Best Practices For Integrating Your Remote Workforce

ThinkstockPhotos-498832710As technology continues to evolve, so do the lives we lead – both personally and professionally. According to one study conducted by Gallup, nearly 43% of employees in the United States spent at least some time working remotely in 2016 – a significant 4% jump from just a few years earlier in 2012. Remote work is such an attractive proposition that it has even begun to play a major role in an employee’s decision of whether to work for a particular company – something that poses a number of interesting implications for their employers.

Chief among them is the idea of what a “team” is supposed to be. Your employees are all important individually, but their contributions are supposed to add up to a larger, more critical whole. How is that possible when a large part of your workforce barely sets foot in the office, if they do so at all? In truth, integrating your remote workforce into your in-office one is a lot more straightforward than you might think; you just have to keep a few key things in mind.

Integration Begins With Leadership

The absolute best practice for integrating your remote workforce in with your “live and in-person” employees begins and ends with you: their leader. Never overlook an opportunity, no matter how small, to bring remote employees into the fold and make them feel like they’re a part of the greater good. If you start an email chain, for example, don’t just include the “in-person” employees.  Make sure that everyone who needs to know is involved, regardless of location.

Don’t hold those weekly meetings on-site and then send remote workers a summary after the fact. Embrace the benefits of teleconferencing and allow them to dial-in live and in person. If you’re hosting a company get-together or are taking employees out for a well-deserved meal, make sure that you extend the invitation to those outside the office. This is especially important if they work from home (or elsewhere) 100% of the time. These are small moves, but they’re also meaningful ones that help remind people that wherever they are, they are equally valued in your eyes.

Encouragement and Communication

Another critical step to take to integrate your remote workforce better involves slightly adjusting the way your in-person teams communicate. Make it a priority to embrace instant messaging or collaboration platforms like Slack to keep team members connected together. Not only will this make in-person employees feel a bit like they’re a part of the “remote” world, but the reverse will also be true. Your remote workers will feel more connected to your office as well.

Always remember the one factor that matters the most: encouragement. If someone does a terrific job or blows your expectations away, acknowledge them on the most prominent stage even if they work remotely. Just because someone isn’t regularly in the office or the other employees don’t see them every day doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve their fair share of recognition. Any move that you would make to reward an in-person employee should be extended to your remote workforce. Not only will this help make them feel like they’re equal contributors, but it will also go a long way towards bringing your teams together to form the cohesive whole that you need them to be.

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A Blockhead Digital Character Shows 4 Ways to Do Marketing Right

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Stampy Longnose.

It’s not the kind of name that immediately translates visions of millionaire status or successful CEO personas leading fast-moving, highly successful companies. However, this moniker represents one of the most prolific and successful YouTube operations based on the concept of entertaining kids with Minecraft stories and humor all while generating real-time dollars in advertising income monthly. The marketing approach is one of the most effective used online today.

Simple Equals Incredible

Stampy Longnose, otherwise known as Joseph Garrett of Portsmouth, U.K., in real life is a young fellow in England at the ripe age of 23 years. He currently brings in a respectable gross income of 200,000 British pounds a month creating cartoons of his video game adventures in the world of Minecraft. The game itself is extremely simple to play, like an electronic world of toy building blocks, and the tools used to make the videos don’t require rocket science either. However, Mr. Garrett has managed to generate an incredible following online which in turn has created a viable advertising channel that he then monetizes for access to Mr. Garrett’s audience.

The marketing approach is grassroots and simplistic as well and can be broken down into four steps.

1) Have a recognizable and distinct voice that people remember.

Mr. Garrett’s online voice as he moves across the screen with his character is so different from his normal conversation that he easily translates into a memory-sticking character that then makes it easy to attach a brand to. Mental stickiness is a key factor in customer reception of brand development.

2) Have lots of content and be a good storyteller.

If you can’t tell good stories, find someone who can. Particularly for online marketing, a library of content is a must. Viewers don’t stop with one video; they want to consume and consume a lot. In fact, many of Mr. Garrett’s young viewers are so enamored with his Minecraft stories, they would rather watch his videos than play the game (shocking!).

3) Don’t go it alone.

As soon as the Stampy Longnose idea became a hit, Garrett built a solid team of helpers who provided additional characters to work with as well as give hands-on support with production. It’s not easy to write a 20-minute humor dialog that will appeal to a 9-year-old, but that’s the goal and to do it 100 times or more each month.

4) Don’t stop with a good thing; diversify!

The various characters of Stampy Longnose have also included Stampy the Cat, Stampy, Stampylonghead and so on. Each one of them is now fertile ground for additional merchandising for Mr. Garrett. The production potential is so big, he has now branched across the pond and set up shop in Los Angeles to partner with additional revenue ideas based on the original online Minecraft characters Garrett created. Subscribing to the maxim that good ideas don’t stay good or unique for long, Mr. Garrett is actively seeking new venues for his entertainment product and audiences not yet familiar with his funny way that makes kids laugh.

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

So, when you ask your young child tonight what they want to be when they grow up, don’t be surprised if he or she says a YouTuber instead of an astronaut or scientist. Given Mr. Garrett’s example above, more up and coming business owners should be looking at what worked for the online star and why they aren’t doing the same things to achieve marketing success with their customers.

YouTube Keyboard Shortcuts

HELPFUL AND TIME-SAVING YOUTUBE KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS

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Here are a few helpful and time-saving YouTube keyboard shortcuts to consider when watching videos online. Please note: shortcuts may vary depending on your web browser and/or your operating system, as well as your keyboard. For example, not all keyboards have media keys, and the media keys on most Apple keyboards will not work since they are directly tied to iTunes.

  • Play/pause the video: k or Spacebar
  • Go back 5 seconds: Left arrow
  • Go back 10 seconds: j
  • Go forward 5 seconds: Right arrow
  • Go forward 10 seconds: l
  • Skip to a section of the video: Numbers 1-9
  • Restart video: 0
  • Go to Full-Screen mode: f
  • Exit Full-Screen mode: Escape
  • Go to beginning of video: Home
  • Go to end of video: End
  • Increase volume: Up arrow
  • Decrease volume: Down arrow
  • Increase speed: Shift+> or Shift
  • Decrease speed: Shift+< or Shift+,
  • Move forward when paused: .
  • Move backward when paused: ,
  • Mute/unmute video: m
  • Turn captions on/off: c

The Lessons Taught by The Movie “Office Space”

ThinkstockPhotos-644276362.jpgClose your eyes and picture this: On your early morning commute, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Your senses are bombarded with horns honking, the sound of breaks squeaking, and the pungent smell of exhaust. Your reward for making it through this mess isn’t much better. Your individual cubicle awaits, lit only by artificial lights which have a way of making you look sick and feel hopeless. Once you arrive in your allotted space, you are faced with mountains of redundant, seemingly meaningless tasks you must complete, while answering to eight different bosses who don’t communicate amongst themselves.

If the movie “Office Space” came to mind during this exercise, you are getting the right idea. While the movie’s comedic portrayal of an office environment is exaggerated, as business owners, it’s wise to learn the lessons you can glean from it.

Delegate

Bill Lumbergh is the boss in the movie “Office Space.” He is often seen hanging around Peter’s (main character’s) cubicle, overreaching his boundaries and seemingly controlling every aspect of Peter’s day. Peter also has eight bosses other than Bill, or maybe including him. This means everything has to be repeated over and over to the point of insanity. This drives Peter crazy, and it is not productive either.

Lesson #1: Give your employees what they need to do the job: training, materials, etc. Then, let them work. Get out of their way. Studies have even proven that micromanaging can cause employees to perform at a lower level, not higher. Just imagine trying to do even a simple task with someone standing right over your shoulder, and it’s easy to understand why micromanaging is so detrimental.

Provide Well Functioning Equipment/Updated Software

In the movie, the copy machine almost takes on the role of character thanks to the fact that it is so detested by Michael and the other main characters. It seems this copier/printer will never work properly, which causes endless difficulties. Peter, Samir, and Michael (main characters) end up destroying the machine in a rural field outside town after their frustrations reach a boiling over point.

Lesson #2: You should provide your employees with what they need to get their job done as mentioned above. Sure, things break. That’s understandable. However, expecting your employees to continue to use subpar equipment, computer, software, etc. yet still pushing them to meet deadlines and maintain the same level of production simply isn’t fair.

Create a High-Quality Working Environment

It is no wonder the characters of “Office Space” so detest their jobs. They work in 6′ x 6′ cubicles with no windows. In addition, Peter is situated right across from another employee who patches calls through, so in essence, she spends all day saying “just a moment” in an irritatingly spunky voice.

Lesson #3: Cubicles are sometimes unavoidable in today’s office buildings. However, give your employees the freedom to move around to break up their day. Make sure you have seating available for your employees outside where they can walk around and enjoy being outdoors. If outdoor space isn’t an option, at least make sure you provide a lounge with couches or comfortable chairs where employees can go to take a break from their own cubicle walls.

Most employees understand that doing business in today’s technology-saturated society often means they are required to sit at a desk and work on a computer most of the day. This doesn’t have to look like the movie “Office Space,” though. Thankfully, with a little thought and purposeful planning, you can ensure your employees never feel like Peter or the other characters from the movie. Simply adhere to these lessons from “Office Space,” and you will be heading in the right direction.

The Need for Speed

GET YOUR WEB PAGES ON A DIET

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The speed of your website can affect several metrics, including conversion rates, page views, bounce rates, and often most importantly, reader satisfaction. Page speed is also a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. The faster your site loads, the higher your rankings are.

Here are a few factors that could be slowing down your site:

  • Large images or carousel sliders that aren’t optimized can significantly slow your page’s download speed.
  • Overloading your page with slow-loading ads, widgets, or plug-ins can slow your load time considerably.
  • Affiliate codes may seem small but can add up to slow your site’s speed.
  • The back-end code of sign-up forms, such as Google Feedburner or Aweber, can affect your speed.

Here are a few ways to test your site’s speed:

Think With Google (https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-us) tests your mobile website speed and performance and offers recommendations for improving performance across all devices.

Pingdom Website Speed Test (https://tools.pingdom.com/) enables you to test individual pages on real browsers like Chrome.

Uptrends (https://www.uptrends.com/tools/website-speed-test) analyzes your website speed on an elemental level, identifying bottlenecks caused by bloat and third-party scripts.

If you’d like help creating marketing materials that will drive visitors to your website, we’d love to help!

 

Screenshots Galore

SCREENSHOTS ON A VARIETY OF DEVICES

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Screenshots can be a helpful way to save information, but with the plethora of tech devices available, it can be hard remembering the screenshot shortcuts. Here are tips how to take screenshots on a variety of devices:

Windows: Press the Print Screen key (also marked “Print,” “PrtScn” or PrtSc”), which copies the screen and can be pasted into any program, such as Outlook email, Word, or Paint. Or, if you want more specific content, Press Alt+PrtScn to copy only the contents of your current window.

Microsoft Surface (or other Windows tablets): On older devices, you can try pressing Fn+Win+spacebar, or the Win+Down Volume button at the same time. On newer models, press the Power Button+Down Volume button simultaneously.

MacOS: To copy the image of your Mac’s entire screen, press Command+Control+Shift+3. Or, for specific screenshots, press Command+Shift+4, then click and drag the selector across the area of the desktop you want to capture.

Chromebooks: Hold down Ctrl+Switch Window button (or Ctrl+F5 on a standard keyboard). To take a partial screenshot, click Ctrl+Shift+Switch Window (Ctrl+Shift+F5 on a standard keyboard), then click and drag the selection tool across a portion of the screen.

iPhone or iPad: Press the Power Button+Home Button at the same time.

Most Android phones or tablets (including new Samsung S8, S8+ and Galaxy Note 8): Press the Power+Volume Down.

Samsung phones or tablets (excluding version 8): Press the Power Button+Home Button at the same time

What Leadership Really Means in the Era of Working Remotely

ThinkstockPhotos-614419830.jpgMore employees are working remotely than ever before. According to research conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, roughly 50% of the workforce in the United States holds a job that is “compatible” with at least partial telework. Of those people, about 20 to 25% of them actually do work remotely at some frequency.

More than that, a further 80 to 90% say that they would really like to work remotely at least part time – pointing to a trend that is only going to get more popular as time goes on.

Employees who are all able to work from home (or wherever they’d like, really) sounds fantastic… if you’re an employee. But what if you’re an employer? More than that, what if you’re a leader? How do you continue to do your job of bringing people together to benefit the greater good if they’re all spread out over a potentially massive geographic area?

The Job Hasn’t Changed…

The “good news” is that the leadership qualities required to steer any organization towards success have not changed, nor are they likely to ever do so. You still need to be an excellent communicator, making sure that everyone is on the same page, that they know what “success” looks like, and that they all still feel like they’re contributing to something much more powerful and important than themselves.

You still need to be willing to lead by example, never asking someone to do something that you’re unwilling to do yourself. You still need to inspire people to give their all not because their paychecks depend on it, but because they just can’t help themselves.

… But the Tools Have

Things have changed, however. In terms of communication, for example, you need to be willing to adapt your process to rely less on face-to-face interaction and more on the digital resources that you have available to you. Collaborating on a project no longer involves sitting in the same room and hammering out ideas. Now, it’ll involve using some cloud-based solution to give everyone editing access to the same files at the same time.

This type of thing will require an adjustment from your perspective, but it is one that is undoubtedly worth making. Typical telecommuters tend to be much happier with their jobs than people forced to come into the office every day, which will directly affect both productivity and work quality in a positive way. 73% of telecommuters say that they’re more satisfied with their company than they’ve ever been before. Most of them work more than 40 hours per week. They also tend to work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment – something that you’re also trying to do by being the best leader you can be.

In truth, how you’re able to change your management style to keep up with the demands of the modern telecommuting workforce will go a long way towards deciding what type of leader you’ll be today, tomorrow, five years from now, and beyond.