Working Remotely During the Pandemic

When the COVID pandemic first began many people thought that remote working would only be temporary—a week or two—and didn’t worry about getting tools together that would make remote working easier. After all, what was the point?

Now, we’re close to two years into the pandemic, and remote work isn’t slowing down. In fact, many companies are remaining remote even after they were able to return to traditional work settings. In fact, it’s estimated that in some advanced economies, 20-25% of the workforce might be working remotely most of the time.

Larger companies are taking note of this as well, with places like Slack, Dropbox, Twitter, and Google allowing employees to retain at least some (if not full-time) remote work.

There are many industries that thrive in a remote work environment, like marketing, media, and design, but there are other industries you might not have thought of that are also moving to remote work. These include project management, engineering, and construction.

Teams that are now working remotely either full or part-time are having to rethink many of their processes to facilitate remote teamwork. Many of these processes include the tools they need to succeed at business. 

Remote Work Benefits and Challenges

There are many benefits of working remotely, including the ability for employees to work anywhere in the world and not needing to pay for an office. Many employees enjoy the lack of a commute anymore and having more flexible hours as well as the ability to focus without the distractions of an office.

However, that doesn’t mean that remote work is not without its challenges, especially for companies that haven’t gotten the tools they need for their teams to succeed.

One of the biggest issues that can make remote work difficult is communication. It’s often easier to walk up to someone in an office and begin chatting or collaborating. It’s even simpler to ask a colleague where a file is or for help with a task. Remote teams, on the other hand, may struggle to communicate properly or engage in meaningful collaboration without the right tools.

The good news is, there are many tools that can help with remote team collaboration, sometimes with even better results than in-person processes.

 What Tools Are Available for Remote Work?

Teams use a variety of different systems to make remote work viable for their team. Some of the most important are video conferencing, collaboration tools, secure file sharing, and communication tools.

Video Conferencing

Teams mostly use video conferencing systems for meetings that used to be in-person.

There are many different video conferencing tools now, but the ones you’re probably familiar with are Zoom, Skype, and Google Meetups.

Other Communication Tools

Communication is a vital part of working on a remote team. There are many tools in place that help teams communicate. For daily interactions, many remote teams use email and/or other communication technology like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Discord.

 Collaboration Tools for Task Management

Collaboration tools are used so that teams can work together on tasks, track the progress of projects, and generally know what everyone on the team is doing.

Commonly used tools are Trello, Basecamp, and Asana. 

Secure File Sharing

Secure file sharing is a critical element of the remote working world. Teams share files with each other constantly and often need to extend shares with clients or outside vendors. However, not all file sharing methods (like email) have the necessary security measures in place to protect your teams’ data. It’s important to consider security when selecting tools for remote teams.

Top options for secure file sharing include Dropbox, Google Drive, and FileCloud. In fact, your team can even get a free trial of FileCloud right now. 

What Tools Does My Remote Team Need?

Your head might be swimming after learning about all the different tools that are available, and often necessary, for remote work.

The problem with all these tools is that you usually need to purchase them to obtain full access to all of their features (though some have free options or trials).

 Another issue is that each one of your remote workers will need to have each of the systems downloaded and installed on their computers. You’ll also need to make sure each of these systems complies with your company’s security requirements.

It’s overwhelming to see all the options and decide which ones will work for your teams. The good news is, you don’t have to go through all of them to get the communication and collaboration you need for your remote team.

In fact, we created AirSend— our all-in-one, free collaboration tool—with remote teams in mind.

What is AirSend?

Here at CodeLathe, we all work remotely and have teams and employees across the globe. We understand both the benefits and challenges that come with remote work; one of the biggest challenges is context-switching.

Context switching (like constantly shifting from Slack to Zoom back to Slack) is tiring and kills productivity.

Research says context switching can cost up to 40% of your time (one to three hours of an eight-hour work day).


AirSend is an all-in-one tool that allows you to chat (via the video, voice, and messaging system), collaborate (via boards and customizable wikis), and share files securely, with integration available for your current systems.


Say goodbye to the lost productivity of context switching, and say hello to AirSend.

It’s going to change the way you work.

The Features of AirSend

AirSend can be used by teams anywhere they have an internet connection. It’s available in a web browser, as a desktop app, and also on iOS and Android, so you can stay connected, no matter where you are.

Meetings and Calls

With AirSend, there’s no need for other video conferencing tools. Instead, just click the call button within any channel and choose whether you want a voice or video call. You can also use this functionality to share your screen and show team members what you’re working on.

Collaborate with your Team

Team collaboration is one of the places where AirSend really shines. It’s easy to work with your teams in simple-to-create channels that you can use for one-on-one collaboration or for a team hubs. Other collaboration tools include:

File sharing

Quickly and easily share files with anyone in your AirSend channels, and use the search function to quickly find previously shared links, media, and files.

Messaging

One of the core functions of AirSend is the messaging system. Use it to collaborate on projects or for some old-fashioned water cooler chatting. You can react to messages to show you got them, tag specific people, and use common emojis.

Project Management

It’s easy to manage all your projects within AirSend’s system. Create Trello-style boards, assign people tasks, and create to-dos all within your channels.

File Storage

We at CodeLathe created AirSend, but we also created FileCloud, a secure file sharing and cloud storage solution—so we understand the vital importance of secure file sharing. With AirSend, you can send and receive documents and media securely within your channels and easily search and find the documents and media with our file management system.

Wiki/Note Taking

Say goodbye to sticky notes. Within AirSend you can create team Wikis for important information like style guides, or create your own personal Wikis for project notes or personal reminders.

Integrations

AirSend allows you to keep your current systems in place, with Office 365, Outlook, and Gmail  integrations.

AirSend allows you to stop context switching and focus on your real work, allowing your remote team to become productive and stay that way. It’s great for a variety of different teams doing different tasks, but these teams can use the AirSend system in ways that suit their unique needs.

How Teams Use AirSend

Marketing Teams:

Marketing teams use AirSend to collaborate with team members, agencies, and clients. They also use it to track content, create style guides, and track projects.

Community Building Teams

These teams use AirSend because it’s a great way to build community with unlimited messaging, free guest accounts, and customizable and public channels.

Consultants

Consultants use AirSend to meet and work individually with clients, create roadmaps, and track projects and deadlines.

Lawyers

Lawyers can use AirSend to share and receive documents, collaborate with colleagues on tough cases, create Wikis for case notes, and to-dos for interns and paralegals.

Many different teams use and love AirSend. You can see just a few of the brands that trust us below and check out our reviews here.  

Remote Work is Here to Stay

Remote work isn’t going anywhere. It’s vital for all remote teams to collaborate and communicate without constantly context switching, costing your teams time and money.

As an all-in-one application, AirSend has all the tools you need for success in a remote world. Get your free version of AirSend today and support your remote team on the path of successful productivity and rich collaboration.

This is the first article in the remote work series focusing on the brain, how it functions, how these functions affect productivity and what strategies can be used to improve productivity.

Series Motto: Being busy is not the same as being productive

The topic of productivity has become popular in recent years. Many different methodologies have emerged, and tons of blog posts and articles have been written on the subject. This is especially true as the world continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Workplaces have implemented new, flexible strategies to comply with health codes and guidelines, which has changed how we identify “productivity”. Learning to connect and collaborate with each other efficiently through novel or optimized technologies has become a critical skill to succeed in our new reality.

This article is the first in a new series that seeks to explain basic concepts of how our brain functions. We will also explore how these functions affect our daily productivity and learn simple strategies to become more productive. The next articles in the series will explore some productivity-related methodologies and approaches that can be used in day-to-day life. Before we dive deep into these concepts though, it’s important to understand the main hero behind productivity: our brain.

 What does it mean to be productive?

Productivity, in very simple words, is the ability to do more (in terms of impact) in a given timeframe. This sounds simple but is extremely hard to tackle on a daily basis because of how our brains work. The art of productivity can be translated into a different task – how to organize our work to function around our brain’s limitations.

Our brain has a couple of interesting features that heavily influence productivity. In fact, these features indicate that our relatively modern concept of productivity is antithetical to the brain’s functional patterns and requirements:

  1. As a part of the body, it must be maintained.
  2. It wants to consume as little energy as possible.
  3. It is not designed for multi-tasking.
  4. It is easily distracted.
  5. It tends to store extraneous info.
  6. It craves rewards as frequently as possible.

Next, we’ll examine each of these points to improve our understanding of brain mechanics and how these mechanics influence our rates of productivity. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the functional limitations to improve our productivity.

Maintaining the brain

This might sound trivial at first, but the brain is affected by the body’s overall health as much as any other organs (maybe moreso). If we’re tired or frustrated, hungry or upset, these feelings affect the brain’s capabilities, including concentration, problem solving and memorization. This effect is especially intensified by lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep (often due to unhealthy sleeping habits).

A varied and nutrient-rich diet, physical activity, periods of rest, and healthy sleeping behaviors play an enormous role in productivity. We’ve all experienced difficulty focusing after a truncated night of sleep; With the boundary between work and play continuing to erode, and the perpetual connections offered by computers and smartphones, it becomes increasingly difficult to prioritize rest. In the long run, this pattern of behavior can destroy our productivity, and, more importantly, our health.

When discussing productivity, the brain-body connection is often skipped. It is also one of the hardest to address, since it requires self-discipline across different aspects of life and is heavily influenced by factors outside our control. In general, taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your brain. Eating well, regularly exercising, and getting enough sleep are universal solutions to elevate how your body – and brain – perform. A healthy brain can stay focused, which is critical when talking about productivity.

Additionally, healthy brains can be trained. Stretching our brain through creative tasks, learning new skills, working through logic puzzles, and similar mental activities keep our brain in good shape. Ideally, those exercises shouldn’t be too connected to your daily work, so your brain can rest and train other areas.

Energy consumption

This tendency is a natural consequence of how living beings function. Keeping energy consumption at a minimum is a basic survival strategy implemented by plants and animal all over the world. Food provisioning might be hard at times, so it’s always better to save energy whenever possible. Our brain is one of the biggest energy consumers in our body. For the sake of efficiency, it can’t (and won’t) operate on maximum output all the time.

When a brain is engaged by a task that requires focus, it will stay switched on. If that focus is overextended or if the task fails to engage the brain, it will power down to conserve energy. This element of productivity is challenging to address because it requires an optimal balance between environment, internal engagement, and time.  

How can these factors be balanced to support productivity at work? Training and exercise, like the examples listed above, are one strategy. As with muscles, a well-trained brain will be able to work more efficiently and for longer periods of time. Other methods include reducing context switching and multi-tasking, which can help preserve energy levels.

Multitasking at a loss

This might not be clear at first but from a productivity perspective, our brain is not designed for real multitasking. It is amazing in terms of parallel input/signal processing (i.e. real-time image recognition, ability to manage all organs and limbs imperceptibly, etc.), but have you ever tried to recite the alphabet aloud and mentally count to ten at the same time? Even though both tasks are learned by small children, it is almost impossible to do both at the same time. Trying to force the brain to multi-task often leads to poor productivity outcomes.

Since our brain is not great at multi-tasking, we must engage in context switching. Context switching is the process of switching gears between tasks, tools, and projects. The costs of context switching include elevated risk of distraction and time wasted warming up to each new activity.

The solution is simple – reduce context switching as much as possible by focusing on one task at a time. Yet this simple solution is much more difficult to practice. In a modern work environment, many decisions must be made constantly, to both organize and execute tasks. This is a massive multi-tasking challenge for our brain; the solutions involve training the brain and structuring work processes and include time blocking, task grouping, and good planning. These strategies will be covered in the next articles in the series; for now, let’s say that we should limit multi-tasking and context switching as much as possible.

Primed for distraction

Here is a common scenario: you are “in the zone”, working on the next paragraph, speeding through lines of code, or unraveling a complex data set. Suddenly, something as simple as a notification or a call for a meeting destroys that flow completely.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to remain fully focused for long periods of time. This is especially true when the task is challenging or boring.

Thanks to other biomechanics in play, such as energy consumption, our brain is easily distracted by external triggers. In comparison, finding the same focused state or flow after being interrupted takes a lot more time and effort. This tendency toward distraction poses significant problems in the workplace, particularly when working on a major project that requires intense focus to complete.

In theory, removing distractions as much as possible will immediately boost productivity. Easier said than done. The problem lies in how to limit those distractions. This solution, again, requires self-discipline, a mental shift, and upfront investment in both environmental and functional processes. First, we need to have a comfortable, non-disruptive workspace. Second, we should try to limit external triggers as much as possible. If a quiet work environment is not possible, we can use headphones to remove external noise distractions.

The biggest distractor of them all is the stream of constant notifications from our devices. It’s a useful practice to disable notifications from email clients, mobile apps, chats, etc., at least during the time set aside for deep work. Doing so helps protect the engaged state of mind.

Dumping extraneous info

Our brain is an interesting beast. It is capable of processing and storing significant quantities of data. However, not all of that data is useful. In fact, information storage in the brain is comparatively inefficient, because the selected data can be quite random. We’ve all experienced the moment when a completely unrelated memory or piece of knowledge bubbles up to the surface. On the other hand, the brain can blank out entirely, so we have the uncomfortable feeling that we’re forgetting something important…

This is completely natural and revolves around how the brain actually stores ‘data’. However, these random, intrusive thoughts can be their own source of distraction, and struggling to recall information taxes the brain’s resources. This struggle becomes a mental pain point we nurse like a toothache, fracturing our focus and cutting into our productivity.

Our brain tends to remember everything (it is called a short memory) but only if it must. This, in fact, is one of the easiest problems to address by removing the burden of remembering from our brain. We can accomplish this feat by creating notes (manual or digitalized), using task boards like AirSend, or converting incoming requests into actionable items. Using these support systems immediately frees up your brain’s resources and alleviates that on-edge feeling from struggling to recall information.

What the brain craves

The brain craves frequent prizes and rewards, much like a young toddler. This can be a physical prize (sugar, salt, or oil-based foods) or a mental one (binge-watching a favorite Netflix series). However, these cravings can become their own highly-effective, internal distractions; when paired with external distractions,  cravings have a major, detrimental impact on productivity.

Since the brain wants the easy reward, it’ll reach for low-hanging fruit. This often takes the form of replying to emails or messages. This action results in immediate, positive feedback from having completed a task.

However, this is a huge trap for long-term productivity. The work has been done, but there’s a good chance it wasn’t the most important task. What’s more, our brain constantly tempts us to shift to easy-win tasks, which again leads to context switching and distractions.

Our brains need to be rewarded to stay motivated and attached to bigger targets and goals. The problem comes from the brain’s desire for yet another “success” hit, leading to the formation of unproductive patterns. When we routinely opt to complete low-priority tasks, we waste time and energy that we could have spent making real progress on a meaningful project.

In terms of productivity, the important element is to keep these low-priority tasks from affecting deep work sessions. Another strategy is to divide huge tasks that are hard to grasp into smaller, action items. These smaller-scale tasks can be addressed in a shorter period of time, giving us that needed mental reward while working toward a larger goal.

Summary

Through this article, we have reviewed some of the brain’s functions and limitations, how those limitations impact our work and focus, and some general approaches to improve our productivity. Some of the approaches mentioned above are simple to apply; some are extremely hard, requiring self-discipline, consistency, and specific training goals. All in all, these strategies are worth the effort to achieve the payout of productivity: the ability to do more in the same amount of time. This definition leads to a rather interesting conclusion – you can stop being busy by becoming productive.

Article written by Tomasz Formański

Due to the Coronavirus, there is an increased dependency on communication tools for remote teams. Imagine a company that has multiple teams across the globe. For global teams to work, there needs to be a working communication tool that allows productive conversations. Skype used to be the solution for remote teams.

However, there are rumors that Microsoft will be shutting down Skype as of July 31, 2021. Microsoft’s goal is to encourage people to start using Teams. But, not everyone likes using Teams due to its complexities. To see alternatives to Microsoft Teams, click here.

If you are a person using Skype, there are more holistic alternatives that can deliver more than what you have. To figure out which communication tool is best for your remote teams, we compare AirSend and Skype.   

Skype

Skype is a communication platform that specializes in VoIP between computers, tablets, and mobile devices. What this means is that users can call via audio or video with clients. Skype also provides instant messaging services. 

The neat thing about Skype is that it is excellent for one-on-one and group conversations and works wherever you are. Skype’s UI is simple, which makes the usability of the product easy to use. With Skype, you can also record meetings. Users can also share files up to 300 MB.

Skype is also great for sending meeting links. However, calling via video or audio and having conversations is the only thing you can do with Skype. Skype lacks the proper essentials needed in business communication tools. A few essentials Skype lacks are task management and note-taking.

While it is important to have a reliable communication tool, especially for remote teams, it is also important to have tools that help get the job done. Preferably tools that are found within a communication tool, such as AirSend.

AirSend

AirSend is a simple communication tool designed for remote teams. Our platform provides built-in:

  • Conversation spaces
  • Video and audio calling
  • Sharing files/notes
  • Task and Business management

AirSend’s capabilities will allow remote teams to work better and faster. No more distractions, everything is found in one space. Even more notable is that users can also plan and communicate on upcoming projects from multiple devices. Working from any device allows users to constantly stay in the loop without missing a beat.

Furthermore, our user interface carries a sleek and simplistic design. A clean design allows users to view all features needed for a channel, such as writing/tracking notes.

Finally, AirSend can do large file transfers, downloads, and uploads. 

Summation

Our goal with AirSend is to do less with more. Our mission is to be the #1 communication tool for remote teams. 

We want to deliver a communication tool that allows you to take care of all your business needs in one space.

AirSend is a versatile digital workspace to share files, send messages, and complete tasks. See how AirSend can help you.

Remote working tips from a remote team that will help you and your organization continue to be productive while working from home.
Remote working tips from a remote team that will help you and your organization continue to be productive while working from home.

2020 has been a year defined by the Coronavirus outbreak.  With hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide, and over 3000 reported deaths, nothing has shaped the way we are living more than this epidemic. 

Much like the flu, COVID-19 is spread through human-to-human contact through respiratory droplets, most commonly transmitted through coughing.  Prevention methods such as using hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing help limit you and your team’s chances of getting the Coronavirus, but many businesses are also implementing remote working strategies to protect their employees in the midst of uncertainty about the disease.

You may be asked to work from home rather than spend time in an office where the Coronavirus is potentially spreading since an increasing numbers of countries are implementing quarantines and other lockdown measures. But how do you do so comfortably and productively?

A remote-first company, the AirSend team has members on every continent in addition to its Austin headquarters. In fact, AirSend itself was created by condensing our hands-on remote work experience into an all-in-one remote work tool. Here are some remote working tips from a remote team that will help you and your organization continue to be productive while working from home.

Tip #1: Have Core Working Hours

Source: unDraw

One of the benefits of remote working is that it allows you and your team to set your own hours. Everyone is different. Some are most productive in the morning while others do their best work in the evening – and that’s great. But balance must be achieved in order to keep things moving.

Establishing a window in which employees are required to be at their screens and ready to communicate, either by phone, screen-sharing, or video conferencing, will help promote teamwork and workplace structure. Core working hours cut down on time spent waiting for email replies or for someone to get back to a computer to verify something while maintaining some of the flexibility that would be less available in an in-office environment.

Tip #2: Promote Discipline

Source: unDraw

While the office is a space designed for working, you and your team’s homes may be somewhat less so. Leaving an office environment to work at home can invite all sorts of distractions if you and your team aren’t accustomed to it. Here’s a short checklist to implement to promote discipline while working remotely:

  • Set reasonable wake up hours and regiment your day
  • Have an appropriate workstation where you can work without sinking into the couch
  • Schedule your breaks so that you don’t end up taking too many breaks or breaks that are too long

In addition to encouraging your team to follow the tips above, you should also provide them with the equipment they need to set up a comfortable home office. This includes items like desks, chairs, computers, headphones, cameras, and helpful software such as a digital workspace.

Tip #3: Encourage Team Spirit

Source: unDraw

Employee morale is important, especially when a team is working remotely. By having team members regularly socialize like they would in an office environment, people working remotely will have a more positive outlook on their work and will be more productive. 

Organize weekly or bi-weekly functions through video conferencing where team members can let off some steam and talk casually with each other, and validate hard work though awards and incentives.  Acknowledging effort can be difficult if you aren’t face-to-face with someone, so find time to show recognition through video conferencing events.

Tip #4: Track Team Progress With Clearly Communicated Goals

Source: unDraw

As mentioned before, when team members are left to their own devices, work can stagnate as a result of distraction and lack of structure.  Having consistent contact with your team through weekly briefings where goals and duties are assigned and deadlines are set can help.

You can also use team management apps with progress tracking, such as AirSend. AirSend lets you assign work to different members of a team with deadlines and reminders. This keeps everyone on track even without in-person meetings.

As a remote-first team, we use AirSend and OKRs to keep everyone moving in the right direction. OKR stands for “Objectives and Key Results,” and setting and communicating OKRs can help your team stay motivated and on track.

Tip #5: Hire the Right People

Source: unDraw

At the end of the day, the strength of your team boils down to the ability of each individual team member to work remotely with minimal supervision. This is why it is doubly important to hire motivated self-starters when facing a remote working situation.

Some people are naturally good at this or have prior experience, while others need to be trained. Since a newly implemented, experimental working environment is not the easiest place to train employees, be sure to hire people with past experience and success with remote working if you need to hire now.

Staying Safe During the Coronavirus Outbreak

In the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, remote working may be the best option to minimize transmission. However, when we allow ourselves and our employees to work at home, some level of structure and office culture must be sustained to keep everyone at the top of their game. Using these tips, you should be better prepared to organize your workforce accordingly and help minimize the spread of COVID-19.