So how do you stay on track as a remote team? It basically comes down to self-care and firm boundaries. You have to abide by a few best practices to be successful. Your workspace, time management, and communication are key to killing it while working from home. 

How to Set the Stage for WFH

Start Your Day

To set the stage for focus and productivity whilst working remotely have an activity that marks the start of your workday. Mine is taking a shower, get dressed, make coffee,  unfurl my computer. 

I live in a small apartment, but still, I prefer to work from my home rather than a public place. I save money, can listen to music, mix in-house chores on breaks, and it’s quiet if I need to take a call. Wifi connections at cafes and other public places are often unreliable, and I hate nothing more than crawling around looking for an outlet to charge my computer. 

Take Breaks and Move 

Frequent short breaks will make you more productive. One thing that I noticed immediately when I started working from home is that I became far less physically active, and honestly became a bit of a hermit. This ultimately impacted my mood and the comfort of my jeans…  Find an activity outside of your home that works for you, like a walk around the block. If nothing else, there are heaps of exercise apps you can use at home if you’re feeling like a hermit. Try a seven minute exercise break or find a local class to attend on apps like Mindbody

End Your Day

No matter your space, it’s important to unplug and remove traces of your workday from your living areas. Set clear work/life boundaries by putting away your computer to reset for evening relaxation. If you are lucky enough to have a home office, leave that room and close the door.  Do not check Slack or work emails while you’re off the clock. In my home, we never use computers off the clock, after all, that’s what iPads are for, right? 🙂 

Time Management

Set Time Boundaries 

Set a timer when you start working. At Crowned, we use Harvest or Toggl. Even if you aren’t working on an hourly contract, it’s important to know how much time you spend working. This helps to create healthy boundaries and achieve the ever-fleeting work-life balance.  Make sure you have office hours and put them on your calendar along with a lunch break every day.

Make a List

An easy way to stay on track and feel accomplished is to get into the habit of making a daily or weekly list. I know for me, if I don’t have a list, I’ll feel like I forgot something and then the anxiety kicks in. 

There are heaps of apps that can help you with this, like Asana, Google Tasks, Apple Reminders, or a notebook and a pen! I love the feeling of crossing tasks off of a list I write out on paper. Oh, the satisfaction! 

Take Time Off

WFH doesn’t mean you work through the pain of sickness or injury. It’s very easy to get sucked into feeling like since you work from home, you can work regardless of how you feel. Working while sick isn’t a good precedent to set for yourself or your team, and it can contribute to the dreaded burnout, which is now recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease. Try not to fall into the habit of “being well enough to take a call.” Give yourself a break and let your body rest and heal. 

Take Vacation

Lots of remote teams in the US have the “unlimited PTO” benefit. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen folks not take PTO unless reminded. Take at least 3-4 weeks off per year to recharge and relax. If you’re not one for big trips, take several long weekends each quarter. 

Communication 

Set Clear Expectations

Communicate clearly and directly with your colleagues, use shared project management tools for collaboration, and if you have a meeting set, try your best to keep it. Tell your team that clear and direct communication is expected of them as well. This will help to quell the uncertainty, frustrations, and potential saltiness that can spring up as a remote team. Your colleagues need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, just like in any office. 

Use the Right Tools

If you’re not using apps for project management and communication, you’re missing the boat. I recently worked at an office where they failed to implement web-based project management tools and modern communication apps and it wasn’t pretty. The number one thing that those colleagues reported struggling with at that office was poor communication, and it led to a revolving door of talented people, myself included!

As a manager, if you don’t have skills with modern project management and communication tools, delegate this or hire someone who does. Consultants with know-how in this area, like Crowned, can set up the infrastructure for these tools and train both you and your staff on how to use them effectively. Using modern project management and communication software will make for a more productive and happier team! 

Relationships Matter

Most remote teams I’ve worked on exclusively communicate via Slack, with weekly meetings on Zoom. I’ve worked at startups that inspired different levels of team socializing. I’ve found that a little fun builds trust, and also alleviates the strain of our busy lives. Having human connections with your colleagues will make work more enjoyable.   

In practice, this can look different on every team. When I started at Crowned, I was delighted when I was asked to describe my weekend in only gifs or emojis. It breaks the ice, adds a little whimsy, and laughter increases productivity!

Bonus Points for WFH

Get Inspired 

In any industry you might work in, you have to keep learning all the time. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, follow topics of your industry in your news feed, join online groups, follow industry leaders on social media, and share what you learn with your team. Have discussions and learn what your colleagues are doing to stay ahead in your field.

Written by: Betty Bair

It’s nice to see some good news at the start of a shiny new decade: The global remote workforce is on the rise yet again for 2020. This isn’t news to folks in the business world. The International Workplace Group reported in 2018 that 70% of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week. Research across the board shows that the remote work will equal, if not surpass, fixed office locations by the year 2025, and already nearly two-thirds of American companies have growing remote teams. Here’s why yours should, too. 

What’s The Deal with WFH?

We in the biz call working remotely, “WFH”, or working from home. The cliché of working from home are many — slippers all day, an expansive loungewear wardrobe, a commute from bed to the couch, and so on. The realities are somewhat mixed with the myth here, but the bottom line is that cultivating a remote work team has heaps of benefits for your business, your employees, and the world at large

People who’ve never worked remotely are often skeptical about the WFH lifestyle, sometimes scoffing at the struggles remote teams face. These people are, in a word, simply jealous! When I got my first remote job as a social media manager, a family member (who shall remain nameless) very flippantly suggested that I was just “on Facebook all day”… If only they knew the complexities of managing a business page for a national company! 

Increase Productivity

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words uttered in offices I’ve worked at, “I’m WFH tomorrow so I can focus and get some work done without interruptions.”  For you and your employees or contractors, remote work can offer refuge from the constraints of the rat-race and boost productivity. The move toward open-plan offices seemed like a good idea for collaboration and teamwork, but it’s really been more of a means of distraction and cuts down productivity. Days working from home (or anywhere other than a traditional office) are frequently noted as the days’ workers report being the most productive. Studies show that this anecdotal observation rings true, with respondents reporting that remote workers clock in an average of 16.8 more days a year than in-office folks. That seriously adds up! 

Lower Costs

Your office overhead costs are killing you. With all the collaboration-friendly software available today, in-person meetings have become less of a necessity. I’m not saying actual facetime isn’t important, it certainly is in some cases, but the ever sought after “work-life balance” should be the real goal for every tech-based company. Not only will it save you a lot of money, but your staff will also benefit in so many areas of their lives, too, from saving money on commuting, wardrobe, lunches, to things like child and pet care. All that leads to yet another benefit of remote teams — happier workers, because your team will be able to spend less time commuting, more time working productively, and less money trying to make it all work for their families. 

Why Remote Work is Here to Stay

Here’s the “skip to the recipe” section for why you should have a remote team, and how to make it work for your business. 

What’s with this dramatic increase in remote work? There are a lot of great reasons. Saving money is the top reason for companies. Here are some statistics for you to dig into. 

  • Companies that give employees the option of working from home see a 50% decrease in employee turnover
  • The ability to hire from a more diverse global applicant pool, rather than a limited local pool. 
  • One study shows that by even allowing just one employee to telecommute, companies can save over $10,000 per year
  • Web-based tools get better all the time, too, and let teams have meetings and training sessions remotely, project-manage, and cut the enormous cost of travel. 
  • Everyone saves money — employers can save big time, with a reported $5 billion in savings to companies with remote workers, and $7000 per year savings to employees. 
  • It’s easier all the time to manage global teams with web-based collaboration tools. 
  • Remote work is far more productive than in-office work.
  • Fewer sick days for all, and no spreading your nasties around the office. 
  • It’s better for the environment in many ways. Cutting your company’s carbon footprint should be on everyone’s 2020 to-do list. 

Stay tuned to Crowned for our next installment all about remote work best practices and how to make it work for you and your team

Written by: Betty Bair

I get questions from clients regarding inbox management quite often. Below are a few examples of what I’ve come across.

“My inbox is overflowing, help!”

“How am I ever going to get through all of these emails?”

“What if I miss something important?”

Does this sound familiar? Are you struggling to keep up with the overflow of emails coming through 24/7? Are important emails going unanswered because you didn’t see them among all of the others? If so, I think I can provide some easy steps that will allow you to manage your inbox with ease. I’ve helped a lot of my clients get their emails organized while keeping their inboxes at a minimum level.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that this will happen overnight, and I’m not going to tell you that your inbox will be empty all the time either. But, what I will say is that you will feel confident to never miss another important email again, you will never have to spend time sorting through your inbox to find those missing emails, and you will always be aware what is coming in and what is being sent out. As long you follow these steps:

  • Prioritize: This is the first thing I ask my clients to do. I like to have at least 2 priority levels, highest (most urgent) and lowest. However, this is not static and can change depending on the number of emails you receive. I’ve had clients with priority levels 1, 2, 3 and 4. It’s all up to you!
  • Action items (optional): This is an optional step that I like to include for special circumstances. If you consistently receive a lot of calendar invitations or certain messages that are highly urgent. Having an action category with a bright colored labeled will be very beneficial. I like to leave these emails in the inbox so they won’t be missed.
  • Color code: I feel that this is such a simple, yet valuable way to organize not only emails but calendars as well. When your eye is drawn to a specific color, you’ll automatically see the importance. I like to have my clients create color-coded labels (or folders) to help identify the priority levels. For example: Green= lowest priority, orange= highest priority, red= action item.
  • Think- Read, Categorize, Respond, Archive or Delete: Try to get yourself into the habit of going through your inbox at the beginning of your work day. This entails sorting through your emails and categorizing each email with its priority level, then respond (if needed, depending on priority and time). Once finished, delete or archive. By doing this you will get rid of any junk emails that may be filtering through, and you will be able to respond to your most urgent messages in a timely manner.

Trust me, these steps may seem like a lot at first but once you get used to the process it’s extremely simple. In no time you will have successfully managed your inbox, you’ll find everything in its place, nice and organized.

Do you have anything you would like to add that may have helped you get organized?

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Why is collaboration so important? Collaboration is fundamental to creating a solid working relationship, it begins from the first point of contact with each of my clients.

When you choose to work with me, you’re bringing me on to streamline certain business obstacles. In order for me to successfully do that, I need to understand how I can best support you and your business. It is my job to create a plan of support that will fulfill your needs. While every client is different, it is important for me to have certain procedures set in place to maintain consistency and organization. And collaboration is the main component in each of them.

A brief outline of these procedures include:

  • Introductory call
  • Contracts/payments
  • A plan of support specifically catered to you
  • Project Management systems
  • Communication preferences
  • Determining weekly meetings
  • Weekly reports

This basic outline allows me to provide ongoing support for you and/or your team. I do not work on a task by task basis, instead, I partner with you, allowing you to focus on core operations. I want my clients to think long term. I want to be someone you can rely on in many aspects of your business without having to worry about maintaining tasks and checklists. That is why collaboration is the underlying reason my system works, it eliminates the need for that. We are in constant communication working together to achieve mutual objectives. your success is my success.

Are you facing the dreaded Expense report again this month? Check out my 6 tips

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I’ve done several expense reports for a variety of my clients. Things that are typically included are: flights, checked bag fees, dinner/lunch meetings, hotels, rental cars, Uber, taxi’s, concert tickets, misc purchases, credit card transactions, and much more. So, with all of the receipts that are acquired during a single trip, or on a daily basis, how can one keep up with the loot?

My solution, use mobile apps! There are so many available these days it’s hard not to take advantage of their services.  These apps allow you to take a photo of your current receipt and it will automatically log that information into a single spreadsheet. Some will even match your credit card transactions, categorize receipts, track company policies & procedures, etc, etc. Saving you, or your Administrative Consultant valuable time. If you’re consistent, utilizing these apps is a great solution! However, there are some companies that do not offer these easy solutions or busy entrepreneurs that do not want to deal with using apps. That’s okay too! You know how it goes, there is a prefabricated spreadsheet that you must fill out manually, entering every receipt, category, or reason. Then you have to submit it to the correct department, attach receipts blah, blah, blah.

As a virtual Administrative Consultant, my goal is to make things easier for all of my clients. So I’ve come up with 6 simple tips to help this process go smoothly, regardless if you choose to go the app route or not.

6 tips for Managing Expense Reports with ease:

  1. Take a photo of each paper receipt you receive: Even though the apps work great for this I would still take one extra step, and email those photos to yourself, or your Administrative Consultant. (Pssst- you can even text the photo to your Admin Consultant) Just so you don’t have to worry about losing the paper receipts. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and you won’t need a scanner.
  2. Use your email to your advantage: You can easily set rules or filters to manage specific incoming emails. For example: If you receive Uber, or Google Apps receipts through email, then you can create a filter to put those emails in a specific folder. That way it keeps your newly received receipts organized, and separate from your inbox.
  3. Create a folder for each month to house all of your emailed receipts and statements: This is important. You need a place to house all of your receipts, and credit card statements. Even if you’re using an app, you need a point of reference in case of a mistake. I would keep this folder in your preferred cloud storage system, or in a secured area on your computer. Your Administrative Consultant can also do this and share the folder with you, or vice versa.
  4. Make time to compile the data: Now that you have a folder with all of your receipts and statements in one place, what’s next? Fill out the report as you go! I highly suggest this, because it will save you time in the long run. No one wants to go through a month of receipts all at once.
  5. Submit your receipts: Companies usually like receipts in one nice PDF document. But, if your photos are in a JPEG format, how does this work? Well, you have some options: you can use a program to convert these for you (sometimes for a small fee), or delegate this task to your Administrative Consultant. I usually have the task of converting these for my clients, it also allows me to double check the entered data as I go.
  6. Double, and triple check!: Before submitting your monthly expense report, just go through and check everything once again. If you’re using a spreadsheet make sure all of your formulas are correct, showing the right amounts. If using an app, check to make sure all receipts are included in the correct amounts. There is less error when using apps, but sometimes a mistake can be made.

Hope this list helps you to become more efficient and productive when managing expense reports. If you need some additional help, contact me at info@crowned.us