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How Remote Startups are Changing the Game for Everyone

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Based on our history, we can see that unprecedented events have the potential to cause permanent mass changes. Remember the 9/11 attack? That attack changed the face of airport security forever. Suddenly, new transit rules were enforced and sophisticated surveillance gear became commonplace. Here is how remote startups are changing the game for everyone.

Likewise, the pandemic has forced businesses to embrace remote working. Like it or not, we have been forced into the largest work-from-home experiment possible, without any prior warning.

Remote Startups are Changing the Game for Everyone
Image Credit: pixaby

 

To be fair, many businesses had distributed teams even before COVID-19 blindsided us. In fact, according to Founders Forum’s survey of 400+ startup owners, 94% of the respondents were already working from home before the pandemic.

Nonetheless, most respondents anticipated that they’d be back to their desks within a maximum of six months. But with the pandemic showing no signs of abating in the United States and elsewhere, they’ve been forced to rethink their business plans.

While many businesses have taken to remote working like fish to water, some are struggling to come to terms with the new normal. To help them make the transition, a new breed of “remote startups� has emerged.

These startups have innovative remote work solutions that help pandemic-prep other companies. Their solutions cover a wide spectrum — from meeting schedulers to gamified learning applications. Their goal is simple: help their tribe make the paradigm shift towards a brighter, remote-friendly future. And, to make a few bucks in the process.

Remote Startups: Turning Adversity into Opportunity

Virus or no virus, our business ecosystem is ripe for remote work. It’s just that startups are better poised than enterprises to capitalize on the remote opportunity.

Startups are uniquely positioned in the business landscape. Their constraints (budget, staffing, opportunities, etc.) compel them to look for out-of-the-box solutions. A startup needs to be on the top of its game to beat the big players and remain relevant. If they don’t come to grips with new situations soon enough, they have a lot to lose.

Considering their flexible mindsets and dynamic states, startups can pivot more easily and adopt a remote culture. That’s one reason why you’ve likely seen an increase in the number of SaaS startups since the pandemic set in.

Newly-remote companies face more roadblocks than a startup will, which impacts both owners and workers.

1. Dip in Productivity

Mega brands like IBM and Google found that their productivity plummeted when they went all-remote. Yahoo, Aetna, and Best Buy reported similar trends. All of these businesses had to roll back their remote work policies and call employees back on-premises.

Upon closer inspection, I have identified a few factors that hamper productivity in remote settings:

  • Less face-to-face supervision: Trust is an issue between remote cadres. Often, managers worry that their out-of-sight teams are not sincere about their working hours. They may be tempted to micromanage their teams, which adversely impacts performance and morale.
  • Tons of distractions: In a Buffer survey of remote workers, 10% of respondents said they struggle to keep distractions at bay when working from home. They find it hard to focus on work in their “chilled outâ€� space. This is a friction point for most people who fail to create dedicated workspaces for themselves.
  • Out-of-sync teams: The communication gap between co-workers can throw the entire team off-track. Although there are many collaboration tools (like Slack and Trello) available, they do have a learning curve that can be hard for non-technical folks. While teams take time to get up to speed, productivity can take a beating.
  • Lag in information access: Remote employees spend more time and effort locating information pertinent to their tasks. This can delay time-sensitive projects and slow down the pipeline.

2. Unhealthy Employee Morale

Happy employees are more productive, satisfied, and loyal to their companies. Sadly, remote employees are more prone to pangs of loneliness and isolation, which can pull down their morale.

The funny thing is that 59% of remote managers are least concerned about their workers’ emotional well-being, which has a cascading effect on team morale.

  • Lack of team camaraderie: Remote workers often feel a sense of detachment from the rest of the team, according to a Harvard study. That’s because they have fewer opportunities to bond informally with their colleagues.

Daily huddles are mostly about work. They just don’t have the same de-stressing effect as random water cooler encounters with colleagues.

  • Lower visibility: Employees in hybrid teams feel left out and mistreated, according to the Harvard report cited earlier. Being out-of-site, they feel managerial positions are out of their reach. If the scope for professional growth is limited, employee churn is inevitable.

They also complain about managers favoring in-office staff, even if they are less competent. Location disparity is a breeding ground for such negative sentiments.

  • Difficulty to compartmentalize stuff: 22% of work-from-home employees struggle with unplugging, states the Buffer report. Don’t believe the hyper-real pictures of people sipping piña coladas on a beach next to a laptop.

Remote work is not one long vacation. In fact, extended hours due to lack of discipline can play havoc with their personal lives. This is especially true for people who fail to draw clear lines between work and home.

3. Technical Challenges

Teams in different locations rely heavily on tools and technology to make their working seamless and easy. They need to use software for team communication, project management, training, and reporting.

Employees, as well as managers, need to be trained to use these new technologies. This way, all of the above fears about employee productivity, engagement, and focus can be assuaged to a great degree.

However, 38% of remote workers claim to have received no special training from their managers to help them get acquainted with these tools, according to the Owl Labs research stated earlier.

Thrust into a dark space with no light to guide them, employees often stumble. They are unable to give their 100% to work.

There have been instances where companies have lost business due to poor client communication. Being technologically challenged, they were unable to revamp their communication strategies. Had they transitioned from pushing files to email workflows, the scenario would probably be very different.

Huge problems are huge opportunities in disguise.

Just like the SARS outbreak, which drove innovation and research in diagnostics and health, the current pandemic is also producing many heroes.

For remote startups, all of the above glitches have acted as catalysts of change. Let’s see how.

How Are Remote Startups Transforming Businesses? 4 Use Cases

Remote startups have a great ideology. They develop state-of-the-art solutions to help companies get used to remote working. By doing so, they help mitigate the aftermath of the pandemic and make the business world a better place.

Among the current crop of remote startups, these are my top four picks:

1. Eloops – Keeping Employees Engaged

In distributed teams, employee engagement is critical. The US-based remote startup, Eloops, keeps employees “in the loop� by means of surveys, gamified learning, and virtual check-ins.

Using the platform, you can build custom apps for your employees to download. The apps offer social and engagement tools, personalized inboxes, gamified onboarding sessions, and a lot more.

To build rapport with your out-of-office teams, you can create contests, quizzes, and challenges. You also get access to effective team-building ideas and tools. In short, Eloops lets you align your internal and external teams in a fun, breezy way.

2. Plann3r: Scheduling Meetings Smartly

Meetings are an integral part of remote work. Depending on your role, you might need to schedule and attend meetings with your teams, prospects, and clients.

Plann3r, a remote startup from Belgium, helps you create slick-looking meeting pages in minutes. In this meeting scheduler, you can sync your calendar, import agendas from other apps, and customize your meeting interface.

You can plan your availability and highlight your “busy� slots. In short, you can achieve reasonable time management and stay on schedule.

3. Proficonf: Staying Connected in Real-Time

There are many prerequisites for hassle-free remote management. Staying connected with partners, teams, and clients is one of them. Video conferencing facilitates synchronous communication where participants can share screens, exchange files, and chat on the side.

In this space, the Ukrainian remote startup, Proficonf is doing wonders. Through this video conferencing platform, you can experience HD-level video quality, without dropped calls or data breaches.

Since the application is web-based, it’s light-weight and can work in browsers. The auto-recording feature makes your meeting highlights available at all times. This can come in handy for repetitive training sessions and sales pitches.

The solution works on adaptive telecommunication technology. In simple terms, the video quality doesn’t dip for participants with poor internet connectivity and low bandwidth.

4. Aubot: Cutting-Edge Surveillance

While you’re working from home, who is keeping an eye on your office premises? Telepresence robots can.

Fitted with dual cameras and sensors, these nifty robots stalk your office and stream their footage to your phone, tablet, or PC. This way, you can ensure the safety and operability of your office space.

I know. One remote startup that’s been taking giant strides in this domain is Aubot. Their main product, Teleport, is a telepresence robot that lets you monitor your office from any part of the world.

The robot can adjust its height and change angles to bring objects into focus. From the comfort of your home, you can control the robot using a web-controlled interface.

Such solutions take the stress out of office supervision so you can focus on more productive chores.

Where Are Remote Startups Headed?

It’s obvious that remote startups have a great present. But what about their future prospects? Is there any scope for their survival when things return to some kind of normal?

Remote work is here to stay and so are remote startups. While the future is a blank page right now, I’m confident that remote work will become the norm.

Favorable stats about remote work from the Owl Labs survey:

  • 71% of people actively seek out employers who let them work remotely.
  • 51% of on-site workers are keen to work from home. 24% will take a pay cut if they are allowed to keep flexible schedules.
  • On average, workers with remote experience draw $100K more than those who have never held a remote job.

All of these facts are a reflection of the popularity of remote culture and its viability in the future. From the employer’s perspective, remote teams offer many advantages, including:

  • Larger talent pool. Hirers can take advantage of top talent even if they are not in close proximity. Businesses that are open to expanding their team by removing geographical barriers have a better chance of finding people with the right skill sets.In fact, the above survey found that fully-distributed teams hire 33% faster than their local counterparts.
  • Stronger diversity of thought. When you look outside your bubble, you can access people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. They bring varied perspectives that enrich your team.A McKinsey study found that diverse teams are 30% smarter than homogenous teams. And they are able to achieve their business goals more efficiently.
  • Easier scaling. It’s easier to scale operations in remote set-ups. If you use software to help you scale up, it’s just a matter of expanding your database and letting the algorithms recalibrate the logistics. You don’t have to buy new furniture or office space to accommodate new members.
  • Lower operational costs. For small businesses and startups, every penny counts. When you do away with brick-and-mortar offices, you save on rentals, equipment, and consumables.Most businesses don’t foot their remote workers’ internet bills or co-working space rents. Though the cost savings should not be your primary reason to go remote, it’s certainly a big perk.
  • Better retention rates. Remote employees tend to be more satisfied with their jobs. With proper time management, they are able to strike a work-life balance. Plus, commute-free jobs mean no stress of travel, which leaves them with more free time.Nestled in their homes, they don’t bear the brunt of office politics (mostly). Overall, they are a happier lot, which is why they stay longer in their jobs.

    For employers, this means lesser attrition and greater stability. Moreover, they don’t have to go through the hassle and expenditure of hiring and retaining staff again and again.

Wrapping Up

Since remote work has so many obvious advantages, it’s very likely that it will replace traditional offices altogether. And as more companies go remote, the demand for remote-friendly products will keep growing. Now you know why I said that the future of remote startups looks very bright.

What are your thoughts about remote work and startups? Share them in the comments below.

Top Image Credit: thisisengineering; pexels

The post How Remote Startups are Changing the Game for Everyone appeared first on ReadWrite.

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BeeCanvas Buzzed to the Next Level to Solve Remote Collaboration

solve remote collaboration

When teams left the office for Covid-19, they left a lot of loose ends. One of those threads, collaboration, has been picked up by BeeCanvas.

Launched this past week, BeeCanvas is best described as a virtual whiteboard.

BeeCanvas is a powerhouse under the hood. This tool is one part visualizer, one part brainstorming hub, and one part project management tool.

How Will You Make the Most of Collaboration?

Why did BeeCanvas blend all of those functions into a single platform? And more importantly, how can teams — virtual ones, in particular — make the most of it?

To see what the buzz is all about, I caught up with BeeCanvas’s CEO, Raymond Hong. And while we didn’t whiteboard our interview, Hong painted a clear picture: Remote work isn’t as easy as many initially imagined it would be, especially in the context of collaboration.

BeeCanvas Began Without a Hive

Like many of the companies it works with, BeeCanvas is a remote team. The difference is, it didn’t suddenly become one when Covid-19 struck.

“We built BeeCanvas because we needed it,� Hong admits. “We’d been working out of coffee shops, struggling to get on the same page about pretty basic stuff. I tried to use other collaboration apps out there, but none of them truly solved the problems we had, so I decided to build a virtual collaborative space for us. We wanted to build a best-in-class virtual war room online instead of developing another collaboration app.�

Although BeeCanvas now has a home office, it began four years ago without one. Before communication issues boiled over, BeeCanvas got together to discuss a new vision: a cloud-based virtual whiteboard and meeting room.

“To us, the keyword was ‘visual,’� Hong explains. “Across time zones, cultures, and languages, everyone understands an image. Text-based tools simply can’t get the message across as well.�

That isn’t to say, Hong cautions, that BeeCanvas can’t accommodate text. He points to BeeCanvas as a tool where people can transform a non-visual file or link to a visual asset through simple and easy interactions like the drag-and-drop chat tool. Like a physical whiteboard, BeeCanvas users can sketch, type, and add graphics to their heart’s content.

Also like a whiteboard, BeeCanvas has a huge range of use cases: It can be a chart, listing out project deadlines; it can be used to pitch or present on a project’s status; it can be a space for play, whether to build a culture or brainstorm a new marketing campaign.

solve remote collaboration

So what does BeeCanvas work best for? Here, Hong has a few suggestions.

Visualization: A Canvas for Everyone

Every successful startup challenges at least one assumption. At BeeCanvas, it’s that only “creatives� need or can use a visual canvas.

“Look around you: Everyone on your team can be creative if you unlock their creative potential,� Hong says emphatically. “The role of a modern leader is to transform teams to be more highly engaged and aligned creatively.�

To illustrate, Hong points to a slider of use cases his team has compiled. Near the bottom of BeeCanvas’s homepage are rotating examples of canvases that “non-creatives� put together using the tool.

One manager put together a template for his team’s daily stand-up meeting. An executive team developed a flow chart to show how strategic initiatives break down into department-specific projects. Salespeople created user-profiles and case studies to showcase who their leads are and what problems they’re trying to solve.

The Ultimate Visualizer

BeeCanvas

“Visualization is one of those skills that’s critical for every role, on every team,� Hong says. “Text is the best language for computers, not for humans. Humans excel at articulating complex ideas in a visual way. With the digital era, many people forget that and don’t think to grab a pen and draw abstract content with visuals instead of explaining it with text. Even remote work accelerates this problem because people tend to rely on messaging applications, email and virtual documents.�

The Bottom Line on Brainstorming

Have you ever had the perfect idea in mind, only for it to leave your mouth as a word salad? That’s why most brainstorming sessions happen around a whiteboard.

“Most ideas are best expressed and understood visually,� Hong points out. “Human beings are visual animals: Our default sense is our sight.�

While remote teams have long been able to hop on a video call for brainstorming, these sessions are rarely as productive as they could be. Hong says he’s seen teams struggle to bridge the gap by, for example, holding sketches up to their computer’s camera.

Think of BeeCanvas as a more advanced, collaborative MS Office Suite. The product philosophy is to combine project management functionality with a visual whiteboard. Multiple people can work in the space at once, just like a real whiteboard, while discussing ideas or problems using BeeCanvas’s built-in chat.

No matter how difficult and complex an idea may be, people can simplify their communication and easily find solutions.

“The goal of creative work is not for the sake of being,� Hong says. “The goal should be to brainstorm and find the most effective outcome quickly and efficiently.�

Getting Virtual Teams on the Same Page

Of course, brainstorming is the start of any project — and gets everyone on the same page. After that, the hard part begins: actually managing the project development.

BeeCanvas built what is needed right now. According to Hong, some of its team members prefer the project functionality like the Kanban system. Others on the team like to work from their calendar, and still others operate best with a simple task list.

BeeCanvas allows users to apply their most efficient workflow to their projects. “Like brainstorming, there’s no ‘right’ way to manage a project,� Hong says.

But why would teams use BeeCanvas rather than a dedicated project management tool? The reason is that projects are rarely linear or single-platform. When it comes time to add a new feature, mid-project — a brainstorming-session may be necessary. After brainstorming and decisions, a presentation may be necessary to get the leadership team on board.

“The question we kept asking ourselves when building BeeCanvas was, ‘Why can’t all of those issues occur and be taken care of in a single platform?’â€� Hong points out that the average marketing team alone uses 23.8 tools — never mind all of the others strewn across sales and product development teams.

Hong’s point is particularly relevant for remote teams. More tools spread across more networks create complexity not just for the user but also for others. Data security and integrations across tools stress out IT teams. Larger software stacks strain company budgets and complexity.

What’s Next for BeeCanvas?

Perhaps the toughest question I posed to Hong was the shortest: What’s next?

“In some ways, BeeCanvas is defined by its users,� Hong acknowledges. “BeeCanvas will be the new standard of a team collaboration space. It will replace the way we used to have meetings prior to Covid-19. Since our launch, we’ve been keeping a close eye on real-world use. How people use BeeCanvas will guide our next iteration.�

The good news for BeeCanvas is, remote work appears to be here to stay. For a fresh platform to find its sweet spot takes time. Like nectar turning to honey, tools like BeeCanvas only get better with age.

Top Image Credit: Caio; Pexels

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collaboration tools communication tools Lead team culture Work Workplace Culture workplace engagement

Build Team Culture Remotely With These 7 Tools

black female remote worker on phone and laptop at desk

How do you bring your team together when remote work is keeping them apart? 

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to ask themselves this question, and answers aren’t easy to come by. Teams that may have started working remotely just a few months ago are now facing the reality that they will continue working remotely for some time, perhaps permanently. 

Thankfully, there are many tools perfectly suited to keeping everyone on your team connected and on track. Some of them have long been favorites of remote workers, while others have evolved to be used in new and exciting ways. Whether they improve access to information or streamline digital communication, tools like these are a crucial component of any team working out of the office. If you’re looking to maximize cohesion among your remote team, be sure to check out the following:

1. Guru

A corporate wiki like Guru is a great place to centralize and preserve knowledge about your company. Because of their collaborative nature, corporate wikis can be updated and edited directly by the employees who know the most about those subjects. This can give your team a sense of ownership over their role, boosting trust and morale along the way.

Moreover, a team separated by distance may not have access to the same knowledge management resources they did when everyone was in the office. Having a central hub of information can eliminate time-wasting searches, long email threads and confusion — boosting productivity in the process.

2. Slack

If your team is not already using Slack, now is a good time to start. Slack is a channel-based messaging platform, meaning that you can use it in a variety of ways for your business. Create a thread for your entire team to share ideas. Put together project-based spaces to encourage better group communication. You can even chat privately with team members, making it easier to provide individual feedback. 

A standout feature of Slack is the ability to set active hours. Work with your team to set realistic working hours, then encourage them to mark those on their Slack profiles. Doing this ensures that everyone is working at roughly the same time, creating the much-needed sense of “office hours� in the digital office.

3. Shared Calendar

When it comes to work time, everyone needs to be on the same page. Using a shared calendar will keep your team on schedule with deadlines, mandatory meetings, and tasks. Though it may sound intricate, a shared calendar doesn’t have to be complex — it can be streamlined to suit your business’s needs. A basic Google Calendar can be shared by team members, or you can use something more elaborate like Calendar.

Whatever you choose, make sure everyone who needs access has it; it’s important to ensure that no employee feels left out of the loop on important company timetables. Be wary of giving too many people the power to edit the calendar — you don’t want it to become too complicated for most employees to effectively use. Ideally, you’re looking for something that has the exact amount of bells and whistles your team needs.

4. Zoom Professional

Commit to a Zoom Professional account for your team. Face-to-face interaction is more effective than interaction via a chat or phone call, and if you can’t meet in person, video meetings are the way to go. With something like Zoom Professional in place, you will be able to hold meetings with as much human contact as possible for remote workers. 

While a basic account certainly provides you the ability to meet and see each other, a Professional account has added benefits. Meetings can be longer than 40 minutes if needed, and meetings can be recorded for later reference to catch up those who couldn’t attend the original meeting.

5. Project Management Software

Ensure that everyone is focused on the right tasks at the right time with project management software. There are plenty of options available, so carefully eye the market to see what works best for you and your team. Ultimately, you want something that most closely mimics your in-office project management process while still maximizing remote capabilities.

A shared workspace will help your team from feeling alone in their work, which in turn will keep them motivated. Providing clear deadlines, expectations and access to project updates creates a better remote work environment for your team — the closest thing to an office that remote teams can come by. 

6. Google Drive

Simple but effective, Google Drive has long been a staple of teams needing to share content digitally. A major loss in remote work can be the ability to work collaboratively in real time. 

Utilizing Google Drive can restore your team’s ability to work on the same document, spreadsheet, or slide show simultaneously. Multiple people can have the file open at once, and each person’s edits and comments are assigned an individual color so you know who is providing what feedback. 

Additionally, Google Drive integrates easily into several of the other tools you can use to keep your team together while you work remotely. It also serves as Cloud backup for your important files, guaranteeing that everything is accessible no matter where your team is working.

7. WooBoard

Just because your team is working remotely doesn’t mean that play can’t go remote, too. Tools that keep your work efficient and collaborative are important, but so are the ones that help you boost morale and recognize achievement. Utilizing something like WooBoard allows you to encourage team members, even when you can’t give them a shout-out in person.

Positive reinforcement improves employee productivity. When your team knows you think they are doing a good job, they’re going to work better. Being able to share in each other’s achievements makes working together a more positive experience for all. 

New tools are popping up every day that are designed to help your team. What it means to work together is changing, and utilizing some or all of these tools will help you remain a cohesive, effective team — no matter where you are.

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