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Why remote work can be more productive work

Despite the fears of some business leaders, working from home doesn’t broadly correlate with reduced productivity or lower engagement. In fact, the right telecommuting policy can be seen as a major benefit and encourage workers to perform at or above the level of their colleagues who work in the company offices.

Let’s look at how remote work can be more productive work as well as address some of the traditional concerns associated with this strategy.

Concerns about working from home are generally not accurate

Hesitation around instituting broad work-from-home policies is understandable. Business leaders can quickly point to some potential issues that could arise from such an arrangement, from a lack of communication and connection with team members working remotely to concerns about reduced quality of work.

While these concerns are logical absent additional evidence to the contrary, there are a number of factors that support a modern approach to staff members telecommuting:

  • A range of tools exist to support employees as well as address potential accountability issues, if they arise at all. The right teleconferencing software, for example, offers video and voice connections, along with the ability to share presentations and automatically record calls for later reference, among many other valuable functions.
  • Work-from-home privileges don’t have to be universal or automatic. Businesses can easily create policies that require new employees to demonstrate competency and reliability before they are granted this option.
  • Providing opportunities for full-time remote staff to visit the office or gather with colleagues can help support the human element of working from home, building connections face to face and digitally that enable increased collaboration and other outcomes.

Productivity is another major concern that comes with a work-from-home policy. Allowing staff to work occasionally or on a regular basis from the same place they spend their free time might seem like it could reduce performance and create other negative outcomes. However, there’s plenty of evidence that a well-structured telecommuting policy can actually raise productivity.

Productivity gains tied to working from home

There is a wide variety of research that supports the claim that working from home allows remote staff to be just as or even more productive than their in-office counterparts. Although it’s difficult to make extremely broad assertions about the entire U.S. or global workforce due to variations in duties, experience, and the specific work-from-home policies of various employers, many studies find a connection between positive outcomes and allowing staff to work from home. Some examples include:

  • A study conducted by Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University business professor, and facilitated by James Liang, CEO of large Chinese travel agency Ctrip, included 500 employees and nearly two years of observation and data collection, Inc. contributor Scott Mautz explained. Bloom found advantages in terms of performance, attrition rate, and other key elements of operation among the group that worked from home. There was one major caveat: The stay-at-home group noted that 100% remote work began to feel removed from their colleagues, so Bloom suggested that partial telecommuting is the best path forward for many organizations.
  • A survey from work marketplace Airtasker highlighted a number of different advantages stemming from remote work that apply to both staff and their employers. It pointed to benefits that range from more time spent exercising and savings on commutes to the potential for reduced turnover, less daily unproductive time on the part of remote workers, and reduced distractions.
  • The Harvard Business Review looked at a study of a work-from-anywhere program offered to patent examiners who work for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This broader application of work from home rules allows the examiners to work anywhere that can address the basic needs of their role, like electricity and a stable internet connection. The Review found the employees using work-from-anywhere and work-from-home programs had productivity gains above in-office staff.

When structured thoughtfully, taking different employee roles, operational needs, and other vital considerations into account, work-from-home programs have the potential to boost employee productivity.

This is a benefit that, outside of the time spent structuring the policy and the provision of hardware and software that staff would also need to use in the office, also offers cost savings. Everything from a reduced need for office space to lowered HVAC costs can stem from allowing employees to engage in remote work on a part- or full-time basis.

It’s also worthwhile to note the value of working from home to many employees. Advantages such as eliminating commuting time and reducing spending on a personal vehicle or public transportation can be powerful motivators. Companies that offer the opportunity to work remotely can keep employees happier and more engaged while realizing productivity increases and savings of their own.

Setting employees up for success as remote workers

There are a few considerations that should be at the forefront when creating or updating a work-from-home policy:

  • Making the options for remote work clear to staff. There shouldn’t be any confusion about when or if staff are expected to work in person, and distinctions should be made for those working locally versus in other parts of the state, country, or world.
  • Providing the right tools to support telecommuting. Videoconferencing software, cloud-based applications and storage options, and similar needs must be addressed.

Cisco Webex supports a wide range of work-from-home strategies with immersive environments, document and presentation sharing, automated recordings and much more. Get started with a free plan today.


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4 ways IT leaders can lead the charge to create the next-generation workplace

As I travel around the world, I continue hear a lot of buzz around the term “workplace transformation.” Every company seems to have a project (or a few projects) underway, whether it be as significant as the building of a new head office or as minor as remodeling an existing branch location. Each workplace transformation initiative, no matter how large or small, successful or not, has an impact on the employees that work in that space. Winston Churchill once said, “we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us,” and that sentiment is particularly true for work environments. The workplace is the glue that binds organizations, teams and employees together. The “built” environment is the physical embodiment of a company’s brand, culture, and values, so getting it right is critical. If that isn’t enough pressure, in today’s hyper-competitive battle for top talent, a modern, open, and collaborative workplace is an important tool for attracting and retaining the best of the best. For a potential new hire, the workplace is an expression of “who we are” and “what we stand for.” Good luck trying to hire someone from a top university if you parade them through a cubicle-based workplace built in the 1980s!

But creating a workplace is more than filling a building with attractive furniture, cool tech, and a bunch of modern amenities. Those are, as they say, table stakes. Creating an environment that allows people to work more efficiently and effectively…well, that’s a bit more challenging. To address that problem you need to put employees, and the work they do, at the center of the equation, and then carefully balance space design, technology, and workplace policies around them. If this sounds as hard as solving a Rubik’s Cube, you’re wrong….it’s actually harder. But, with every great challenge comes great opportunity. Companies that solve this puzzle and deliver on the promise of the next generation workplace position themselves for breakthrough levels of productivity, employee engagement, and growth.

So, what’s driving this change? Traditional, cubicle-based workplaces have become obsolete and are a thing of thing of the past. Shifting employee demographics, the demand for flexibility and the changing nature of work are challenging the assumptions that have driven workplace design for a generation.  The days where workplaces were organized around process-oriented work are over. Today’s workplaces are designed for impromptu collaboration, rapid innovation, and complex problem solving. Technology has been a big catalyst of this change, allowing companies to automate and streamline that old work, and will be an even bigger part of the workplace moving forward. Pervasive and secure wireless connectivity will allow employees to move un-tethered throughout the workplace. As people move from space to space, location data from that same wireless technology, combined with wayfinding applications, will help them navigate the work environment and locate their colleagues. Video devices, installed in every collaboration space, will not only allow employees to connect with their remote colleagues, but will also report on the availability and utilization of those spaces. Collaboration tools, such as messaging, calling, web and video conferencing, will connect the increasingly dispersed workforce and make distance disappear. Finally, cognitive capabilities, ie. the application of intelligence and context, will be embedded throughout the entire collaboration experience, reducing friction, enriching interactions between employees and allowing organizations to better optimize their workplace assets.

But ITs role in creating the next generation workplace needs to be far greater than simply deploying technology, IT must have a seat at the table throughout the entire transformation process. There are four areas where IT can lead:

  1. Re-Imagining – The pace of new technology introduction can be overwhelming, IT leaders plays a crucial role in helping their Corporate Real Estate and HR peers gain a better understanding which technology solutions are right for their next-gen workplace, helping them determine the business impact of those solutions, and recommending how and when they should be deployed. Additionally, by leveraging their relationships with their strategic solutions providers, industry analysts, and consultants, IT leaders can provide valuable insights on where technology is heading, minimizing the disruption of future technology deployments.
  2. Assessing – Before embarking on any workplace redesign effort it is essential that you have a solid understanding of how your employees are using their current work environment. WiFi technology, security applications, collaboration devices and tools, as well as other building technology being used in the work environment offers a wealth of data that can be used to help paint a picture of how often employees are coming to the office, what parts of the office they are using most, who they are working with and how they are working. These insights will help Corporate Real Estate and HR make more informed, data driven design decisions, which will lead to a more efficient and effective future work environment.
  3. Modernizing – Creating the next-generation workplace is more than building out physical space, it’s about creating new workplace experiences.  With that, IT can take the lead as “workplace experience designers.” Whether it’s finding the best place to work, locating a colleague, using a collaboration space for an impromptu meeting with your project team or having a guest visit for the day, IT has the opportunity to use their consultative and design skills to re-engineer each of these experiences.
  4. Promoting – Change management and adoption is a critical element of every workplace transformation project. In addition to the introduction of new technologies and the migration towards more open, collaborative physical environments, changes to workplace policies, processes and procedures also typically occur. With all this going on, significant effort must be placed to ensure employees remain informed and educated during the transition to the new work environment. A comprehensive internal marketing and communication program is an essential element of every adoption effort, and technology solutions such as digital signage, webinars and webcasting and video on demand play an important rolein ensuring employees successfully move to the new work environment.

workplace transformation

The time is now for IT leaders to engage their Corporate Real Estate and Human Resource colleagues in a serious discussion on the future workplace. If you are looking for help please click here for more information on Cisco’s workplace transformation journey, or don’t hesitate to reach out to your Cisco account team.  They are excited to help you get started.

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Easy annual planning for remote teams

 It’s that time of the year again! The days are shorter. The weather is cooling down.  And your manager is asking to see your team’s 2018 plan ASAP.

When there’s a lot on your plate between work and home, staying productive and efficient is non-negotiable. Add in the logistics of coordinating a remote team and the stress can add up quickly. But those end-of-year deadlines don’t have to bring your team down. Follow this simple guide for streamlining your workflow to get that annual plan wrapped up. Hint: the key is collaboration.

Step 1: Create a work space

First things first, you need to assemble your key players together in one place. And I don’t mean a conference room.

To work together fluidly, you need a virtual workspace. Create a Cisco Spark room and include everyone who will contribute to the planning process. You can use it to chat about updates in real time, share documents, review feedback, and even add bots to help you with scheduling and project management. Label the room and ask your team to use it for annual planning only, so conversations stay focused and on-task.

Step 2: The kickoff

Next, schedule a WebEx session to kick things off. Share an agenda in advance to keep the meeting structured. Ask your team to turn on their video – having some face-time can go a long way in rallying everyone around a common goal and help ensure you’re all on the same page.

Consider preparing a few slides with an outline of the plan and share your screen during the meeting. Have everyone weigh in with initial ideas about what’s been working, what’s not, and what the priorities should be for the next year.

Before you close the meeting, be clear about the expectations and next steps. What should be included in the plan? What are the deadlines? Recap team assignments so everyone can divide and conquer.

Step 3: Sharing is caring

Now it’s time to get to work. After your meeting, share a recap in the Cisco Spark room to reinforce the next steps and deadlines.

As each member of your team fulfills their assignments, have them share updates and documents in Cisco Spark. It’s a lot simpler than searching through lengthy email chains to find attachments or links.

Collaborate in real-time via chat or call team members directly, all within Cisco Spark. Bouncing ideas around in as they come up will help move things forward quickly, and you can keep your team in-the-know if things change.

Step 4: Review and revise

Once your plan is drafted, it’s time to start editing. Set up another meeting with your team to review the plan together as a group. Ask yourself a few essential questions along the way. Does the presentation tell a clear story? Did we accomplish what we set out to do? Is our data presented in an impactful way?

Make edits in real-time during the meeting, and continue any follow up via Cisco Spark if you need to add finishing touches.

Step 5: The final presentation

This is where all of the team collaboration will pay off. It’s Showtime!

Schedule a meeting with your manager/stakeholders over WebEx. Have everyone fire up their video and share your deck (just be sure to share your application instead of your entire screen to avoid any distracting notifications). And don’t forget to record the meeting – you can send out a link so anyone who missed out on the presentation can catch up.

Step 6: Celebrate! And keep the conversation going

After you’ve nailed your presentation, congratulate your team and pat yourself on the back. Now that your annual plan is in place, you can keep the work moving in Cisco Spark. Create new rooms for individual projects and initiatives once your plan is approved, and check back in throughout the year.

Having the best collaboration tools makes a big difference when it comes to planning, and every team has a different style that works for them. How does your team approach planning and workflows? Tell us in the comments below!


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Debunking remote work myths

Work from home. Telecommuting. Remote workers. They’re all just fancy words for people that work in pajamas with dogs at their sides, right? Well, while my lab Fletch sometimes makes a surprise appearance on a video call, remote work is burdened with misconceptions that I set out to debunk:

Misconception 1 – “Are they even working?”

Remote workers are often accused of “phoning it in,” only half listening to meeting conversation as they surf the internet, watch television or answer other emails. The truth is, studies show remote workers report being more productive – 91% in one study – than their office-dwelling peers. Working remotely also encourages having more detailed communication with managers and team members to clarify objectives, which is not the mark of a lazy person.

Misconception 2 – “Is that even a real job?”

Just because remote workers are surrounded by the comforts of home when they work doesn’t mean that they’re not working a “real” job.

Cisco and many other respected brands, including Amazon, Dell, Apple and Wells Fargo, support remote work. And this trend is growing; a survey by Global Workplace Analytics found that 40% more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago.

Misconception 3 – “Do you ever leave your house?”

The beautiful reality of being a remote worker is that – well, we can work remotely from wherever our happy work spot may be.

I do have a home office and it where I work from most often. But tools like WebEx and Cisco Spark provide flexibility that gives me the freedom to hunker down in my favorite local coffee shop to work and even attend meetings.

Misconception 4 – “That must be really lonely.”

Though remote workers may be physically alone when they do their work, video conferencing enable us to become expert collaborators, connecting with teams in real-time.

Personally, I love the interactive drawing and whiteboard feature offered by Cisco Spark. Our team uses it to share graphics and outline concepts, all in real-time. And whatever devices we’re all using – cell phone, lap top, tablet – Cisco Spark allows us to share files and message one another and engage in occasional “virtual” water cooler talk. Again, all in real-time.

Misconception 5 – “You must find it hard to turn off.”

In the age of collaboration (rolling over first thing in the morning to check emails, anyone?), this is an issue that we are all working on. Regardless of your work environment, work-life balance is critical. Though this can seem like a challenge if your home is your office like mine, it’s not impossible. It’s all about pacing.

What works for me is creating barriers between “work-mode” and “family-mode”. For example, I don’t work during dinner time and I don’t check emails until I’ve dropped my kids off at school. For you, it may be designated a certain area of your home as a place you don’t enter until it’s time to work.

What do you enjoy most about being a remote worker? Share with our community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.


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Remote meeting distractions – and how to deal

Did you know that 87% of remote works feel more connected  to their teams when they use video conferencing? And did you know that 100% of remote workers absolutely detest remote meeting distractions that don’t have to happen?

Ok. That last stat was not discovered in any recent journals or news stories – but we have no doubts that it’s true! All of the benefits that remote meetings offer team members – increased productivity, flexibility for those who are on the go and reduced traveling stresses – are lost if annoying remote meeting distractions derail what teams are trying to accomplish.

Thankfully, several WebEx tools that can help do away with remote meeting distractions. Check out our “top four” list (provided in no particular order – we love them all) and let us know your biggest remote meeting distraction pet peeves.


1. Pesky passcodes

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It’s very easy to become distracted during a meeting. And even more so when you’re running late and somehow can’t get into the meeting! Passcodes are often the culprit for this type of distraction.

WebEx’s “Call Me” feature eliminates this worry. With “Call Me,” meeting attendees simply click the “Join” meeting button and then the “Call Me” button. From there, it’s as simple as answering the phone when the WebEx meeting calls. No passcodes, no problem.


2. Background noise

What do a barking dog, rumbling lawn mower and a full-on marching band have in common? They’re all just a sample of distracting (and annoying) background noises that can disrupt your meeting when you’re working remotely. Unfortunately, you don’t always have control over what passes by your home office window.


Rather than issue the standard, “who’s not on mute?” question, WebEx users with the WebEx noise cancellation feature don’t have to stress. When WebEx detects background noises that could hinder your meeting, a friendly pop-up reminder to mute your phone will briefly appear.


3. Connecting on-the-go

Working At A Cafe GIF - Eow Bored Cafe GIFs

 The beauty in working remotely is you can actually get things done and stay connected on-the- go your favorite place – like your local coffee shop instead of fluorescent-lit cubicle. But sometimes you don’t always have your laptop and a strong Wi-Fi connection handy when it’s time to connect to a meeting. Luckily, no matter which device you or other team members use to connect, WebEx’s mobile features make remote meeting a breeze.

From a phone, a tablet – even an Apple Watch – WebEx’s mobile app system provides “on the move’ users the freedom to host and attend meetings. And with the addition of Cisco Spark, remote meetings are never delayed because anyone can join no matter which standards-based video conferencing device they use.


4. Meeting crashers

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot WebEx can do if the smallest and cutest distractions are determined to join your meeting. Our advice? Be quick on your feet!

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The evolution of a serial entrepreneur and how to manage a remote team

Cisco WebEx and Influencive are teaming up to bring you real-world tips for taking your remote business to the next level. Check out the advice below or and don’t miss our Facebook Live discussion at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to build and manage a remote team effectively.

Operating a business is so different today than it used to be. When I first entered the world of entrepreneurship as a 16 year-old entrepreneur in the suburbs of Massachusetts, I didn’t even know I was an entrepreneur.

I was selling products on Ebay as a way to make money because I didn’t want to work at a grocery store, but after a while someone told me that I had started a business and I didn’t even realize it necessarily. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

Ever since my eBay days I have went on to build, grow, and exit multiple businesses which have led me to founding Influencive.

With the way that technology continues to advance, the way that us entrepreneurs conduct our day-to-day activities also continue to evolve. Ten years ago, social media and networking online is nothing like what it is today. Now, you barely meet people in person first anymore because it happens online. The first impressions you give someone are online and are even more important today than they have ever been.

Social media and networking has evolved immensely over the past few years but an area that has allowed entrepreneurs like myself to build and manage a remote team is through software tools and apps like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark.

Without technology, I don’t think I would be nearly as “successful” as I have been. These types of tools are used by my team and I use them to communicate on a regular basis, but also use them for meeting clients. Having apps like this on my desktop or mobile are important for me to stay in the loop and in communication with team members as needed.

At Influencive and my other companies, most of the team members are remote. Managing a remote team can be tricky. Here are 3 ways to help you manage a remote team.

1. Have Open Lines of Communication

When you have a team spread out over time zones and countries, it’s important from day one to set expectations that your team is able to communicate with each other. The days of telling your employees and co-workers to just email each other are dwindling by the day. If you do this, you are going to create more work than necessary. I don’t know about you, but I get more spam than ever before and it’s increasingly difficult to find important emails.

What we do at Influencive to help minimize our daily emails to each other, is we have a chat group that we communicate and message each other in. This helps increase our productivity almost tenfold because we can ask questions right away, send documents, and can even do calls as needed. We know that if we want to contact anyone, we can just send them a message. Then people can reply on their own time instead of being constantly interrupted with in-person water cooler talk and other shenanigans that has been proven to reduce productivity.

If you are still relying on your email inbox for communication, find a messaging platform or chat group you can use with your team to help minimize the amount of emails you send.

2. Implement Weekly Check-In’s

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to get away from actually holding meetings with my teams. We all have 1000’s of thoughts going through our brains at any given time and holding meetings daily with your team usually only hurts them because most meetings aren’t very productive.

As a matter of fact, most 1 hour meetings could be done in under 10 minutes. Crazy right?

When you have a remote team, one way to set expectations and maintain order and productivity is to implement weekly check-ins with your team. Everyone has different schedules and work better during different hours of the day.

For that reason, sometimes a scheduled meeting is pointless because schedules shift, people are on sales calls, in-person meetings and etc. I’m not a big fan of set weekly meetings for that reason.

Instead, all communications can be done through Cisco Spark. And the check-ins can happen when and if they are needed rather than having meetings just to have meetings. This saves the team time and money.

3. Promote Autonomy

One of the benefits of having a remote team in the first place is not having a team member be location dependent. You can pick people to be a part of your team no matter where they live. This is a major advantage to have.

Rather than relying on the uber competitive talent pool in the city of the founders, you can look elsewhere to add to your team.

Something that you need to implement from day one is that you want to give all employees autonomy. They all need to feel a part of the team, but they also need to feel that freedom to make mistakes and take risks. Now, this doesn’t mean go out there and make the company look bad, it just means employees need to feel that they can make some decisions and their boss isn’t looking over their every move.

A quote I really like is:

“If you don’t trust your employees to work from anywhere, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.”

This is so true. You need to trust your team to get the job done and if you don’t trust them to work from the beaches in Bali or from the coffee shop down the street then you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

Allow them autonomy and the ability to do their job from wherever they want. Just make sure that they actually get their work done. If they get their work done, and are the best at what they do, then you shouldn’t have anything to complain about.

With the power of the internet and remote collaboration tools like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark, location is irrelevant so stop using location as an excuse and instead use it as an advantage.

Want to know more? Check out our live discussion from the WebEx Facebook page below.

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Work smarter on-the-go

Staying in the loop with work can sometimes be a challenge. And if you work on-the-go, it can be even harder to stay on top of email, attend every meeting, and get face time with your team. But if you have the right technology, being mobile doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

James Cho, our inside sales manager, gives his own Two Minute Take on how he stays productive when bouncing from meeting to meeting throughout the work week. He uses Cisco Spark and WebEx to connect with his team – with his pup Scooter in tow.

Learn how world travelers, commuters and remote workers can stay up-to-date with Cisco Spark from anywhere.

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