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7 tips on how to manage remote employees effectively

In some offices around the world, remote work was slowly becoming normalised even before COVID. However, for the majority of businesses office-based working was the standard, and the thought of an entire workforce contributing from the comfort of their own homes seemed a far-away dream. 

Now, of course, everything has changed, and it looks like things aren’t going back to the old way any time soon. This has raised a new conundrum for managers and business owners across the world: how to manage remote employees effectively?

 

Productivity and working from home

Over the past two years, there have been – for obvious reasons – a great amount of studies into the impact of working from home regarding both the productivity and happiness of the average worker. One such study, conducted in March 2021, found that a massive 83% of employees feel that being based in an office has no impact on their productivity, with 75% stating that working from home actually increases their productivity due to a lack of distractions.

Elsewhere, a Stanford study found a 13% boost to productivity when employees were based at home. This was attributed primarily to fewer sick days, fewer distractions, and shorter breaks. Interestingly, at the same time, participants reported an overall increase in job satisfaction.

Any quick Google search into working from home and productivity will find that there’s a positive correlation between the two. Despite this, remote employees still need effective management, or deadlines can be missed, and targets lost sight of. Below, we’re going to run you through some simple ways to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to managing your remote employees. 

 

How to manage remote employees

 

1 – Make sure your team has everything they need

Not everybody is lucky enough to have a well-equipped home working space. For some, a dining room table may have to suffice, or a coffee table. In order to keep your employees working at their best, set them up with anything they need to be comfortable and productive. This may be out of your hands, but you can help your employees out in nearly all other respects.

Are their laptop cameras up to standard for high-quality video calls? Do they have the necessary apps installed on their laptops, and access to all the files they need? Do they have access to the sort of ergonomic equipment that might usually be available in-office? Many companies attribute a small budget to each employee to enable them to make any purchases they need to get set up properly. It’s a good investment, with a large increase in productivity and happy employees as the reward! 

 

2 – Promote frequent communication

Things are different when you’re working remotely. No longer can you swivel round in your chair and fire a quick question at your colleague. Instead, messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat are used to send quick messages back and forth. Decide which of these best suits your team’s working style, and encourage your team to use them whenever possible. 

Many lengthy video calls can often be reduced to emails, and many emails can usually be reduced to a quick few messages on an app.

Keeping an open dialogue between your management and your team is key to successful remote working, and ensures there’s no drop in collaboration between individuals and teams. 

 

 

3 – Trust your team

If you want your employees to work from home successfully, trusting them is the key to good management. Micro-managing and looming over their every digital move will breed general resentment, as your team begins to feel as though they’re not trusted, and therefore not genuinely valued within their roles. 

By allowing your employees the freedom to work from home without monitoring them too closely, you’ll in turn gain their loyalty. 

 

4 – Set clear objectives to maximise clarity

As we mentioned earlier, when working from home there’s no option of asking the person sitting beside you for their opinion or help. In order for this to work, clear objective setting is paramount. A vague description of a task over a hasty Zoom call isn’t enough; if your employees are going to remain productive when working remotely (and even boost their productivity), they have to know what their objectives are with total clarity.

When setting objectives, be it at the start of each working day or at the beginning of the month, make them clear, logical, objective and quantifiable. This way, everybody knows precisely what’s expected of them at the outset, and can work towards a common goal safe in that knowledge.

 

5 – Show recognition of a job well done

There’s so much lost in writing, compared to conversation. If your team is excelling and hitting targets, encourage more frequently than you would do in the office, to compensate for the fact that a ‘well done’ message doesn’t have quite the same impact as saying it face to face. 

Positive feedback not only makes your employees happier, but also serves to reinforce the behaviours you’d like to see more of. This may sound like simple stuff, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget when working far from your team. 

 

 

6 – Check in regularly

When working from home, many people can experience moments of isolation; logging off on a Friday evening doesn’t have the same giddy feel to it when you’re simply closing your laptop on the kitchen table, rather than bidding farewell to a buzzing office. Learning how to manage remote workers effectively means remembering to check in often, to ensure that, alongside targets being met, your team’s mental health is in tip-top shape. 

 

 

7 – Streamline employee management with an employee performance management tool

If you’re busy doing the above six bullet points, chances are you’ll be a little short on time. However, the seventh point in our list is here to save you: use a performance management tool. 

We have no small amount of experience in this ourselves; we recently helped a client, Note It, to develop a mobile/web based platform that would streamline the often complicated process of employee management. The platform we created (which you can read about in more detail here) smooths out dozens of otherwise time consuming processes at once. These include recording workplace behaviours and performance, enabling regular feedback, and establishing data-driven insights into your team’s overall output during their time spent working from home.

Ultimately, working from home is a chance for your employees to take further responsibility for their productivity, and work on their own terms. With trusting, effective management, there’s no reason your team’s productivity and happiness when working from home can’t be the highest it’s ever been. The power of technology allows now-remote teams to come together seamlessly in ways we never knew would be possible. 

If you’d like to discover how software can help streamline your business, reduce costs, increase revenue, gain actionable insights and engage customers better, drop us a message here for a free consultation.

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How technology is changing remote learning for the better

The world is changing rapidly, and with it, remote learning and remote teaching are becoming a new and vital part of the lives of students at all ages.

A year and a half of uncertainty, coupled with a rapid need to adapt, has led to some huge changes in education. When the news first broke that learning would be moving online, the reaction of the average teacher was likely a sense of bewilderment. Because how could it possibly work? Teaching new skills to a class is a tough task in itself, never mind doing it through the pixelated lens of a webcam. However, over the past 16 months, it has turned out that remote learning is not only possible, but in many ways it’s genuinely improving the learning experience, both for teachers and students.

 

1 – Creating a newer, better business model

Over the course of the pandemic, many educational businesses have felt the need to take their business model online. As a result, many of them have managed to not only continue as normal during the last year, but have fared even better than usual. Of course, remote learning isn’t perfect – there are many creases to iron out still! – but below we’re going to take an optimistic look at all the ways in which remote students can benefit and thrive.

 

2 – Feedback is faster

For decades, the only way in which parents and teachers would ever interact is through parent-teacher evenings in school, which were only a couple of times a year (remember the nerves of being a child sitting at home, wondering what gossip was being shared?). The colossal change of the past year has totally reinvented the way parent-teacher contact is made.

In many schools in 2021, apps are used which allow parents and teachers to communicate far more freely. In some primary schools, for example, specially-designed learning apps allow teachers to share videos and images of their students beavering away in the classroom, or enjoying themselves on school trips. Parents can therefore closely follow the progress and behaviour of their children, and may even be able to witness a side of their child they’d not seen before.

This benefits not just parents and children, but educators too. Where once upon a time, the only way of getting information on a student’s behaviour to a parent was via a note (always at risk of being ‘misplaced’), today teachers can quickly and easily send a message directly to the parent, thereby ensuring it’s read and responded to.

 

3 – Students can find all learning resources in one place

Whether your student days are only a decade behind you or half a century, you’ll likely remember the days of stumbling home after a day’s learning with arms and a backpack brimming with workbooks, notepads and photocopied papers. And, of course, when it came to revision time, they were never quite where you left them.

Cloud based learning has come a long way in a very short time, to a point where now, businesses and schools alike can share vast amounts of information with large numbers of pupils spread all around the globe.

 

4 – You’ll spend less time on admin, and more on teaching and learning

There are some processes that don’t make sense to automate: for example, the act of teaching itself is always better with a human being than with an algorithm. However, algorithms set up to ease the admin behind remote teaching can free up a ton of invaluable time that can be spent on developing new, fun learning techniques and exercises.

In fact, a recent client of ours, Mesh Learning, had this very problem. See case study: Mesh Learning

Mesh Learning is a business offering tutoring to students up to Year 12, in a range of subjects. At the time Mesh Learning got in touch with us, they had been facing issues with learning software that was buggy and lacked important features.

We performed a thorough analysis, and set about repairing the bugs in the programme. From there, we implemented the features that were lacking in line with Mesh Learning’s requests: the ability to copy question sets, import student data easily, a maths editor function, and more.

As of July 2021, Mesh Learning has launched full remote learning capability. The previous iteration of their software was based all around iPads and face to face learning, however with our technical help, they have launched a fully integrated web application which offers even more options for learning and development.

 

5 – You can browse the best talent available

Whether you’re a teacher looking for students or a would-be student seeking a teacher, the move of education online opens up a world of opportunity. Just as remote working now means employers and employees can seek out the best of the best around the world, the arrival of remote learning means it’s possible for students to seek out teachers that are not necessarily based in the same location.

In fact, they could be based anywhere in the world. Demand for remote learning is skyrocketing all around the globe, and the remote learning market is purported to reach $370 billion by 2026. Whereas in decades gone by, if you’d wanted to learn French or how to play the piano, you’d have been severely limited by the teachers in your immediate area. Today, it’s completely feasible to learn to play Beethoven’s greatest hits remotely, instructed by a master of the craft who may be based in another city, country, or even continent.

 

6 – It’s enjoyable

Learning apps like Duolingo offer a learning experience that expertly taps into the reward centre of our brains. There’s something about those clean menus, simple module layouts and little green flashes when you get an answer correct that is just so satisfying.

For Millennials and Generation Z, who had largely been raised in a society obsessed with tech, this manner of learning is both second nature and highly gratifying. Just as notifications badges on social media generate little serotonin boosts and keep us coming back for more, the congratulatory beeps and green flashes of education apps can make learning feel like a positive and stimulating experience, particularly for students who may at times struggle with their concentration.

 

7 – Communication is more direct

Whether you’re teaching one to one or an entire remote classroom, remote learning has given students the means to express themselves to teachers in a way that they may not feel at ease doing in a classroom environment. Video calling apps with integrated messaging, such as Zoom, give pupils the opportunity to message their tutors directly with any questions they may have, rather than risking embarrassment by raising a hand in the middle of class.

In response to this, teachers are able to offer tailored support using a wider range of resources than might otherwise be possible – for example, by using videos, a range of articles, or various learning apps to try and explain a complicated issue in various, more interesting ways. After all, each of us learns differently and at different paces.

 

Technology and remote learning: The conclusion

It’s easy to debate whether remote learning should become the new ‘normal’ permanently, with some circumstances, and even certain subjects, more difficult to learn in a remote setting. For example, alongside remote learning (versus in-person learning) often comes a struggle with discipline, especially for schooling in younger children. When parents are working from home, it can be a constant juggle of homeschooling, remote learning and their own working life – which can make learning for younger children difficult to manage. Although children may be viewed as being more adaptable, at a young age, children can thrive from being in a busy, classroom environment.

 

However, there are always two sides to every coin. There are a ton of ways that remote learning and remote teaching is changing the way we learn and develop for the better. Many education businesses and schools are looking into ways of mixing in-person learning with remote learning, as a hybrid model designed to combine the best of both worlds. For adult learners, or students where in-person learning just isn’t an option, however, remote education can still be an immensely productive and gratifying experience.

 

At Lokava, we work closely with businesses to improve their efficiency and effectiveness by solving issues through innovative software solutions. If you’re an educator or education business and you’re ready to take your business model online, get in touch today and let’s talk through everything we can do for you – including all of the above, and much more!

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Are Lack of Automated Processes Costing You Thousands of Dollars?

Well if you or your employees are spending large amounts of time performing low-value repetitive tasks daily, the short answer might be… YES!

The signs are often very clear.

  1. Do your manual tasks follow a simple pattern or formula?
  2. Are you repeatedly performing work that is NOT contributing to the growth of your business?
  3. Do you often find yourself engaging in tasks that are the same, day in and day out?
  4. Are you manually collecting and processing data? Eg: Mortgage brokers spend a significant amount of their time simply processing applications as opposed to high value tasks such as advising clients and generating new business.
  5. Do you get a niggling feeling that your primary responsibilities could easily be outsourced or automated?

If you found yourself nodding along and agreeing to most of these questions, there might be an opportunity for you and your business to save a great deal of money.

While not EVERY solution may come in the shape of software, we have found an increasing number of businesses can in fact greatly benefit from a simple software solution.

 

Is your business INEFFICIENT?

The best way to know where these inefficiencies exist is by going straight to the source.

Ask your employees:

  1. How are they currently allocating their time?
  2. How would they assign their tasks to the following 3 categories? High Value, Medium Value, Low Value.

If you find large portions of their time are being spent on low or medium value tasks, is there scope to automate them?

This could be the first step in building a more lean and efficient business while giving your staff the chance to work on growing your business to the next level.

 

 

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Identifying Business Issues

Before you start thinking of a solution, you need to identify what the problem is.

Many business owners get caught up with the idea of implementing a miracle solution before truly understanding the issues currently being faced by their business.

Others tend to operate in a state of ignorance – hoping that things will improve without making the effort to take an introspective look at the current state of affairs and determine what is and isn’t working.

If you fall into either of these categories, don’t fret – there is a way out.

Not sure what is wrong with the business?

Being unsure of where problems lie can be a very scary place to be. Without knowing what is wrong, how can you fix it?

There are many issues that are commonly faced by businesses around the world. Some of these include:

  • Poor communication between staff.
  • Inefficient processes resulting in wasted time and money.
  • Lack of documented processes resulting in staff flying by the seat of their pants.
  • Lack of situational awareness resulting in a poor understanding of the ‘bigger picture.’
  • Not being objective when making decisions.
  • Using incorrect or outdated information to inform key business decisions.
  • Inadequate staff training or up-skilling.
  • Not keeping an eye on your competition.
  • Not engaging with and getting feedback from existing customers.

 

So how do you go about identifying the issues being faced by your business?

 

Identifying Current Issues

Identifying current issues being faced by your business can be a challenging process.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

 

1. Talk to your staff.

Interviewing staff members and asking them what they are struggling with day to day can prove to be quite illuminating.

You need to make sure you ask the right kinds of questions, e.g.

  • What tasks are you spending most of your time?
  • Are you regularly performing repetitive manual tasks?
  • What do you do when you’re unsure of how to handle something?
  • Do you understand the bigger implications of what you are working on?
  • During your daily workflow are there any ‘process blockers’ that you regularly encounter?

These questions will give you an insight into how your employees think and what issues they are encountering on a day to day basis.

 

2. Revisit existing processes

Taking a deeper look at current processes can quickly reveal flaws.

Often, businesses will have implemented processes and procedures without due consideration given to why something should work the way it does. In some cases a process was never really discussed or formalised – it just so happened that someone senior decided to do something a particular way and that was passed down to junior staff and so on.

Bad processes can create a dangerous cycle that needs to be broken quickly.

Ask your staff:

  • Why is this task being done in this particular way?
  • What is the expected outcome?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • Are there any common blockers to completing this task quickly and efficiently?
  • Can anything be removed from this process to achieve the same result?

Based on the answers you receive, you will have a much clearer understanding on how to alleviate any problems that are identified.

 

3. Talk to your customers

Taking some time to talk to your customers can do wonders for your business.

Many businesses overlook meaningful customer feedback – this feedback could relate to the sales/on-boarding process, ongoing support or general service delivery.

Getting a better understanding of how your customers are feeling in regards to the areas mentioned above can let you know whether there is a serious issue that has been overlooked.

While it can be tempting to quickly create a simple survey and send it out to all your clients, it’s only a good starting point. Getting your customers on the phone to discuss feedback in greater detail will often result in more meaningful learning and data being collected. Or better yet, go and meet them in person!

 

4. Look to the competition

Many businesses get so caught up with what they are doing that they often forget to look to one of the best learning resources available – their competitors.

The closest competitors in your space will often provide deep and profound insights on the marketplace. It’s very important to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. This includes things like:

  • Product Line
  • Pricing
  • Customer Service and Post Sales Support
  • Website and Marketing
  • Social Media

By observing the key players in your market using the metrics above, you can learn a wealth of knowledge about their approach use it to innovate and improve your own strategy and processes.

 

What’s Next?

Once you have a better idea of what might be going wrong with your business, you’ll be in a much better position to start looking for solutions.

A solution may come in the form of a small change to an existing process, using software to automate manual tasks that are wasting valuable employee time or taking on board customer feedback to change a key aspect of your service delivery.

Whatever the solution may be, it’s important to remember that you can’t fix something unless you know what is broken.