Collaboration from Anywhere: The New Road Warrior’s Tools and Workflows
New Thinking, New Methods, New Approach
Do you ever think back and review the changes in technology in only the past few years? Does it feel like the speed at which our technology is advancing is increasing? It does to me. Hardware and software improvements seem exponential these days with computer and mobile devices getting ever more powerful, allowing more complex and powerful software. The frequency at which new business tools are deployed and updated is staggering at times,all while bringing new workflows and features. With all these exponential advances, business tools and work are in a near constant state of evolution. So it only makes sense that the way we work is evolving alongside.
Telecommuting has been around for a long time and in recent years it has only gained more traction. Technology improvements have made it easier for employees to stay connected to teams and projects while being dispersed in different time zones. Businesses see the value not only in keeping employees happy which brings increased productivity but also in money saved in costs related to supporting them in a physical location. But this is old news.
Telecommuting, or remote work, is now evolving into flex work; the idea that we work is done when best suited, not on a strict 8 hour work day. Many businesses are taking this a step further and implementing unlimited paid time off with trust and and understanding that employees will complete work on schedule. It truly is a whole new world out there. And this makes sense doesn’t it? We aren’t 100% efficient in the confines of a set 8 hour work day. Some days, or particular hours, we are low energy. Others we are inspired with a higher amount of energy, and it is during these times we do our best work. Flex work allows the opportunity to work during optimal times and from wherever we are during those times.
The evolution of remote and flex work is empowering more workers to travel because work can be done from just about anywhere. This is giving rise to co-working spaces: shared office locations which allow you to pay a fee to access business tools like equipment and conference rooms as well as work around other people which is important to many. Co-working is on the rise with companies like WeWork seeing huge growth and global expansion along with local co-working spaces popping up even in small towns. Even people who have access to a good home work space are venturing out of the house more with their new found flexible freedom. It seems all the elements are in place for this movement of remote and flexibly work to continue to grow.
With more companies getting comfortable with new age remote work, it is a good idea to be up to speed on technology that will help make this remote work easy and fun should you have the opportunity to work when and wherever you like. Here are a few suggestions from my experience.
- Battery Packs – With more and more work taking place on mobile devices, especially video calls which can consume a lot of battery, one of the best items you can have in your remote work toolkit is a battery pack. A small mobile battery pack can charge your mobile devices several times over and not having to hunt for a wall outlet at airport or coffee shop is more of a relief than you would think. Lastly, now that laptops are going with USB-C technology, we’ll soon all have laptops that can be charged by a battery pack. A few suggestions for battery packs.
- Network Testing Apps – More about this in the next section and a very important tool to have in your arsenal! A standard app is Ookla’s Speedtest, and Google has a browser based speedtest.
- Audio and Tripods for Mobile – No matter what kind of call you are doing, audio is important. The standard headphones that come
with your mobile seem to work just fine for most but if you want a wireless experience you could try Apple AirPods if you’re an Apple user or one of the many alternatives. Also a great travel item is a bluetooth speaker that can double as a conference speakerphone or speaker for listening to music. For a better audio call experience I suggest the Jabra Speak 510 and for a more musical experience with a decent mic I love the JBL Clip. Lastly, if you’re using your mobile a lot for video, a tripod/stand can be a great accessory. It frees up your hands and stops jerky motions for those on calls with you. I love the Glif which doubles as a stand or tripod mount and fits most mobile devices.
- Cameras – If you’re doing a good amount of video calls from your laptop, having an external camera is a small touch that can give your remote calls a boost. You’d be surprised how better quality on a video call subconsciously makes the experience better for participants.
- Logitech has always had great quality USB cameras at an affordable price.
- If you have the budget for it you can wow the participants of your next call with a high end camera.
So you now have the ability to work more flexibly and some great suggestions for tech to use while doing so. How about a few thoughts on making your remote work more engaging all involved?
- Test the network! – This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when working remotely. Reviews for coffee shops might say the wifi is good but you’ll never really know until you test wifi networks you’ll be joining. Once you have the knowledge of how good the wifi is where you’re at you’ll be able to act accordingly rather than finding out after you’ve set up your gear in your space or worse, when you join an important call.
- Backgrounds – If you’re doing video calls it is a nice touch to have a nice background. If you are moving around to new places, having an engaging backdrop can be a conversation starter.
- Switch up your space – Similar to a good background, changing up where you are for calls can be conversation starters. A great way to talk about “where you are today”, tell someone about a place they might not know about, and how you feel about where you are.
- Start with a screen share – This is a small detail which can change the way you start remote calls. Try starting a call off sharing an image of perhaps an interesting fact. As people join your call they will see the shared image which can start a conversation in a unique way rather than the same old small talk.
Keep It Moving, Keep it Interesting
I can’t say this enough about the way we collaborate remotely: we seem to be stuck in a standard flow of “Hi, how are you and how is the weather there?” Sure it is an easy conversation starter but this is keeping all of stuck in a bit of a comfort zone and we always seem to kick off meetings in the exact same way. Where is the fun in that?
I suggest stepping out of this comfort zone. Try asking a different question rather asking about the weather. Perhaps switch up the standard beginning meeting dialogue by mentioning something interesting about yourself and asking others to do the same. Working remotely also gives a great opportunity for unique conversation by allowing you to say some interesting things about (not weather related!) about where you are. Small talk is easy and safe way to begin a meeting, especially when you are on larger remote calls and waiting for other people to join, however I guarantee you if you take a chance or two in trying something new you will have more rich and engaging experiences when on remote calls.
Remote and flex work continues to evolve. It is giving us a better opportunities to work where and when it suits us most which is allowing a better quality of life. There are benefits for both the employee and the employer. The better we make these experiences by being mindful of the experience in using good technology and keeping conversations interesting, the more accepted this kind of work will become. I can’t wait to see where things go from here!
Written by Matt Stevenson of Connected Frequencies
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