What is Agile Work?

For many years that term “flexible work” has been synonymous with the idea of telecommuting or remote work. With the proliferation of cloud-based technology the idea of flexible work has become more widely accepted by modern workplaces.

But a newer term, agile work, is a concept that has been overpowering the idea of flex work recently. While the terms seem interchangeable there is a difference.

Agile work is a way of working in which an organization empowers its people to work from wherever they would like and however they would like by limiting constraints and maximizing flexibility in order to truly optimize productivity. According to FM World, agile work is a new paradigm,“a transitional tool”, that is the cornerstone of an organization’s strategy providing benefits on cost, productivity and sustainability. Benefits, it argues, that are for not only for the organization, but the employee and customer as well.

But, isn’t that the same as flex work? Well, the terms are very similar, but there is a difference. According to The Agile Organization, flexible working falls under the idea that an employee can work anytime and anywhere, a two dimensional concept. Agile work is more multidimensional—not just limited to doing the same work in the same way at a difference time and place. Instead of focusing on when and where people work, agile work focuses on the efficiency of the work.

Agile work is based on the idea that work is an activity we do rather than a place we go. And with new tools supported by ever-improving cloud technology, workers can truly eliminate the concept of the work has been done traditionally in order to work efficiently to meet customers’ needs, reduce costs and overheads, all while improving sustainability.

Though this new concept aims at the benefit of the organization, many barriers remain for some companies in the adoption process of this idea. Agile work truly revolves around culture and mindset, and simply buying the latest technology and investing in new workspaces is not enough to make agile work a success.

This change will involve organizational culture and individual mindset shifts to embrace the idea that work is not a place, it is an activity. Pace, unpredictability and scale are the biggest challenges for organizations today. Companies must truly become agile in order to make this concept a success.

Choosing a Mobile Meeting App for Your Remote Workforce

Whether it’s a business call, web conference or online presentation, joining meetings can present a challenge for those working outside of the office. If your team is comprised of remote workers, then you understand the key to remaining productive and effective is staying connected. One of the best ways to make sure your remote work force is in tune with the business, regardless of their location, is a great mobile meeting app.

A mobile meeting app consolidates meeting information and functionality into one user-friendly interface that can be accessed by tablets and mobile devices. These apps aim at facilitating business collaboration through video and audio conferencing abilities, file sharing and real-time chat features—all in one place.

Harnessing the benefits of a mobile meeting app will enhance your team’s ability to collaborate more efficiently, but what should you look for when choosing a mobile meeting app for your team? Check out some of these features that merit evaluation:

User Experience: Before comparing all other features on the mobile meeting app, the first and most important thing to consider is the user experience. It should be consistent, have a simple interface, intuitive navigation and enable easy meeting entry. A simple, easy-to-use design will be a make-or-break feature for your employees; investing in a mobile meeting app will only be lucrative if your employees are actually willing to use it.

Consistency: As a remote workforce, having a mobile meeting app that delivers a consistent experience across desktops, smartphones and tablets is crucial to achieving success outside the office. Look for a cloud-based service that allows your team to move seamlessly between mobile devices and desktops. With a consistent design, teams will be able to find the features they need while continuously transitioning between working in-office and on-the-go.

File Sharing: Thanks to advances in business collaboration technology, mobile meeting apps now have the ability to share information across various platforms. Consider a mobile meeting app that fosters collaboration through file sharing features—whether it be presentations, videos, images or even spreadsheets.

Hosting Capabilities: A final important feature to review while looking for a mobile meeting app is hosting capabilities. As a member of a remote team, you need the ability to host meetings on the go, and finding a mobile meeting app that allows you to do so right from the palm of your hand can really save time. Also, look for an app that includes features that allow you to easily invite guests, pass control of the meeting across various devices and has mobile screen sharing.

Ready to test drive a mobile meeting app with all of these features? Try iMeet by PGi free for 30 days and learn more about telecommuting in PGi’s free eBook, The Yin and Yang of Telecommuting.

How Virtual Meetings Can Save Your Business Money

There’s no denying that the business communications landscape has changed drastically over the last few years. New and progressive technologies are empowering companies to become more productive and efficient. While any innovative technology can be an investment that moves new business forward, virtual meetings are one of the most cost-effective and lucrative tools your company should be taking advantage of.

You’ve probably heard of virtual meetings before, and thought, “My business doesn’t really need a complex and advanced tool like that! I’m only meeting with clients and employees a few times a week, and phone calls or face-to-face meetings are sufficient enough.” But with virtual meetings, you can enhance those meetings and cut some of your largest business costs.

Travel: Let’s be honest – travel costs for a business can be prohibitive, but with the click of a virtual meeting link, you can gain access to a digital tool that helps maintain quality relationships both internally and externally without requiring people to be in the same room.

Hotels, plane tickets, car rentals and food expenses can really start adding up when your employees are traveling for events, meetings or trainings. Utilizing a virtual meetings tool can help you control and decrease your meeting costs by bringing everyone together online.

Overhead: Daily operational costs like utilities, materials, and office supplies are a reality for all business owners. A solution to high overheads could be as simple as allowing employees to telecommute. Research shows that if a typical business allowed its employees to work from home just half the time, it could save on average $11,000 per year. Those employees would personally save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year on work-related and transportation costs. What employee wouldn’t be happy to save money?

Speaking of happy employees, those who telecommute report greater productivity while working from home, and according to research done by Connect Solutions, 23 percent of those telecommuting are willing to work longer hours, with 52 percent less likely to take time off when working remotely.

The benefits of telecommuting end up being a pretty simple equation: allowing flexibility with telecommuting means employees will be more productive and more likely to stay with their employer, increasing retention rates and saving you money.

Time: A final invaluable cost that you can save by using virtual meetings is your time. Without the hassle of planning travel, finding meeting spaces and making sure there’s enough coffee to fuel your meeting, you’ll save hours of work that can be used more productively.

Telecommuting and the use of virtual meetings may not be right for every business. But if you’re a business owner looking to cut costs, you owe it to yourself – and your business’s finances – to give it a test drive.

If you’re ready to try cost-effective and collaborative virtual meetings, sign up for a free 30-day trial of PGi’s iMeet®. Looking to learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting? Check out PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin and Yang of Telecommuting”.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Telecommuting?

In a recent webinar survey from PGi’s Hitting a Home Run With Collaboration, less than eight percent of respondents said they worked in an office five days a week. The overwhelming majority said they worked remotely at least occasionally.

The number of workers telecommuting is estimated in the millions and expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. So why is everyone choosing remote work over an office cubicle?

The Pursuit of Work-Life Balance
In a 2014 Staples survey, the top reason employees said they preferred telecommuting is work-life balance. Flexible work programs like telecommuting typically offer employees enough flexibility to greet the kids when they arrive from school, visit the doctor or even squeeze in fitness and healthier meals throughout the day.

Plus, telecommuting helps employees avoid some of the downfalls of the office, like stress and interruptions. Without office politics, team conflicts, noise and other disturbances from co-workers, employees gain greater focus and productivity (and potentially save more time during the workday).

Following work-life balance, employees also enjoy the transportation savings and green benefits of working from home, according to the survey. About 600,000 people in the U.S. have a 90-minute commute and a quarter commute across county lines, according to the Census Bureau. The gas savings alone adds up to extra padding in bank accounts, but skipping the commute also circles back to better work-life balance.

An average commuter would save about 50 minutes and a megacommuter three entire hours each day by telecommuting, which means more time for work or personal obligations. Additionally, commuters rate their overall satisfaction and happiness lower than telecommuters, which in turn effects well-being and productivity, according to a 2014 report on Commuting and Personal Well-Being by the Office for National Statistics.

The Telecommuting Effect on Engagement
So what does all of this mean for employers? Companies can take advantage of the benefits of telecommuting to attract, compete for and retain top talent. In fact, telecommuting is one of the top job features workers now seek out according to 71 percent in the Staples survey.

Telecommuting also benefits a company’s bottom line by positively impacting employee engagement. Even after onboarding, the majority of employees in flexibility programs report higher engagement, motivation and satisfaction as a result of telecommuting, according to WorldatWork’s 2013 Survey on Workplace Flexibility.

PGi’s own Telework Week Survey in 2014 found that not only do employees experience improvements in stress and productivity when telecommuting, but also in morale and absenteeism (by 80 and 69 percent). When given freedom and room for personal development, a well-managed and tech-supported telecommuting program yields happier, more dedicated and engaged workers even from afar.

Telecommuting is not without hurdles for both workers and supervisors, but any new change requires an overhaul to our habits and attitudes about the way we work and manage others. By tackling these challenges now, employees and employers can better prepare for the future of work and telecommuting.

Learn more about what telecommuting is at PGi now, and explore the other benefits of this flexible work option in PGi’s free eBook, The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.

Featured Image Source: Death to the Stock Photo

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is a work option where knowledge workers perform their job outside of a traditional office space.

It’s also known as telework, remote work, mobile work and work from home, but telecommuting isn’t limited to working at home. Telecommuters also work while traveling, at coffee shops, rental office spaces and other company-approved places of their choice.

In fact, the definition of telecommuting is a somewhat undefined but evolving concept as more workers employ this work method full-time, part-time or on entirely virtual teams. It is part of the broader category of flex work—flexible work options that give employees control over their schedule.

Telecommuting cannot happen without the right technology, and advancements in the virtual work environment have supported the rise and acceptance of telecommuting.

Telecommuters have to use a variety of communication and collaboration tools to complete their work and stay connected to supervisors and teammates, including:

  • An Internet connection, typically Wi-Fi;
  • Email;
  • Audio, typically VoIP or cell phone;
  • Instant messaging;
  • Social business tools such as intranets or social media;
  • Online forums and communities;
  • Video and web conferencing;
  • Online meetings; and
  • Online team workspaces.

The Benefits and Challenges of Telecommuting

For workers, the benefits of telecommuting include:

• Work-life balance (or integration): The flexibility to work from home aids in better health and less absenteeism. Employees can focus on wellness while still working and avoid the stresses of commuting and in-office politics.

• Enhanced productivity: Employees are empowered to employ their own workstyle while telecommuting, collaborating only at their most opportune times and avoiding office distractions.

• Less travel: The ability to skip the commute helps employees not only go green but also save on the time and monetary costs of travel.

Companies also reap the benefits of:

• Increased productivity: Since employees have the flexibility to choose where, when and how they want to work, they have more potential to reach their highest levels of productivity, increasing output.

• Cost savings: Telecommuting also saves companies money on business travel and large office costs, and telecommuting aids in globalization as companies expand their reach.

• Employee retention: As an employee perk, telecommuting helps companies better compete for (and retain) talent among a wider pool of candidates, as well as retain the talent of happier workers.

• Availability: During severe weather, telecommuting allows companies to continue work when travel is too dangerous. Additionally, telecommuters typically use fewer sick days.

Despite the numerous benefits, telecommuting is not without challenges for both employees and companies.

Telecommuters must learn how to better establish working relationships, maintain transparency and make ongoing communication a top priority. They also face misconceptions that telecommuters are unproductive, sometimes penalized in terms of promotions.

Meanwhile, companies must learn new management styles for telecommuters, find out how to cultivate company culture and innovation within a telecommuting workforce and identify the most efficient means of tracking accountability.

Learn More

To learn more about telecommuting and its impact on workers and businesses, check out these additional resources:

  1. Learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting in PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.”
  2. Discover the best productivity tips for your telecommuting personality type in PGi’s free eBook, “Which Type of Teleworker Are You?
  3. Keep up with PGi’s latest telecommuting blog posts at The Future of Business Collaboration.

Image Source: Startup Stock Photos

Defining Productivity in a Virtual Workplace

Working in your virtual workplace can be very different than working in a traditional office. Instead of being surrounded by colleagues and managers, you are completely on your own. Staying free of distraction and keeping your productivity levels high is your responsibility.

Even though you don’t have a manager watching your every move, you’re still expected to deliver positive results and on time. So how do you ensure your colleagues and boss feel that you are maintaining your productivity when working away from the office?

Here are a few tips:

  • Stay connected

When working from outside the office, it can be easy to get distracted. Taking the dog for a long walk, taking care of household chores or even running out for some errands. It’s important that you don’t disconnect for long periods of time. Coworkers should be able to easily contact you through a phone call, email or instant message. If you tend to walk away from your computer hours at a time, it might create some ill feelings among your team—especially if their working from the office.

  • Meet your deadlines

No matter where you’re working from, it’s important to always meet your deadlines. If for some reason you think you will be late, inform your boss as soon as you can. But don’t make it a habit. Constantly missing deadlines won’t go unnoticed for too long.

  • Show your face

Geographically dispersed teams often lack quality face-to-face time. This is why you should show your face as often as possible. Online meeting tools like iMeet allow you to turn on a personal web camera so you can have high quality face-to-face meetings with your clients and colleagues. Up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. iMeet eliminates the need for you to solely rely on words, and makes it possible for you to pick up on non-verbal cues you may have otherwise missed out on.

Are you interested in learning more about telecommuting and working from a virtual workplace? Download our free eBook: The Ying + Yang of Telecommuting.

If you’d like to learn more about iMeet and how it can keep you connected with your colleagues, try it free for 30 days.

Must-Have Mobile Apps for Telework Productivity

Telecommuting makes it possible for individuals to work outside an employer’s location. They can choose to work from home, a shared office space or even a coffee shop. Although some individuals are able to be more productive while working away from the office, there can be some challenges. To ensure you are a successful teleworker, it’s important to be equipped with the right tools. If you aren’t already taking advantage of the following four mobile apps, you should consider giving them a try.

HootSuite: This app provides a dashboard that allows you to manage multiple social profiles and platforms from one place. With the paid version, members from your team can login to share content on behalf of your brand.

Worksnug: Sometimes you may need a new change of scenery. It may be a beautiful day or your internet may not be getting a strong signal. This app provides laptop friendly workspaces in your area. Each area is given a rating of its atmosphere, WiFi signal and noise levels.

iMeet: Just because you’re working away from the office doesn’t mean you can’t meet face-to-face with colleagues, clients or prospects. With a video conferencing app like iMeet, you can host or join a meeting from anywhere. iMeet can be used on your desktop, tablet or smartphone. The low bandwidth HD video and superior sound quality allows you to see and hear everyone clearly.

Doodle: Keeping track of everyone’s schedule can be difficult and time consuming. Doodle provides a fast and simple way to schedule meetings with multiple people. It can be used on mobile devices and across multiple time zones. It’s free, easy and doesn’t require any registration for any participants.

Would you like to know more about telecommuting and flexible work? Be sure to download our free eBook “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.” This eBook discusses various modern work trends.

If you would like more information about iMeet and how you can maintain productivity while working away from the office, take a free trial.

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What are Some of the Benefits of Telecommuting?

How to Manage Millennials Virtually

The nature of management, as with most areas of today’s business, is constantly evolving and changing through the introduction of new work practices, schedules and technologies powering collaboration and communication among teams. In particular, the adoption of video and web conferencing technologies is empowering the new era of the remote manager, where leaders and their direct reports may not be in the same city, state or even country!

Millennials, the largest generation currently in the workforce today, are tech-savvy, social creatures and can respond well to remote leadership, provided the proper tools are in place. I, for example, am a Millennial with a remote manager and the experience has been flawless thanks to near-daily face-to-face interactions with my manager over iMeet®.

Here are some best practices for virtually managing your teams:

Be Attentive but Don’t Smother
One of the biggest concerns of remote managers is being able to check-in regularly and ensure that their direct reports are actually working and that they’re receiving all of the attention and instruction that they need. It’s important, especially early on, to build trust and regularly reach out to your employees to understand their unique work styles and what, if anything, they need from you.

Millennials in particular crave mentorship but don’t want to be smothered or feel like they’re being constantly “checked up on.” Over time, develop a strategy of reporting and communication so that you can be apprised of your reports’ progress and needs while simultaneously helping them feel accomplished and effectively lead.

Understand and Embrace Technology
Obviously remote management entails a technology component, even if it’s just a phone call or an email. However, these types of old-school interactions are lost on Gen Y, who far prefer texting and Facebooking to picking up the phone.

In order to really engage your direct reports virtually, you need to engage them in an intuitive, personal and social technology environment that allows you to build rapport and develop trust even across long distances. The high-definition video, personalized backgrounds and profile pictures and social media integration of iMeet makes it a perfect tool for remote managers and their Millennial reports. And employees of all generations are becoming increasingly comfortable with video in all aspects of business. In fact, 66% of job candidates prefer to use video during the interview process; they’re comfortable with the technology before you even hire them!

Best of all, iMeet features a suite of mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, keeping both managers and direct reports connected even while on-the-go.

Share, Educate, Inspire
In a recent Forbes article on the qualities of a modern manager, author Jacob Morgan wrote, “Today managers cannot believe in hoarding information but in sharing information and collective intelligence.” A culture of sharing, both personally and professionally, is vital to building trust and rapport between managers and direct reports. Whether it’s a best practice you’ve developed over the years, vital business intelligence or just a story about your family’s recent vacation, opening up to your reports makes them feel included in business decisions and more engaged and connected to you as a leader.

Millennials, the generation of Facebook and Twitter, are a sharing culture, and feeling that connection with their managers, particularly remote ones, is a vital element to effective virtual management.

For more tips and insights on remote workers, download PGi’s free eBook!

How to Present Benefits Orientation to Employees That Doesn’t Put Them to Sleep

Open enrollment for healthcare benefits, an annual occurrence for almost any organization of all sizes and industries, is a busy time for Human Resource departments. It’s a period when employers set aside time to educate employees on group benefits that are available. The primary goal is to ensure employees have all the information they need to make informed decisions on which healthcare and related benefits are the right fit for their families and budget.

This process can often be complex and confusing, and effective communication is vital to ensure its success. Many of today’s global companies face the challenge of finding the best way to communicate this information to associates who may be located all over the world.

PGi found a multi-faceted solution to this challenge by creating a unique and interactive experience using iMeet and GlobalMeet. Karrie Andes, PGi’s Sr. Benefits Manager, wanted to create a virtual health benefits fair to further engage associates and make it more convenient to participate.

The challenge
Karrie was responsible for ensuring that PGi associates fully understood the various plans and all the information presented. There was a great deal of new and important information to share—including a new high deductible consumerism plan, a new wellness program and various free benefits that weren’t previously offered as a result of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Engaging associates can be difficult enough, but Karrie’s challenge exponentially increased by needing to reach associates who were located in 36 different states, 25 percent of whom worked from home. Karrie needed to customize her communications plan according to her workforce. Not to mention, Karrie only had two months to plan when most companies typically have six months or more to communicate consumer-driven health plans.

Karrie’s communications plan
Knowing she couldn’t bombard PGi associates with daily messages without being ignored, Karrie selected specific dates to send out reminders and notices. She also sent postcards to the homes of employees to vary the communication media.

Karrie knew she had to make open enrollment more fun and interactive to better engage employees. As a result, she implemented various quizzes throughout the process. Answers were scattered throughout PGi’s intranet site and winners were offered gift cards and other prizes.

Instead of simply listing benefit information in a traditional boring handbook, Karrie created a new handbook with bright colors, simpler language and incorporated the PGi Guy as the benefits mascot. Also included was a glossary page that defined key terms frequently used in consumer-driven plans.

The virtual fair
Creating a virtual experience eliminated the need for travel and made it convenient for all associates to participate—including those who work from home. Karrie created iMeet rooms where vendors were present to answer employee questions. Links for each vendor room were sent out to the workforce with a schedule. Employees could easily click and visit with various benefit vendors at their leisure.

Using iMeet’s “file folder” feature, vendors were able to store documents or videos so attendees could easily gather information. Those who missed the event were able to download communications at a later time.

Additionally, Karrie hosted 22 webinars during a two week period to help make sure everyone fully understood what PGi was offering—including a few late night sessions so spouses could join, too. She also incorporated PGi’s GlobalMeet web conferencing tool, using its screen share option to access and navigate benefit websites, which helped employees better understand what type of plan they needed. During the last day of open enrollment, HR had an iMeet room for several hours to assist with last minute enrollment questions.

Follow-ups
Even though open enrollment is over, Karrie continues to follow up with employees who enrolled in the high deductible plan every quarter. Through GlobalMeet, she holds a virtual roundtable where employees can discuss any comments or questions they may have. She takes notes and sends them to all enrollees.

Advice from Karrie
Karrie noticed that sometimes associates were shy and didn’t seem to want to ask questions. As a result, she began approaching meetings with more of a personal approach. She used her family in examples and humor in her presentations. It helped employees feel more comfortable and the sessions became fun and interactive.

“I never would have been able to complete such a significant feat without the virtual tools PGi has to offer,” says Karrie. This virtual fair proves that HR can use iMeet for much more than just global recruiting.

Every year, we all must participate in open enrollment and reeducate ourselves on the benefits our company offers. If the workforce is evolving, wouldn’t it be nice if our various processes evolved too? It could help keep employees more engaged—and awake.

Would you like to read more tips on how you can improve productivity and collaboration in your human resources department? Visit PGi’s Learning Space where you can explore more articles specifically discussing the many trends impacting HR.

Telecommuting Advice from HR Pros in the Home Office Trenches

For most businesses, the Human Resources department holds the keys to the telecommuting car. As more and more people work from home at least part time (approximately 30 million Americans, according to Global Workplace Analytics), HR teams are working constantly to manage telecommuting policies and pair remote workers with the tools they need to succeed. And as many HR teams are located in various locations or work from home themselves, we asked PGi HR professionals Kim Pettibone and Julie Johnson how they manage their own remote team and policies for the company as a whole.

Blakely: How do you work as a team from different locations?

Kim: One of the best tips I got from a book, “Knights of the Tele-Round Table,” is not to assume that if you are not hearing anything that everything is okay. I try to make sure I communicate in some form throughout the day, week, etc. My general rule of thumb is if it is taking more than two emails to gain clarity, understand or resolve something, I either schedule a virtual meeting or call the person. Our fantastic web conferencing service iMeet® has really changed things for us all, as well. The old adage that pictures say a thousand words is so true. We keep updated on what is going on in each other’s lives through our iMeet bio pictures. We share a lot of laughs and memories through our pics.

Julie: Our team stays connected by having weekly iMeet and GlobalMeet® online meetings. We also work on projects together (onboarding, interviewing, policy management, etc.) using iMeet and GlobalMeet. They really do make the world smaller, so it seems as though we are just down the hall instead of thousands of miles away.

Blakely: What technology makes telecommuting possible?

Julie: Laptop, tablets, smartphones and, of course, iMeet and GlobalMeet, which allow us to interview candidates face to face virtually. Not only do we use iMeet to meet with candidates one on one, but we also use the technology to conduct group interviews and virtual open houses where candidates can stop by to visit with HR, hiring managers and trainers. We also use VirtualEdge®, our applicant tracking system and PGiLife (internal community) to stay connected.

Kim: I tell people inside and outside the company ALL the time that I don’t know how anyone does business without our tools. Mobility and availability are the key operatives. The funny story about this is that you can count on the following sequence to occur: You are showing as busy/in a meeting, the IM pops up, then an email, then a call to your office phone, which goes to voicemail, then your cell phone rings and NOW the new add is that you get an iMeet or GlobalMeet invite. I have to laugh sometimes, but honestly, someone (from HR) is typically online and can help.

Blakely: How do you keep the human element within HR when you can’t meet face to face?

Julie: We do try to meet in person at least once or twice a year, but when we can’t meet face to face, we use online video conferencing to keep the face to face connection.

Kim: Well, this may be a trick question, but there are no barriers to face-to-face connections now. The principles of being human, regardless of the medium, are the same.

Blakely: Advice for fellow telecommuting HR specialists?

Julie: Create a home office that is away from your home living space, schedule your day, limit distractions where possible, try to maintain a work/life balance and enjoy the flexibility that telecommuting brings.

Kim: Don’t let yourself become too much of a hermit. If you find that you are not talking and meeting with people as much, make sure you build in time to stay connected. I spent a lot of years commuting 50-plus miles every single work day. I find that I now I sometimes don’t want to drive two miles to the grocery store. Strive to keep your personal and professional space separate. It is very convenient to keep working and sometimes you just have to shut the door and walk away. I’m very fortunate that I work in a telecommuting arrangement, as well as being onsite part-time. There are times when I may be in a bit of a funk, and I find connecting with people live reenergizes me, so it is all about the balance.

Blakely: Advice for HR teams who are implementing a telecommuting policy?

Julie: Make sure you have the tools and technology in place to make telecommuting possible, schedule regular meetings to stay connected and make it a priority to keep the human connection with both internal and external customers.

Kim: Like most policies, just think through the things you might take for granted. Most of the time HR pros have a lot of papers around that may be private or confidential. At the office, you have locked filing cabinets, so make sure you duplicate it at your telecommuting office, as well. I keep historical files in my file cabinet at the office. It has always just made sense to me, but building this into the policy may be a good idea. Although we hope we don’t need to withdraw a telecommuting arrangement, like most things, you will want to build in the flexibility to change the arrangement based on business needs.

To learn more about how Kim and Julie utilize video conferencing, web conferencing and audio conferencing technologies to manage talent and build great remote teams, download the free white paper: Online Video Recruiting Helps HR Streamline the Hiring Process.

About Kim Pettibone, PHR: Kim is the Human Resources and Talent Management Director at PGi, where she’s worked for nearly 17 years. With over four years telecommuting for the company, Kim is a leader in utilizing virtual meetings technology, like iMeet and GlobalMeet, to acquire, retain and train new employees right from her home office.

About Julie Johnson: Julie is a sales recruiter at PGi, responsible for bringing in the best talent in audio conferencing and online meetings sales in the world for nearly 16 years. As a telecommuter herself for over 7 years, Julie is pivotal in helping PGi sales teams in over 20 countries connect, perform and exceed sales expectations through virtual sales methodologies and technologies.

Love Your Office, Wherever It Is: Telecommuting, Cubicle or Flex Working

The Work from Anywhere phenomenon is upon us. With the evolution to in the cloud mobile computing tools and remote business applications, we can pretty much work anywhere — anytime. Today’s business world has digital nomads traveling the seven seas, telecommuters at home in pajamas and traditional cubicle dwellers. The trick to worklife success is decking out your environment so you can love your office, wherever it is.

Cubicle Nation

  • Make your cubicle personal. The three walls of your office cubby are your home away from home 2,000-plus hours every year. But it doesn’t have to be all dust and brown walls. Decorate your cubicle to improve your morale and spark fun conversations with customers. Here are some tips to decorate your cube.
  • Turn on your webcam. Today’s employee communities are spread all over the world and traditional office workers miss out on personal, face-to-face interactions with customers, colleagues and vendors. But by just turning on your webcam in a video conference solution like iMeet, cubicle workers can make better personal connections, improve productivity and become virtually mobile — all from the cube.
  • Take a break — digitally. Cubicle work is tricky. It’s incredibly simple to lapse into a cubicle comma, waking up from computer-staring to realize you missed lunch. Office success and happiness comes from taking a break – and cyberloafing is the new productivity boost. Ask your boss and IT department to let you jump on Facebook or hit up that online shoe sale — after all, social media is the new (healthier) smoke break.

Occupy Home Office

  • Get into a groove. In stark contrast to the Cubicle Nation, home office workers — aka teleworkers — can fall into a comfortable trap by sleeping in, hanging out in their PJs and alienating themselves from the outside world. For work-at-home success, don’t! Set your alarm, shower, don business casual gear and connect with your teammates every day.
  • Set the professional stage. As web conference calls and video conferencing become more popular, the old ratty hair and sweats days are over — and it’s for the best. If you don’t have a specific room appointed as an office, find a quiet, well-lit, uncluttered spot in your home to be your “office,” complete with desk, computer and other accoutrement. And use technology to your advantage, from mobile apps, online meetings tools and VPN applications.
  • Call a timeout. Every teleworker should demand a Bill of Rights to avoid getting stuck in the 24-hour office news cycle. Your office phone is your home phone. Your email is just right there. Stop! Call a timeout — you deserve it as much as your cubicle brethren. Take a walk, chat up your coworkers and make every weekend a vacation — no work allowed.

Road Warriors

  • Simple, social, mobile. Digital nomad success is all about having all the right tools to do your job from anywhere — and it all has to fit in your travel bag. As PGi digital nomad Cora Rodenbusch says, “What was once a nice-to-have is now a must-have-to-keep-my job necessity.” Check out her fave simple, social and mobile tool for connecting with anybody, anywhere, on any device: GlobalMeet.
  • Road warriors snag an hour of quality WiFi time wherever and whenever they can get it. Knowing the coffee shop rules makes it easy to enjoy some quality Internet time and even a cappuccino.
  • Take the “work” out of your vacation. It’s easy to slip into the working groove during evening and weekend sightseeing in your current time zone. While workations are a great way to balance work and fun when you’re on the road, make sure you take some time to relax.

Three Telecommuting Tips for Global Communications and Social Business

PGi’s social community manager Cora Rodenbusch is journeying around the world in a year-long telecommuting experiment. In the PGi Blog, she shares Digital Nomad Tip: Three Rules for Today’s Global Team as she looks for new, better ways to communicate with colleagues across the world.

When it comes to businesses who are also global and have intercultural and continental teams, Cora has three rules:

1. Take advantage of overlap time: With time changes, someone who has colleagues, vendors and customers all over the world will receive email, phone calls and more 24 hours per day.

2. Respect the Big D: Meeting deadlines, in the local country’s time zone, is vital to maintaining customer, colleague and managerial satisfaction while telecommuting abroad.

3. Embrace the facts: Every culture is different so instead of wondering what’s what, just come out and ask them. Communication is vital and Cora’s tips for finding better virtual tools for face-to-face meetings make a difference when connecting with people in different global locations.

Did you like this article? For more like it, visit the PGi Blog, where Meetings Experts share industry news, advice and thoughts about telecommuting and global corporate communication strategies.

Carbon Footprint Part 1: Impact of Driving on Corporate Sustainability Practices

With the rising concerns over environmental sustainability, PGi assesses the impact of driving on corporate sustainability practices and our planet with Carbon Footprint Series Part 1: Impact on Driving. As you create a strategy to reduce your environmental impact and go green, one of the simplest ways to begin is make better decisions when its comes to driving.

1. Telecommuting: Work from home, telework, coworking or flexible working

2. Alternative transportation: Public transportation, car sharing and carpooling

3. Hybrid vehicles and fuel-efficient cars: Electric, ethanol and other gasoline alternatives

4. Driving smarter: Sudden acceleration, breaking, air conditio ning use and more.

Learn more about the best ways to alter your driving habits, choices and tools to reduce your carbon footprint and save the planet.

Did you like this article? For more like it, visit the PGi Blog, where our Green Meetings Expert shares news, advice and thoughts about the environment and our impact.

Image courtesy of Green Liter.

How to Transform Remote Workers Into Collaborative Teams

Perhaps one of the largest problems effecting businesses large and small today is developing processes to unify a remote workforce. According to a recent Ipsos study, approximately 17% of global workers are telecommuting on a “regular basis.” With a growing population of non-traditional office workers, businesses are capitalizing on the many benefits of telecommuting, like enhanced productivity, reduced costs and modern work culture. Yet, the struggle to create a virtual work environment that fosters collaboration and creativity continues to be a pain point for companies everywhere. So how can you transform remote workers into collaborative teams?

Communication, communication, communication.

In a 2010 Workplace Psychology article, Steve Nguyen lists eight common problems faced by teams:

1. Absence of team identity

2. Difficulty making decisions

3. Poor communication

4. Inability to resolve conflicts

5. Lack of participation

6. Lack of creativity

7. Groupthink

8. Ineffective leadership

With remote teams, many of these issues stem from a central focal point: you don’t “work” together. And this new way of working causes strains that cause these eight problems to crop up more frequently within the telecommuting population. Regular PGi telecommuter Lea Green wrote, “I soon realized that working apart from my officemates for a solid week caused me to feel isolated, out of the loop.” Green, and many other telecommuters across the globe, solve this problem with active communication plans.

Create a communication plan:

  • Setting the tone for your remote, collaborative team is vital. In a study by Organization Science, leaders with exuberant, positive and motivation first messages set the tone that lasts throughout the team’s existence. After that first message, make sure your tone continues throughout every team communication, whether it’s a “How are you doing” to “Deadline approaching on XYZ project.”
  • Collaborate with your team and team members for group and individual communication plans. Read this Learning Space article, How to Telecommute and Manage Teleworking Employees, for collaboration tips and even a Communication Style quiz to help you development tailored communication plans for your team.

Tear down the social barriers.
The most effective, productive teams — office or remote — build strong trust bonds that extend beyond the purely business realm. In your very first communication, establish that you’re interested in your remote workers beyond their tactical use. By helping them feel like a human being, not just an email address, you connect your virtual workers with you and with each other.

Great tools for social communication:

  • iMeet video conferencing: Collaborative meetings technology that enables meaningful, human collaboration online with up to 15 webcams, interactive video streaming, social media integration, collaborative note taking, screen share and more. Try it free for 30 days.
  • Instant messaging: While IM could potentially be disruptive to the flow of work, encourage your team to have IM “open office” hours, where they can chat freely with the rest of your team.
  • Social media outlets: In this Learning Space article, Team Building Tips to Improve Collaboration, Innovation and Productivity, learn how social media enables your team to connect and build trust beyond the “office.”
  • Intranet: PGi recently shared the benefits of its global social business tool, PGiLife, an employee-only website built with all the tools needed for online collaboration — discussion forums, document collaboration, internal blogs, HR updates, product management and more. To read their story, click here.
  • GlobalMeet web conferencing: Want to go the traditional communication route? Try GlobalMeet, which takes old-school web conferencing into the modern era with social, easy to use features like Auto-Connect audio (phone, mobile or VoIP), active talker webcam video, one-click screen sharing and great polling features. Try it free for 30 days.

Encourage productive downtime.

One of the dangers of remote work is what I call tunnel vision. You’re sitting at home alone with nothing but your laptop to keep you company, and you can find yourself sucked into spreadsheets, PM tools, Outlook and work, work, work. No lunch breaks, no Happy Hour. These office traditions are known for sparking creativity and innovative, and it is incredibly important that you encourage this “productive downtime” within your remote teams.

Ideas for remote team building:

  • Coffee shop meetings: With our huge global WiFi network, your workers can pretty much go to any neighborhood coffee shop and connect to your online meeting. Schedule “coffee meetings” and send your workers gift cards so they can share a cup of Joe and brainstorm outside the home office.
  • Rent-an-Office: If you have teleworkers within 3-hours driving distance, encourage them to meet once every month and spend a few days together at a coworking office. These spaces are designed to be temporary homes for digital nomads and teleworkers, so just rent a couple spots to foster collaboration and trust among your team members.
  • Hashtag Party: Twitter is fantastic for building a back-and-forth conversation on any given topic, also called hashtag parties. Start one with your team members to create an ongoing brainstorm session — just remember that it’s public, so other people can see and interact with your brainstorm.

Collaborate, rinse and repeat.
Not every communication plan, social tool or coworking space will work for your team — set this expectation with your team from the very beginning. Collaboration happens when every team member respects and trusts their coworkers to bring in new ideas, hold their own weight and be excited about the tasks at hand.
These ideas are a great start to building a remote team that holds positive collaboration at the top of its priorities. What ideas have worked for your remote team? Anything that fell flat on its face?

How to Telecommute and Manage Teleworking Employees

With the prevalence of dispersed workforces in today’s expanding global marketplace, businesses are often left struggling to manage effectively over distances. People managers today often have telecommuting, work from home and office workers in their reporting structure. So how do you effectively and efficiently manage a remote workforce?

Here are five tips to make your remote management process more effective (and enjoyable):

1. Establish communication goals with every worker. To create a positive and productive relationship with your employees, ask everyone on your team about their preferred communication style and schedule 1-on-1 meetings to discuss the best go-forward communication plan. It might just be a daily email check-in or weekly meeting, but make sure you both agree on the best method of communication.

2. Be flexible with your remote workers. Flexible work arrangements are great for companies and employees, cutting down operation costs and facilitating an elevated work-life balance. With remote employees, managers must establish expectations early as remote workers tend to avoid the traditional 9-5 workday, work through lunch and opt for workations. If you’re good with that, fantastic. But if you need them at their computers on a Friday afternoon, make sure they know that ahead of time.

3. Find the right tools for online interactions. One of the most common issues with managing remote workers is finding tools that facilitate face-to-face, human interactions from any distance. So whether you’re hosting a 1-on-1 video conference, webinar or group status meeting, it’s vital that you choose the right online meeting tools for simple, personal and intuitive web meetings.

4. Schedule a face-to-face at least twice a year. One of the major issues facing remote workers is a feeling of alienation. While innovative video conferencing tools, like iMeet, improve communication over long distances, take the time to visit your remote workers — or fly them all out to visit you — at least twice each year. Their job satisfaction and productivity levels will greatly improve, and you’ll feel more connected, as well.

5. Have fun every once in a while. All work and no play makes everybody dull! Every month, schedule something fun for your entire team to do, from games to funny YouTube videos before your team call. Not only does it help break the ice, these activities build a sense of unity and team spirit between remote workers.

How do you effectively manage your teams remotely? If you’re a remote worker, what does your boss do — or not do — to facilitate better communication? What role does technology play in the way you communicate with your team?

Image courtesy of SingleMindedWomen.

How to Telework and Get a Life

While reading Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon recently, I came upon a quote by Daisaku Ikeda that resonated with me on two levels: “Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life.” As a writer, I found Ikeda’s words inspiring because, regardless of the mundane burdens that we all must bear, our creative spirit is capable of transporting us to worlds that are fascinating, fun and liberating. Art, regardless of the expression, unlocks doors and invites us to participate in life rather than being a mere bystander. As a teleworker, I read the quote as a reminder of how easily working from home can sometimes prevent us from enjoying the lighter, regenerative aspects of life.

If you’ve read my previous articles on telecommuting, you know that I champion the need for a healthy work-life balance. If you haven’t, here’s my philosophy in a nutshell: work hard when you have to; play hard when you can. Because we are paid to do a job for our employer, productivity must be our first priority during business hours.

While teleworkers are notoriously more productive than their office-bound colleagues, the comfort of working from home coupled with around-the-clock connectivity sometimes causes us to forget when to stop. In some cases, we’re afraid to stop, concerned that our “privilege” requires us to work into the wee hours just to prove that we are worthy of our boss’s confidence. It’s far too easy to fall into the “Superman syndrome” if we convince ourselves that our job depends upon it. But let’s face it: even Superman needed downtime.

What teleworkers sometimes forget is that whether you work from home or work at the office, you’re generally being paid for an eight hour day. Don’t confuse location with expectation. Teleworkers often get more done because they are spared the time-consuming, productivity-squelching distractions common to the workplace. We also have the freedom to work our eight hours whenever and wherever we want, as long as we remain available to our colleagues and clients. Once our workday is done, however, it’s time to push open Ikeda’s metaphorical doorway and embrace life. And what better way to celebrate life than to create? In Steal Like an Artist, Kleon reminds that we are given many opportunities each day to be creative, from the mundane (wrapping a birthday present, composing a letter, preparing a meal) to the extraordinary (painting a landscape, composing a song, writing a novel). After eight hours of work, I rejuvenate my mind, body and spirit for at least an hour by engaging in one my favorite recreations: working out, doing yoga, playing my guitar or writing fiction. My “Hour of Re-Creation,” as I call it, allows me to make the transition from work time to family time more smoothly, and my family not only understands, they appreciate the more mellow me.

In whatever form you choose — whether you telework once a week or full-time — use the time to free your creative genie.

If you find yourself becoming so stressed in the middle of a work day that you can’t think straight, take a mini-break from your work and compose a haiku. Write a letter to a friend. Doodle. Plan a vacation. A creative break, even if only for five minutes, can open the doorway enough for you to allow life in. You’ll be surprised by how refreshed just a few minutes of artistic liberation can make you feel, and you’ll carry the benefits with you when you plunge back into your work.

Staking out personal time at the end of your workday allows you to rejuvenate your spirit, reflect on and cultivate your thoughts and free your knotted creative energies so that you can contribute more to your projects and to your leisure time. Tapping into our creative resources helps us produce quality work, which is not only rewarding for the company but more importantly fosters our aesthetic development and self-satisfaction.

According to Carl Jung, “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” To be your most productive, strive to incorporate creative oases as needed during the work day. To be your most relaxed, to smooth your shift from employee and reengage with family and friends — with life — take time to appease your inner need by creating time to play. When it’s time to work, give it all you’ve got; but don’t neglect the regenerate power of play.

Sales Leaders: How to Show Appreciation and Incentivize Remote Teams

Salespeople thrive on positive environments, where they get credit for their successes—especially if that credit is a cash bonus, trip or other incentive. For sales leaders of remote teams, however, the cash is surely appreciated but when there’s no verbal recognition in front of peers, salespeople begin to lose their motivation. So how do remote sales leaders and managers show appreciation to a job well done when there’s no one there to see it in person? Here are five tactics you can use today.

1. Give a virtual “attaboy” (or “attagirl”).
In call center environment, it’s easy to stand up and yell so everyone can hear you. For remote teams, however, there’s no physical proximity to make this happen—but it still can be done. Using face-to-face virtual meeting technology, like iMeet, gather all your sales reps online, turn on your webcams and call attention to the great job an individual is doing. Doing this fosters not only good will from the employees, but also friendly competition that can drive results.

2. Create a “champions club” for top performers.
Salespeople are notorious for being competitive when there’s a special title to compete for. Create a “champions” group for your top performers and offer them special incentives, like joining your president’s quarterly conference call, passes to the airport loyalty club or first dibs at a conference.

3. Celebrate great efforts outside revenue achievements.
If you’re in sales, you know that having a bad month or quarter happens—and it’s miserable. To keep your reps in the game even when revenue’s not going their way, celebrate them for keeping their pipeline up to date, for getting that long-sought-after prospect meeting or for making some key LinkedIn partner connections. Give them kudos in a quick team call or email to show them you’re still rooting for them.

4. Incent them with face time.
If you manage a remote team that is so geographically dispersed you rarely see the individual reps, use a special visit as an incentive for your salespeople. On your trip, visit their customers and/or partners, but also plan something fun, such as a concert, sporting event or great dinner so they can bring their spouse, friend or family member to show their success.

5. Incentivize them with trips to meet each other.
As a sales leader, you can’t always be around the corner for a customer meeting, a quick question or a pat on the back, but the other team members can be. Many remote team members never meet each other face-to-face, instead just connecting briefly on IM or silently on another weekly call. Use this as an opportunity for achievement recognition and a great way to build your team. Offer regional team retreats or meet-ups in a friendly, competitive way to drive the performance you want and the support they need.

Quiz: What’s Your Work Style? Telework, Office or Flexible Worker

Originally published on blog.worksnug.com

Have you always wondered if you’re cut out for life on the road or telecommuting? Digital nomad Cora Rodenbusch’s “What’s My Work Style” quiz helps you match your personality to the best work arrangement.

I work best when…

  1. I’m surrounded by my team.
  2. I’m alone in peace and quiet.
  3. My headphones are in.
  4. I’m inspired by my surroundings.

When it comes to office hours, I prefer to…

  1. Keep a firm schedule.
  2. Come in early and leave late, allowing for breaks throughout the day.
  3. Stay flexible, adjusting to whatever the day’s duties require.
  4. Keep it fluid by working long hours one day and just a few the next.

I would describe myself as primarily…

  1. Social.
  2. Self-Motivated.
  3. Practical.
  4. Entrepreneurial.

On average, I would rather have ____ over _____.

  1. Predictability/Surprise
  2. Personal Work Space/Communal
  3. Too Many Options/Not Enough
  4. Variety/Routine

A good day in the office involves…

  1. Getting out with the team.
  2. Solid, uninterrupted work.
  3. Having time to work in the coffee shop downstairs.
  4. The unexpected.

When it comes to tech support, I…

  1. Need a lot of help! Thank goodness for the help desk.
  2. Can manage on my own 90% of the time.
  3. Require help occasionally.
  4. Support myself and resolve most issues.

For the results, please read Ms. Rodenbusch’s original article on the PGi Blog: “Digital Nomad 101: Your Guide to Working Outside the Office.” What are your work style quiz results? Did it match your dream work arrangement?

Did you like this article? For more like it, visit the PGi Blog, where Cora Rodenbusch and PGI’s Meetings Experts share workplace news, telecommuting advice, digital nomad tips and more!

Productive Email Etiquette to Help Teleworkers Balance the Workday

You have back-to-back meetings today, including lunch with a client across town. No more mobile phone in the car, thanks to common sense (and state mandates). That leaves maybe five minutes in your customer’s lobby or before a meeting to scroll through mobile Outlook searching for that urgent email you know is there but just can’t find.

A Digital Nomad’s Email Inbox:
10 AM: 35 unanswered emails

11 AM: 60 unanswered emails

1 PM: 120 unanswered emails

4 PM: 200 unanswered emails

6 PM: 275 unanswered emails

The good news is you’re popular! Being in high-demand means you must be doing something right. The bad news is that popularity (not to mention your stamina) won’t last long if you can’t figure out how to manage the daily email onslaught in addition to your daily responsibilities at work.

Here are a couple productivity tricks for road warriors and digital nomads to wrangle your inbox and perhaps find some time to get that elusive cup of coffee.

Automate
Outlook can be your worst enemy or your best friend. The trick is revealing all Outlook’s little secrets when it comes to automating your inbox. If you haven’t taken an Outlook how-to training (whatever version your company’s standardized on) the time is now!

Now we don’t normally like rules — we’re human digital nomads, after all. But Outlook rules can save your day. When you receive a message, Outlook will automatically put them in a folder based on their name or key words, allowing you to see that you have 10 messages regarding a project or five new messages from a needy client. This also saves you from corporate reply-all messages that clutter your inbox with ‘woohoos’ and ‘atta boys.’

Schedule
People overlook the fact that your calendar is for you — not them. If you’re a heavy email user/receiver, schedule 5-10 minutes on your calendar every hour or two and mark that time as “busy.” Two reasons:

  1. Scheduling this time as “busy” keeps those 5-10 minutes clear when co-workers check your availability to schedule a meeting, thus giving you a sanctuary on your calendar to catch up.
  2. This 5-10 minute block also keeps you from obsessively checking your email (they call it a CrackBerry for a reason), which distracts from the task at hand. We’ve all been in the middle of project, got distracted by an email and then forgot where we were in the project — or even fell behind. If you’re inbox is automated, you’ll know if an urgent item comes in that requires your immediate attention.

Find an Email Buddy
We’ve all been lost in the email weeds. And while some are lucky enough to have their own administrative assistants, most of us have to make due on our own. If you’re a Road Warrior, Digital Nomad or in a role that removes you from human contact during your work day, find someone in your organization that has computer time to help you manage your day — or someone that needs you to do the same thing for them.

This is a person or maybe even a rotating group of people you can put in your Out of Pocket messages. Automate every one of their emails to route to a specific folder when they’re on duty. When this folder shows a notification, you know they’ve found something that needs your immediate attention. Or join a virtual meeting from your mobile phone to get a quick update.

Out of Office
Your “Out of Office” automatic reply should really be called “Out of Pocket,” especially if you’re Road Warriors or Digital Nomads. If you’re not just sitting at your desk waiting for the next email to arrive, set your Out of Office message informing people of your reality at the moment. It’s amazing how positively people respond when you keep them in the loop. Here are a couple suggestions:

  1. “Thank you for your message! I’m on the road from 1-4 PM today for customer meetings. If this message is urgent, please call me directly at 888-888-8888 or reach out to my colleague Joe Schmoe.”
  2. “Hi and thanks for your email. I’m working on a customer project until 2 PM and will return your message shortly thereafter. If your message is urgent, please contact Joe Schmoe or leave me a message on my cell phone 888-888-8888.”
  3. “Hello and thanks for contacting me. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Well, maybe not that one, but you get the gist.

Stop the Insanity
If an email strand is longer than three or four replies, cut it off at the pass. If you need to email more than once back and forth, then email’s not the answer. Call the person involved instead of hitting the “reply” button and if it’s more than one person, schedule a meeting — either in person or a virtual meeting — to get the job done faster, more efficiently and without a confusing barrage of disjointed “reply all” messages.

Wage War with Your Inbox — and Be the Victor
Email is necessary for Digital Nomads — in fact, it’s the number one way the business world communicates— but it is a daily battle for survival. The key is to maximize your efficiencies, know your tools (Outlook, etc.) and make the technology work for you. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Your business depends on you to manage your clients, your projects and your success, so reach out to your colleagues, bribe them with coffee or golf and let them help you manage the fires. Your sanity will thank you.