control, but that small number of formalities that you establish, must be compulsory for everybody in order to avoid uncertainties and related issues. Here are some of them to organize and make your workflow predictable:
Regular common and one-to-one meetings. Don’t waste time of your workers, distinguish questions which should be discussed individually and by the whole team.
Sharing of work results. Make sure that you have good tools for sharing data and collaborative work, as well as that all interested parties get access to the information they need. Ensure that employees present their interim progress fairly often, and not on the last day before the deadline.
Agreed terms of cooperation. Remote workers may be from different time zones and follow different working schedule. Don’t make them adjust to some convenient for you time and terms of working — discuss them all together and choose the best way of cooperation, instead of trying to catch them online when this is necessary for you.
Communication and Team Building
Be available. Even the most independent and talented employees not always can solve problems themselves. Stay aware of the current state of their project progress and troubles to be able to join the process when necessary. You could use appropriate means of communication depending on the situation.
Take into account a delay in communication. If the time difference is more than 5–6 hours, it can be a big problem for interaction with other team members. In such situation someone will probably have to choose not suitable enough time for a call with colleagues. It would be fair if this was not always the same person.
Do not forget that there is a big gap between remote and office workers. The research shows that lack of close contact with the rest of employees prevents the formation of trust and mutual purpose. In other words, a remote worker sometimes does not feel a part of the team. Look for team building activities for remote workers or imagine your own ones.
The Formula of Success
As you can see, remote work is not just an easy way to organize your business with minimal efforts and costs. To succeed and not return to the traditional approach, like Reddit or Yahoo did, you need to take into account many factors to organize the workflow in the best way. The formula for success can be summarized as follows:
The Right People + Specific Workflow + Effective Tools + Communication + Proper Teamwork = Successful Remote
But this is not a complete criterion of success. Managing a remote team, you will definitely come across a plenty of other problems and challenges, the solution of which can not be taken from someone else’s experience. Does it worth it? We believe that a well organized remote team has obvious benefits and can be extremely productive. The question is, will you have enough patience and ability to provide yourself with these advantages?