Be More Productive with Remote Workers

remote workersAre you seeking a way to enhance productivity in the office? Counter to what you may be considering, it may be beneficial for you to offer employees the opportunity to work remotely.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 24% of American employees are remote workers.  This growing class of employees is also an astounding 71% more productive than their counterparts working in the office.  But before you knock the cubicle walls down and tell everyone to go home, there are some systems and processes your company needs to support its remote workers and encourage productivity.

Encourage Productivity with Remote Workers

Becoming a virtual office can be very scary for employers.  Whether you turn off the lights altogether and tell everyone to work from home or you hire a handful of remote workers, there are many potential mine fields to navigate.  How do you ensure employees continue to do their job?  What if they become too distracted?  But when executed well, a remote work program can encourage employees to balance their lives.  Suddenly, parents are able to see their children more, there’s more time for the gym without a commute.  But how do you set up a system that works?  Try the following suggestions and your remote worker program will flourish:

  • Create a team environment in a wiki or a project tracking program.  It’s important for companies with remote workers to offer the same spirit of support and collaboration that would exist in the office.  It’s also important to make sure everyone is still involved in their projects.  Company wikis or project trackers are great ways for remote workers to catch up, rope people into ongoing projects, and offer insight into what they’re doing.  If this is a new tool for your team, there will be some period of adjustment and getting used to the technology, the new habits of tracking milestones, and communicating with others online.  But it can be very beneficial to your remote workers.  Nobody wants to feel as if they’re adrift in the company or that their only coworker has become the dog.  Encourage your remote workers to participate and collaborate online.  Without micromanagers or time wasters at the water cooler, find out just how much more productive your team can be.
  • Use video conferencing tools.  When your team is geographically dispersed, it can be hard to meet and go over project details.  This is where video conferencing can assist.  Video conferencing utilizes existing technology- a phone connection and video conferencing.  The difference is it allows team members to meet in a secure and branded environment for a fraction of the cost.  Take for example a company based out of Singapore- now they can meet securely and for a fraction of the cost- with their team members in Australia, America, or even Europe.  The possibilities are endless for these kinds of meetings.  Imagine town hall meetings on site where your satellite offices are conferenced in, board meetings, and more.  All of these are possible with video conferencing technology.  Remote workers don’t have to be left out of the loop anymore.  Now, they can be an integral part of the decision-making process.
  • Offer virtual HR assistance.  Many remote workers complain that their biggest gripe is not feeling a part of the team.  Your company can remedy this with a variety of online tools such as onboarding, training, and even reviews.  Remote workers can receive all the benefits that an onsite HR team can offer.  Encourage employees to make use of these tools to stay in the loop and develop professionally.  Working in the cloud has never been so easy and your remote workers will appreciate the opportunity to stay involved.

It’s Time to Think Differently

In the old days, companies had to have brick and mortar locations or they couldn’t survive.  Technology simply hadn’t advanced far enough to allow for workers to spend time at home and still do their job.  But today cloud based applications make it easier than ever.  The opportunities for remote workers keep growing as more companies are discovering how productive employees can be when they’re not in the office.  Whether working from your daughter’s soccer game or in an airport lounge, the barriers to productivity have been erased.  The key is to put a strong program in place to ensure your remote workers are supported and in constant communication.  Find out how productive your team can be with these simple but actionable tips.

Effective Project Management: Working From 5 to 9

When I was younger and entering the workforce I quickly understood that I do my best work at 5 AM.

I have the best ideas, I am the most focused and I’m able to perform miracles.

While doing some experiments on myself to test my abilities, I found out that working 4 hours, from 5 AM to 9AM , I could achieve more than by working in the office from nine to five.

Unfortunately It’s hard to explain it to a manager who measures how many minutes you’re late in the morning and if you’re still in the office at 4.59PM.

For each of us the best hours for working are a little different. There are a lot of people like me, who like to work in the morning, there are also a lot of people who do their best creative work after midnight when I prefer to be asleep. Yet most offices still demand a 9 to 5 commitment from everyone.

Of course there are a lot of areas where working during business hours is essential. I’m not going to argue the benefits of keeping a bank open at 4AM or barbers and cashiers who should cater to the needs of night owls.

Yet, for a lot of fields these “office hours” are just there due to hundreds of years of traditions.

If the job, in most part, requires an employee to sit on the computer and write, then demanding strict working hours is a waste of precious potential.

As I’m writing this article, it’s 6.45 in the morning. By the time I get to the office, I’ll probably have finished it. I will probably leave the office around 2PM when I’ve been there for 4 hours, while being productive for 9. Everybody wins.

As a manager you might be afraid that if you don’t keep an eye on everyone from 9 to 5, he wont work at all. You can’t walk into his house to check if he’s really doing something at 5 AM or is he watching cat videos at Facebook.

However, Jeff Boss, a leadership coach and a former Navy SEAL, said that “it’s certainly a manager’s role to breed the right working environment that gets results. So, if that means letting his or her people work virtually so they can tend to personal appointments, do it.”

He added that a manager has to “find the right temperature at which to set work processes and adapt from there.”

I’d welcome having a coffee or a meeting with my boss at 6AM, I’m pretty sure he’s sleeping at this time.

So how can we work together?

Keeping The Leaders Happy

If we can know what all our friends are doing, what they’re eating or thinking due to Facebook and other social networks, then surely implementing an application or a program that measures our work is not too hard.

To keep your leader happy you need trust. Luckily or unfortunately, trust is based on experience and that means it takes time to form.

If I’ve been working with someone for years, I know what he’s doing and I don’t worry. Yet you can’t wait years to get your teams to maximum productivity.

You need help.

There are a lot of project management tools that help with that. You could use Basecamp for project management or just have a chat based system. But you need to have an online system that everyone can contribute 24 hours a day.

We’re using our own Weekdone’s weekly progress reporting application that is based on the PPP (Plans, Progresses, Problems) methodology. This gives both the manager and an employee a daily overview about everything going on in a company or a team.

This means that with a quick look at my company’s feed, I always know what’s going on.

A lot of people use Excel based shared documents or e-mail but this is actually not structured enough and gets confusing really quickly.

We, in addition to main tools, use Skype chats where everyone can contribute. When our sales team gets a new big client, they can share it with everyone. People will see it, if they come online to start their workday. Even if it’s 4 o’clock in the morning.

If our designer finished the SlideShare presentation I need at 3AM, I’ll find out the moment I wake up and I can react to it. And our manager knows everyone is doing their job.

The same system works not only for unconventional office hours, but for handling remote or international teams.

At the same time, using progress reporting or project management in you’re downtown office gives reassurances to your internal communication and increases your productivity.

In the end, I think, the most important thing is that keeping tabs on progress and achievements is more important than keeping tabs on time.


Photo Credit: Bigstock

Theories Of Motivation For Workplace Productivity

What motivates you? The allure of a big pay off? The drive to better yourself? Praise, attention, and awards from co-workers or employers?

If you’ve ever taken an introductory psychology class (or have a pet animal), then you know about Pavlov’s dog. The idea behind salivating to the sound of a bell is the crux of Classical Conditioning, but it doesn’t tend to show human behavior and motivation in a positive light.

Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, delineates motivation into three easy-to-understand categories: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Through this updated model, the space, skill set, and drive to attain a particular goal comprise the factors of motivation in a way that is more conducive within a professional environment.

Using Motivation To Your Advantage

In her book How to Get People to Do Stuff, Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. lays out the roadmap for using the seven basic drivers of motivation as an advantage:

  1. The Need to Belong
  2. Habits
  3. The Power of Stories
  4. Carrots and Sticks
  5. Instincts
  6. The Desire for Mastery
  7. Tricks of the Mind

Weinschenk mentions that you can wield the need to belong by trusting in people. Showing trust is the best way to get people to trust you and the payoff is that people are more likely to comply with a request if it comes from a person they trust.

Want to work harder and encourage employees or coworkers to do the same? Surround yourself with high performers. Their energy and commitment will bolster yours. Someone is more likely to engage in a behavior if you can get them to formulate it as an internally-directed question rather than a statement. (In other words, you’re more likely to exercise when you ask, “Will I go for a run tomorrow?”, than when you say to yourself, “I will run tomorrow.”)

Want to reinforce someone else’s behavior? For learning new behaviors, use the fixed-internal and fixed-ratio schedules. (When it comes to maintaining behaviors, the variable-ratio schedule is most effective.)

Motivation Vs. Rewards In The Workplace

There’s no one-size-fits-all theory of motivation. However, research is clear on one point: once you have achieved an acceptable standard of living, rewards and punishments can do more harm than good. In order to maintain a workforce that produces positive results, there are certain areas that can be utilized to motivate employees.

With ever-changing business practices and goals, the motivation methods implemented in the workplace require flexibility and the opportunity to adapt. There is perhaps a better chance of improved productivity and overall morale with the updated encouragement and employee recognition, rather than the usual, old hat “carrot and stick” motivational system. Following these tips allow for increased productivity and an overall well-balanced, positive workplace environment for all involved. It doesn’t have to take much to show your co-workers and employees just how much their hard work and dedication is appreciated!


Using ‘Time’ To Attract Amazing Employees

Jeff, the managing director of a growing empire of eyewear stores, complained that he simply couldn’t find enough optometrists to achieve his expansion plans.  When I questioned him, his attraction strategy was almost solely based on salary. Jeff valued twenty-twenty vision, but he needed to look at this problem through different eyes.

Money by itself is not the greatest motivator, ranking between fifth and tenth on most employee lists of wants, so organisations that move beyond pure dollars will attract great applicants. In this instance we designed new shift times that allowed applicants to work 4 ten-hour days, rather than 5 eight-hour days, and enjoy a three day weekend. The outcome – Jeff filled all of his vacancies within a fortnight.

Time As a Commodity


Time is now a valuable commodity for employees and consequently for employers seeking the best people. Despite technological improvements, work hours are escalating in many developed countries, so flexibility in scheduling time is becoming more and more sought after. Many people are prepared to take lower salaries as a trade-off.

It’s not surprising then, that companies that embed time flexibility into their systems and then highlight this in their recruitment marketing, experience outstanding success.

Take the Marriott Hotel group who was looking for staff for its new hotel in Hong Kong. The company discovered a six day work-week was standard there, so instead implemented a five day work-week. With this point of difference, they filled all their positions with employees of choice.

My local bus company was also having difficulty hiring drivers. After focusing on the needs of their target employees, the organisation created a new shift time from 9.30am-2.30pm, and filled their vacancies with parents who wanted to only work between school hours.

Creative Time-Packaged Salaries

Time can also be linked to salary packaging. St George Bank identified that many of their prospective employees wanted time to pursue other interests, without sacrificing their career. The bank introduced a policy that let employees work four years and take a fifth year off, fully paid. It worked this way – if an employee’s annual salary was $50,000, they were paid $40,000 for four years and then, when they took the fifth year off, they continued to be paid $40,000, being the $10,000 owing from each of the previous four years. The icing on the cake was that many employees locked in for five years, reducing staff turnover as well.

‘All-Or-Nothing Thinking’

Organisations who allow employees to work more flexibly have almost doubled since 2005. Yet many still resist this practice, exhibiting conventional ‘all or nothing’ thinking.  They believe that if the person isn’t in the office full-time they are just lazing around. When IT giant Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer banned employees from working from home, she announced that part of her decision was poor productivity and the need to stop slackers. Hewlett Packard’s CEO followed suit, cutting it for the bulk of her workers.

Yet all the latest studies show a statistical increase in productivity when employees work from home. Pennsylvania University conducted a longitudinal study in which psychologists examined 20 years of research on telecommuting involving 46 studies and 12,833 employees. They found an overall beneficial effect which was a win-win for employees and employers.

Often those who are the most fervent in blaming telecommuting for their company woes, have poor metrics and management processes. Moving demotivated, unproductive workers from home to office is like relocating rotten apples and expecting them to flourish. If organisations have objective measurements for employee outcomes, then managers can constructively deal with poor performers, no matter where the  workplace.

Another problem is the mistaken belief that telecommuting has to be for everyone every day, when what’s required is its judicious use. Allowing a leader to work one day a fortnight from home can be enough to attract better employees, especially if the competition isn’t offering this benefit.  That’s why blanket bans like Yahoo’s can be damaging – they can  harm employer branding and increase staff turnover, often a company’s greatest hidden expense.

More Flexible Time For Everyone

It’s not just rank and file workers who seek for more time flexibility either. Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of two trillion dollar investment firm Pimco CEO, quit in January 2014 after his daughter handed him a list of 22 milestones he had missed because of his job. In an interview a year later, Mr El-Erian was enjoying time with his daughter and they were planning a holiday together. As he told The Independent: “Hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more people will be in a better position to act holistically on what’s important to them.”

Max Schireson, CEO of MongoDB, Patrick Pichette CFO of Google and OzForex leader Neil Helm are other leaders who cited ‘spending more time with their family’ as their specific reason for quitting. It’s a sad indictment of 21st century organisations when the only way someone can do this is to resign. It does however highlight that flexible workplaces aren’t just an effective attraction strategy.  They’re vital for retaining great people as well.

About The Author

Mandy Johnson is a best-selling author; a start-up founder of Flight Centre’s UK operation and an active speaker and advisor to both public and private organisations. Her first book Family, Village Tribe made Kobo’s 2014 top five list for Business-Entrepreneurship and is a set text in many Australian MBA courses. Her second book Winning The War for Talent has just been released and garnered excellent reviews in the business media. Follow her on Twitter @mandyjohnsonoz or download her free business tools at

Bang Your Head – E-mail Health Will Drive You Mad

The bell sounds woke me. They were continuous and getting louder by the second.


I raised my head and there they were – dozens of them! Then hundreds! Falling from the virtual clouds around me into MS Outlook like a deluge of rain filling bucket after bucket.


Then there were thousands! I tried to reach up, to shut Outlook down, but my hands were bound behind me in a tight jacket of some kind. I writhed and jerked, but couldn’t budge.


They kept coming, like a flash flood at first, then a tsunami. I tried to kick away from my desk, but my legs were bound as well. I slumped in horror as e-mail after e-mail fell from the heavens into my laptop and filled my eyes with unending misery.

Some were spam, some from colleagues and peers with urgent requests, some were from my superiors with triple-urgent requests (with at least 13 exclamation points each). E-mails that I thought I had already dealt with and either filed away or deleted downloaded yet again, in triplicate.


In the lower left corner of the laptop screen, an old MTV video started – Quiet Riot’s Bang Your Head (Mental Health).

Wait, what?


And then the unthinkable happened – the e-mails stopped with the last one downloading and opening on its own.

It read as follows: If you ever want to have a life again, you have 30 minutes to answer every single one of these messages, thoughtfully, logically, respectfully, without any emotive reactions whatsoever. And you have to do it while strapped in that straight jacket. Good luck. 

You’ve got to be friggin’ kidding me?

Another e-mail downloaded. Tick-tock, it read.

I shrieked as the morning sun spilled through my office window…


It’s like that, right? All of us “dump and run” and then we’re held hostage every day by the very communication tool that was supposed to free us over two decades ago. Even longer ago for some of us; I went to college and worked at San Jose State University in the late 1980s and we had fully functional e-mail and intranets; most universities did way back then.

But in recent times? It’s broken bad (and even if you didn’t watch that show, I’m sure you’ll agree anyway). Really, really broken bad. In fact, according to research from a few years ago, e-mail overload can cost large companies as much as $1 billion a year in lost employee productivity. And the average “knowledge” professional today – basically anyone who sits at a desk – loses 2.1 hours of productivity every day to interruptions and distractions (according to Basex, an IT research and consulting firm).

Every time we’re interrupted, and every time we allow ourselves to be interrupted, it takes us 3-4 times the interruption to recover. And you thought it was bad enough working in an office with multiple people every day stopping by your “workspace” and asking if you’ve “gotta minute.”

How do we ever get anything friggin’ done around here?!? Constant in-person and e-mail interruptions that demand attention aren’t collaboration in action. Ever.

Come to think of it, though, it’s not the e-mail tools that hold us hostage, it’s all those colleagues, peers and superiors who do, those who dump and run. Especially our superiors who don’t value the old-fashioned phone call or face-time chat about whatever needs to be chatted about. Remember the bravery of being out of range?

My God, this is a big change management bugaboo, don’t you think?

Even e-mail productivity expert Marsha Egan grappled with that on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, acknowledging that it takes all of management buying in on using e-mail only for non-sensitive, non-urgent communications that don’t require immediate response.

Please, right? That’s a tall task for most companies today. But we, the individual contributors, can make a difference, even knowing that no matter how much we feel that e-mail is killing “world of work” productivity, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

And while our companies are losing worker productivity, we’re all extending the length of their workdays, going to the office on weekends, and checking our e-mail while on vacation because we can no longer manage the volume of communication that requires our attention – the bad daydream from above. This is how e-mail habits have become toxic to individuals and businesses alike.

Blech. But instead, why don’t we have a repetitively “productive” conversation around why and how unhealthy e-mail practices are sapping personal and business productivity, what you can do about it, and how much time you can reclaim for yourself and your business.

Hey, I took Marsha Egan’s E-mail Productivity Assessment, and this is what it told me:

Your e-mail habits need plenty of work. Here are some tips to get you started…

That was my incoming e-mail evaluation. The good news is that my outgoing e-mail score was much better. Either way, I highly recommend you take the assessment. And while you’re doing that, consider these two tips when dealing with e-mail toxicity:

  1. Don’t hold each other hostage. If you have an urgent request, please walk over and ask the person, or pick up the phone and ask the person (if you’re not in the same office). Or use instant messaging via your intranet (built around your people) or social media, or make a video call, or simply text the person. But stop dumping urgent e-mails and running, especially if you’re in a leadership position. The more we spiral and “bang our heads” with e-mail reactivity, the more we hold each other hostage, the more time we spend answering urgent e-mails, the more we don’t get anything done. Ever.
  2. And pace yourself. I’m completely guilty of the constant social media check-in, to continuously see what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. A Facebook friend asked her “friends” recently what they do to stay productive. I responded by turning off Facebook, which I can’t do, so screw it. Sigh. But, the same goes for e-mail, at least for bigger chunks of the day when you’ve got projects due. Being a writer I should know better, and thankfully sometimes I do. Sometimes…which is why we should always block off our time when we’ve got to get stuff done – and that means turning off the e-mail and the social media.


Stop the madness, kids.

photo credit: Kurayba via photopin cc

Virgin Pulse + TalentCulture Team Up To Champion Workforce Engagement

Changing The Engagement Game Together

Nearly four years ago, we launched TalentCulture on a simple premise — that talent-minded professionals can transform the “world of work” through purposeful social connections. Our vibrant community continues to grow and evolve, fueled by three core values:

•  Desire to advance the “human side” of business;
•  Passion for innovation;
•  Commitment to open collaboration.

In this spirit we welcome Virgin Pulse to the TalentCulture circle — where we’ll work hand-in-hand to help develop better business organizations from the inside out.

Virgin Pulse — Not Your Father’s Wellness Program


Learn more about Virgin Pulse

Part of Sir Richard Branson’s famed Virgin Group, Virgin Pulse (formerly Virgin HealthMiles) is the leading workplace health engagement platform. Every day, its “Total Quality of Life” approach empowers more than 1,000,000 participants to improve their health in ways that are meaningful, fun and sustainable. This elevates employee performance and retention, while simultaneously building stronger, more resilient organizations.

The Virgin Pulse philosophy fits naturally with TalentCulture’s emphasis on “seeing employees in 3D.” Together, we aim to advance the concept of “bringing your whole self to work.”

Everybody Plays — Everybody Wins!

What does this alliance mean for you? In the months ahead, look for TalentCulture and Virgin Pulse to:

•  Examine core engagement issues facing today’s business and HR leaders;
•  Investigate the connection between healthy employees and business performance;
•  Exchange benchmarks and insights from our respective communities;
•  Share thought leadership that is shaping engagement standards and practices.

Today’s organizational challenges are highly complex. There are no easy answers, but diverse ideas can lead to innovative solutions. That’s why we welcome everyone to the TalentCulture table — including HR technology and services vendors. We believe that this inclusive environment encourages effective problem solving, and accelerates everyone’s path to progress.

Our relationship with Virgin Pulse promises to add an exciting new level of depth and energy to the TalentCulture conversation. We invite you to join us each day on our combined social channels, as we explore workplace issues that affect us all.

(Editor’s Note:  Save the date for a very special #TChat double-header (BlogTalk Radio interview and Twitter chat) with Virgin Pulse CEO, Chris Boyce on Wednesday, October 23!)

Image Credit: by Mike Baird on Flickr