PM Results https://www.pmresults.co.uk Offering Project management and Procurement Services to Small and Medium Businesses Tue, 22 Dec 2020 11:41:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 Successful remote work: 6 changes businesses need to make https://www.pmresults.co.uk/successful-remote-work-6-changes-businesses-need-to-make/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/successful-remote-work-6-changes-businesses-need-to-make/#respond Thu, 17 Dec 2020 14:45:49 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3743 The post Successful remote work: 6 changes businesses need to make appeared first on PM Results.

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Adapt your processes to remote work and document them

This is time consuming and an initial overhead but it will streamline inefficient processes that you’ve probably lived with for decades, reduce the dependence on individuals, bring new staff up to speed faster and facilitate continuous improvement in how you work.  There are a number of ways of achieving this, but I’d recommend looking at using Lean Six-sigma as a means of both documenting and optimising processes.

 

Change the way you communicate

The least productive feature of office working is the meeting culture.  As I once saw scribbled on a white board in a meeting room ‘Why work when you can go to a meeting’.  Many companies have simply transferred this culture to remote work where it’s an even worse idea than doing it in the office. Remote work offers the unfortunate opportunity to run back-to-back meetings all day with no time wasted walking between meeting rooms.  By the end of the day your head throbs, your ears are hot from hours of wearing a headset and your brain has gone to mush.  I can’t stress this enough…this culture is bad and needs to stop.  If you want to develop successful remote work then remote workers need to make more use of asynchronous communication – text and video messaging – to get to the point where shorter, less frequent meetings are used to resolve the big issues and make final agreements.

 

Emphasise the human connection

This is something all good businesses are doing already. You must hold weekly 1:1s with your direct reports.  These are sacrosanct, don’t delay or cancel them.  You must hold monthly all staff meetings and make these meetings as interactive as possible.

Get information out there.  A lot of time and effort can go into drafting and re-drafting written updates so managers need to make use of tools which allow you to produce short videos quickly and easily.

You must thank people and make sure their efforts never go unnoticed.  Silent hero awards at your monthly all staff meetings are good but also think about sending out the odd bottle of wine or box of chocolates to say thank you. Make people feel valued and trusted and give them clear goals as to what is expected of them.

This isn’t revolutionary, it’s just good management.  The real issue is that proximity in offices has been compensating for poor management for decades.

 

Encourage social interaction

Offices work socially because of the Propinquity Effect effect.  The more people meet each other the easier it is to build relationships.  You need to work a little harder to replicate this when people are remote.  Try a coffee channel on your instant messaging app where people can meet to talk things over or try interest channels where people can discuss common pastimes. Try a wall of fame where people can post photos of themselves and stuff about what they do outside of work.  Organise remote social activities.  Organise working meet-ups.

 

Organise Working Meet-Ups

Meet-ups are the best way to encourage social interaction and counter feelings of isolation and loneliness.  The hybrid model for remote work is the one most people believe will be the future of the office – 3 or 4 days remote and one day in the office.  I really don’t believe this works, I would get rid of all offices and substitute them with regular work based meet-ups in hired spaces.  Staff then substitute daily commutes for a drive/train ride/flight to a monthly meet-up.  Meet-ups are purposeful, diarised and can encourage creativity and you don’t end up with people going into offices one or two days per week to just host video conferences with people who are remote.

 

Use the right tools

There are a huge number of productivity, collaboration, project and task management, knowledgebase and communication tools on or coming on to the market.  See our Reviews section.

The Remote Project Manager and Remote Work The New Normal by Gren Gale addresses all of these suggestions for successful remote work and more.

 

 

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12 ways to stop you falling asleep at meetings https://www.pmresults.co.uk/12-ways-to-stop-you-falling-asleep-at-meetings/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/12-ways-to-stop-you-falling-asleep-at-meetings/#respond Tue, 10 Nov 2020 15:55:59 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3675 The post 12 ways to stop you falling asleep at meetings appeared first on PM Results.

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20% of people admit to falling asleep at meetings

In a recent survey of over 2,000 people, 20% admitted to having fallen asleep at a meeting, with men apparently slightly more likely to nod off than women. When you consider that middle managers spend around 35% of their time in meetings and senior managers more like 50%, making meetings interesting, engaging, productive and efficient should be close to the top of everyone’s lists.

In the world of remote working while fewer people may be falling asleep at meetings, it’s so easy to become distracted when you’re in front of a computer on a conference call.  There are e-mails and messages popping up in front of you, that report you have to finish by the end of the day and even a sports result to follow!

Meetings, like them or not, are a means of communicating and resolving issues. If they’re not your cup of tea, tough! They won’t go away. They can, however, be made a lot more effective. There’s little point in insisting that busy people attend meetings that waste their time, so follow these suggestions and you’ll reduce the chances of it happening:

 

1. Communicate the objectives and agenda to all participants before the meeting starts

 

2. Sort as much out as possible beforehand

If a document is going to be reviewed, everyone should read it beforehand.  Messaging within a group is a great way to resolve most of the issues before meeting.  Save the meeting to resolve the contentious or tricky issues, get everything else out of the way before you meet.

 

3. All appropriate people must be invited – and must attend

 

4. But on the other hand the numbers attending must also be kept to the minimum required – don’t invite spectators

 

5. Everyone should turn up on time

 

6. It should be made clear that everyone should concentrate on the meeting and not get distracted 

For face-to face meetings, people turning up with phones, tablets and laptops and using them during the meeting is unacceptable as is attendees on video conference becoming distracted by other stuff on their computer screens.

 

7. The meeting owner needs to be prepared and shouldn’t just try to ‘take it as it comes’

 

8. He or she must keep the meeting to the agenda and avoid being side-tracked

 

9. Actions and decisions from the meeting must be minuted and followed up.

 

10. Have consideration for remote participants to an office based meeting

If you’re in a meeting room with remote participants dialling in via audio or video conference have some consideration for the remote participants – they almost certainly aren’t picking up everything as well as you.  Make sure you ask for confirmation and contributions from the remote participants.  Keep them informed and involved.

 

11. Video conferencing is a lot more effective way of holding meetings between geographically remote staff than conference calls.

Unless the numbers become prohibitive, encourage participants on video conferences to switch their video on.  It’s a whole lot better talking to a real person than a disembodied voice on a voice call.

 

12.  Don’t attend meetings just because you were asked

You also need to decide how many meetings you, personally, need to attend. It’s very easy to find yourself overwhelmed by them, so be selective. You don’t need to go to them all and need to trust other team members to run meetings, and to find their own solutions to certain issues.  However, meetings are a good medium for you to collect data. This might be hard data about progress against a plan, risks and issues, or useful information about how you think the team is working together, or concerns about a supplier.

 

Want to know more?

Gren Gale is a project management consultant who runs PM Results is author of

 

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8 ways of preventing project failures https://www.pmresults.co.uk/8-ways-of-preventing-project-failures/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/8-ways-of-preventing-project-failures/#respond Sat, 07 Nov 2020 21:48:35 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3663 The post 8 ways of preventing project failures appeared first on PM Results.

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1. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

 

Having a poor idea of what a project is going to cost and how long its going to take to deliver is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot before it’s even started.   Poor estimation and planning are major reasons for project faiures.

Whatever development approach you use, no-one is going to write a blank cheque and then ask the project manager if they’d be kind enough to let them how much it cost after they’ve finished.

The best way to strike fear and doubt into senior management is to present them with an ever expanding budget and timeframe and/or reducing scope.  Confidence in a project manager has an understandable tendency to reduce in direct proportion to cost and timescale overruns.

The bigger the project or the smaller the business, a project with costs running completely out of control can become a threat to a company’s financial stability.  A few years ago, I worked for an expanding and successful medium sized company that tried to develop an ambitious new product without taking sufficient care to understand costs, timescales and risks.  This combined with customers holding back on buying existing products when they knew a better one was on its way, eventually led to the distressed sale of the company and subsequent layoffs and closure.

 

 

2. Put a lot of work into your estimates and outline plan

 

It’s not unusual that everyone is in a big hurry to get the project going and want to get this phase out of the way, but the flip side of this is that senior management are always unnerved by increases in costs and timeframe once the project is underway.

In my experience, the bigger a project is, the greater the pressure to get started fast!  This is one of the many reasons why there are so many big projects failures.

Try as far as possible to resist this pressure. Time spent at the start of the project will always pay rewards later. 

 

3. Hold a workshop

 

Get everyone on the same page.  Put the people who know what’s required together with the people who need to produce the estimates and get them talking.  The better their and your understanding of what’s required then the better chance of producing solid estimates.

And keep talking.  Successful project managers communicate well.  Keep talking to the users, the estimators and the people sponsoring the project.  Many project failures happen because of poor communication.

 

4. Ownership

 

The teams who are going do the work need to estimate costs, otherwise they will feel no ownership or commitment to them.

The project manager may have to help them if they’re not used to producing estimates, but they shouldn’t be imposing their estimates on the project.

I have seen Project Managers do just this and it’s usually ended in tears.  You can and should challenge and question estimates, but you shouldn’t estimate costs for work that other people are going to carry out.

 

5. Include what you need to buy, not just staff effort

 

Don’t miss what you might have to buy for your project.  People’s time will be one of your costs, but do you need to buy components, software, equipment, training, transport etc?

 

6. Estimates for Outsourced Work

 

If you need to estimate costs for outsourced work, don’t believe an estimate from any supplier unless they and you are very clear about your requirements.  Suppliers are fond of producing ‘budgetary’ estimates when faced with sketchy requirements.  Treat these with caution.  Suppliers don’t want to scare you off doing the work, so they’ve a tendency to provide rather optimistic quotes!  I would add at least 20% to a budgetary estimate ….and even then it might not be enough!  I’ve seen many projects fail to get off the ground when the budgetary estimate finally turns into a firm one and the costs become unaffordable.

 

7. Include Contingency

 

Carefully consider contingency, both for costs and timescales.  An effective way of estimating contingency is a risk based approach. Work out your major risks and then work out how much contingency you need to mitigate these risks.

Beware of being pressured to remove the contingency, because the project supposedly isn’t viable with it included.  Giving way to this pressure usually spells regret and potentially disaster further down the line, so I would recommend resisting this.  I’ve never run a project where everything went as expected, so I doubt you ever will.  You need contingency, it’s not an optional extra.

 

8. What did it cost last time?

 

Want to check you’ve got your estimates and plans in the right ball park?  Have a look to see what your previous projects have cost and how long they took to deliver.  Ok, so no two projects are the same, but lots of projects have similarities and you should be able to find previous projects that you can compare against this one.

This will help you feel you’ve got it right and give you a lot more confidence when you’re presenting plans and estimates to senior management for approval.

 

Want to know more?

Gren Gale is a project management consultant who runs PM Results is author of

 

 

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6 life threatening requirements that everyone forgets https://www.pmresults.co.uk/life-threatening-requirements/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/life-threatening-requirements/#respond Thu, 05 Nov 2020 22:33:43 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3642 The post 6 life threatening requirements that everyone forgets appeared first on PM Results.

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If you’re looking to buy something and you don’t know what you want, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll get something you don’t want. That’s why it’s so important to know what you want before talking to a supplier.

However there is a class of requirements that it’s easy to forget that have the potential to have a devastating effect on your business if ignored. These are commonly referred to as non-functional requirements and you need you take account of them when describing what you want:

 

1     Scalability

There’s little worse than being a victim of your own success.  If your product proves to be a success but its support isn’t scalable, you could find yourself with orders you can’t fulfil or telephones that go unanswered because the call centre you outsourced or the website you built to sell it to can’t scale to meet increased demand. It’s the best way to kill your product and your reputation stone dead.

So make sure you let your supplier know how many users you will require to be supported, both in all and simultaneously.  Also let the supplier know the maximum number of users that you believe need to be supported in the longer term, to make sure that there is potential for expansion to cope with this.

You’ll also need to find a way of testing this once you’ve set up a service or system. Definitely don’t take a suppliers word for it that they’ve tested this properly.

 

2     Performance and Availability

A website that takes a long time to retrieve pages is almost worse than no website at all. Be clear about what performance you are expecting and over what hours and days of the year do you expect the service to be provided.

Check out availability. With hosted systems or a service you may be looking to see the supplier’s historic percentage uptime. Find out if and when a hosted service closes down for routine maintenance – this won’t be any good if it’s at a peak time for your business.

 

3     Security

Data security breaches seem to hit the news every day.  Poor security could compromise your business and/or reputation as well as leaving you open to regulatory fines. This could be system or data security or building security and the vetting of staff.

 

4     Back-ups and Disaster Recovery

What happens in the case of a disaster? How quickly could a supplier recover? Poor disaster recovery for a service or system critical to your business, could spell the end of your business or at the very least a financial and reputational nightmare. In May 2017 poor disaster recovery grounded the entire British Airways fleet for days and is estimated to have cost them £100M as well as a whole lot of reputational damage. Find out what happens in the event of a flood or fire or some other sort of disaster at your supplier? What plans do they have to prevent an interruption to their service and your business.

Is a system crash that corrupts data going to leave you without customer data for days? What data do you need to be backed up and how often do you need this to happen?

 

5     And more

There may be other non-functional requirements, depending on the service that you are providing e.g. for a website you will be interested in Search Engine Optimisation, where and by whom the website is hosted, browser compatibility etc.

 

6     Contract

Suppliers generally hate terms covering non-functional requirements in contracts, especially ones on scalability and performance but you need to make sure these are included.

 

Want to know more?

Take a look at our on-line course Project Management for Small and Medium Businesses 

Or buy our books Project Management for SMEs or its US English version Project Management for SMBs

More than that we can provide help face-to-face, by phone, Skype or Google Hangouts wherever you are with training, processes, audit and mentoring.  Contact us on +44 (0)7788 925027 or enquiries@pmresults.co.uk

 

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How remote working can drive a massive boost in productivity https://www.pmresults.co.uk/how-remote-working-can-drive-a-massive-boost-in-productivity/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/how-remote-working-can-drive-a-massive-boost-in-productivity/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2020 14:46:52 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3613 The post How remote working can drive a massive boost in productivity appeared first on PM Results.

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Remote Working boosts productivity for office-based work

All of the indications are that remote working boosts productivity for office-based work. One recent US study of 30,000 workers indicated a massive 47% increase in productivity another smaller study with 1,000 workers carried out before the pandemic showed only a 13% increase but the common theme is that productivity is boosted by remote work.  I ran a remote working pilot for a large company in 2005 and even though the technology was a lot poorer, it showed a clear increase in productivity.  So let’s look at the most common definition of productivity:

Productivity

 

 

i.e. productivity measures the ratio between what you have to put in to get whatever it is you’re trying to produce.  Remote work offers enhancement to the top line – people get more done at home and a reduction in the bottom line – fewer offices mean lower rental, heating, lighting, cleaning, maintenance and insurance costs.  So for office based work, you have the nirvana of more work for less cost.  In nearly every case you’re going to find that remote working boosts productivity.

 

You can multiply the gains by casting off dinosaur office-based culture

However this isn’t as necessarily quite as simple as it might seem.  The main issue is that although people appear to be working more hours they may not be working as productively as they were in the office.   What we’re predominantly seeing right now is not remote working but crisis induced home working with most work carried out using the same approach, processes and mostly identical technology as office-based work.  If companies really want to exploit the huge potential productivity gains offered by remote work then they need to work a lot smarter and re-organise and re-tool for remote work.

 

Meeting culture needs to be the first to go!

An example of the sort of reorganisation companies need to consider is around meetings.  One of the big features of any office-based work is meeting overload.  Life can at times appear to be a succession of meetings with barely enough time to fit any real work in.  A poorly planned and thought out approach to remote work results too often in not just the continuation of this outdated culture but its amplification by doing away with all of that pesky time wasted walking between meeting rooms! This is the surest way to cripple the productivity of remote teams.

The companies who have been remote working for years have moved beyond this and concentrate far more on asynchronous communication with a greater use of messaging threads, knowledge-bases and collaboration apps to work out a solution, with meetings held to finally agree and confirm the solution or sometimes cancelled as superfluous.  Diaries are less full and meetings shorter which is better for an employee’s state of mind and their productivity.  This is the approach used by companies like GitLab who have around 1,200 employees and no offices.  Their IT, Customer Service, Sales, PR, Marketing, HR and Accounts staff all work remotely.  They’re a successful, growing company with happy and productive employees and not a single dollar of office cost.   They’re just one of an expanding band of companies that are making remote the future of work.

 

Many governments are showing a blinkered approach and want to return to the old norm

One recent report in the UK suggested that government are concerned that remote work will reduce the UK’s productivity.  This is a very blinkered view and with appropriate organisation changes and greater use of collaboration tools, the reverse, that remote working boosts productivity, will definitely be the case.  Ironically successive UK governments have grappled with the problem of the UK’s historic low productivity to no avail and now that the solution is right in front of their eyes, they seem intent on rejecting it!  Governments worldwide may well resist the onward march of remote work because they fear its effects on the service industries that cluster around big cities – everything from rail and underground networks to hairdressers, restaurants and coffee shops.

 

The more progressive companies and governments are gaining competitive edge

However the tide has turned with many employers worldwide like Microsoft and Dropbox to declaring that remote work is here to stay. More progressive governments are supporting rather than resisting the trend with for example, the Japanese government are paying employees $9,000 to move out of the crowded Tokyo conurbation and work remotely in the countryside and the German government about to publish a draft law making working from home a legal right.   These governments’ appreciation that remote working boosts productivity is likely to position them far better in the post-COVID world than the dinosaurs who cling to the notion of dragging staff back into the drudge of commuting into crowded city centres and outdated office cultures.

 

Gren Gale is an expert in Remote Work and author of Remote Work The New Normal and The Remote Project Manager.

 

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11 top tips on the best way to pass a remote interview https://www.pmresults.co.uk/top-tips-on-the-best-way-to-pass-a-remote-interview/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/top-tips-on-the-best-way-to-pass-a-remote-interview/#respond Mon, 12 Oct 2020 15:35:44 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3575 The post 11 top tips on the best way to pass a remote interview appeared first on PM Results.

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Being interviewed remotely is likely to become the norm

With so much office work being carried out remotely during the pandemic and the very high likelihood that this will continue into the future, being interviewed remotely could well become the norm, so it’s important to make sure you do some preparation on how to pass a remote interview.   Lots of remote jobs are being advertised if you know where to find them.

 

What should I wear?

In the traditional, office-based world the answer is definitely business formal smart clothes.  For an on-line interview I’d recommend toning it down a little.  For a start, in a remote interview, you only have to worry about what you’re wearing above the waist.  I’d recommend a smart shirt for a man or shirt or blouse if you’re a woman.  If you feel more comfortable in a jacket then that’s fine, but I’d definitely ditch the tie.

 

Find a quiet place

If you have a home office then make sure it looks clean, tidy and professional and find a way of letting the interviewers know that you’re sitting in your home office where you are able to work undisturbed.  All employers should be concerned that you have a suitable space to work in.  The employer may have health and safety concerns as well as wanting to be assured that disruptions and noise are not going to degrade your productivity.

It’s not a show stopper if you don’t have an office but make sure you tell everyone in the house that you’re going to be interviewed, to keep disturbances to a minimum. Think about where you’re going to sit and minimise the distractions behind your face.  You want the interviewers concentrating on you, not on your kids playing behind you or your underwear on the clothes dryer at the back of the room.

 

Look your best

Fix your hair and face, plus very importantly sort out the lighting.  Most people look pretty ghastly when lit from the side. Face-on lighting makes you look a whole lot better and has a tendency to mask your imperfections (assuming you have any!).  Also aim to have the camera at eye level.  Below doesn’t really work unless you like the Bohemian Rhapsody effect and above doesn’t tend to present the best image of you either.  If the camera is on top of the screen and hard to move, this may mean you moving instead by changing your chair adjustment. This may all sound a bit facile but don’t underestimate it. If you look good then you feel good and in most video conferences you’re going to be faced with looking an image of yourself on the screen throughout the interview.  If you find this unnerving then a lot of video conference packages allow you to turn off the image of yourself – check it out before the interview.

Buy as high quality a camera as you can afford, a clear high definition image is better than a fuzzy one.   Better cameras will also cope better with low or imperfect lighting.  You may have to bear the sight of your wrinkles, grey hairs or acne in a little more focus than you’d like, but it still looks better than the low res image that you get from the cameras on many laptops.

Test how you, the lighting and the backdrop looks on camera and adjust it until you get it right.

 

Compensate for the lack of body language

Ray L Birdwhistell an American anthropologist estimated from his research that 65 percent of communication is done non-verbally and more astonishingly that we can make and recognise around 250,000 facial expressions.  Barbara and Allan Pease in The Definitive Book of Body Language further estimated that body language is responsible for between 60 and 80 percent of the impact made in negotiations and that people form 60 to 80 percent of their first impression about a new person in less than four minutes.

Body language transmits very imperfectly over a video link, so it’s important to compensate by getting your points across clearly.  Ask if what you said was clear and if there are any questions and don’t worry about asking for clarifications on what the interviewers say.

 

The interview

To some extent a remote interview mirrors a face-to-face one but there are some important differences.  Know your job history, why you want to move, research the company you’re hoping to join, rehearse your answers to what are your strengths and weaknesses and where you see your career in 5 years’ time, as normal, but there are a few extra tips on how to pass a remote interview.

Make sure you get across that:

 

You’re a self starter

Self-motivation and initiative are important qualities to get across.  You’re out there in the big world, not just five minutes’ walk down the office, so the last thing a prospective employer wants is someone who needs to be spoon-fed every item of work.

 

You’re a good communicator 

In remote work everyone has to try a bit harder to communicate.  You don’t want to come across as someone who really wants to work remotely because you don’t like people (Ok it might be true…just don’t let anyone know!).

 

You’re flexible and adaptable

You’ll need to make sure that your prospective employer knows that you’re flexible, adaptable and open to change.  Bear in mind that most employers haven’t worked out how to work remotely, they’ve just transferred work to their employee’s homes in response to a crisis.   Things will change once they realise that remote work is different and needs to be set up and managed differently.   You’ll need to be able to adapt.

 

You understand the lifestyle and pressures of working remotely

You’ll need to convey that you can handle the lifestyle and attendant pressures of remote work.  If you’ve done it before and can provide references to prove it then all the better.

 

You’re comfortable with the technology

You need to emphasise that you’re comfortable using remote work tools and technology and that’s not just saying you’ve used Zoom for your Yoga lessons!  There are a wealth of messaging, e-mail, videoconferencing, project management and workflow tools as well as wikis and knowledge bases.  You may not have used these but at least Google them so you know what they are.

 

And make sure you ask

And there are some questions you should ask.  Ask about their support for remote workers and if they have an established onboarding process.  Teamwork and belonging are so important if you’re going to work remotely.  Ask how your prospective employer encourages each.

If you get as far as a job offer, you could ask if they have other remote workers who you could talk to before accepting the offer.  Find out what tools they use, how you will be managed and if they feel  part of a team.

So good luck, go for it and I hope this helps you pass a remote interview and get your dream job.

Gren Gale is an author and consultant

The Remote Project Manager and Remote Work The New Normal by Gren Gale address all of these issues and more

 

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Top Tips On How To Find A Remote Job https://www.pmresults.co.uk/top-tips-on-how-to-find-a-remote-job/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/top-tips-on-how-to-find-a-remote-job/#respond Mon, 28 Sep 2020 10:41:36 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3556 The post Top Tips On How To Find A Remote Job appeared first on PM Results.

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Working remotely has become far more mainstream in the last few years

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full flow the numbers of people working remotely has mushroomed.  The pandemic has demonstrated to many employers that remote work is not only viable but offers the opportunity to make significant costs savings while also increasing staff satisfaction and retention.  With a surge in unemployment looking inevitable, it’s important that employees know how to seek out every possibility for potential work.  As long as you have saleable skills, it isn’t difficult to find a remote job and earn a good living as a remote worker.

 

So how do you find a remote job?

There are a variety of ways you can work remotely.  The first for many people is with their existing employer who may offer the opportunity to work from home for some or all of the week.  This is far easier to achieve than it used to be with the pandemic having removed many of the insecurities that employers used to feel about loss of control with people working away from the office.

If you’re looking for a new role, while not many years ago this might have been seen as an odd question to ask at an interview, don’t be afraid to ask a potential new employer what their policy is on working from home.  You’ll usually be met with a constructive response.  Some big employers even before the pandemic positively encouraged employees to work from home.  It keeps their overheads low and may also fit in with what they’re trying to sell to their customers.  My history with remote work goes back 15 years  and in those early days I talked to both IBM and BT who were enthusiastically embracing it. This was the way they saw things going and were positioning themselves to learn lessons from their own experiences which would help them market solutions to their customers.

The other main routes to find a remote job are running your own business from home or to look directly for remote roles through the many websites and agencies advertising them.

There is little doubt that after the experience of the COVID-19 epidemic, remote working opportunities will rocket.  As a very small example, I’ve been attending a French conversational class for a couple of years.  It’s run by a teacher who leads a number of classes on different days and in locations within a 20-mile radius.  During the COVID-19 lockdown the group has gone online and started using Zoom.  This has worked very well and suddenly, with its geographic limitations removed, started attracting members from much further afield.  She also runs Spanish conversational classes and has attracted two British participants who live in Spain who want to improve their language skills.  Suddenly almost by accident, the owner has transformed a local business into an internet one and all of the potential growth opportunities that might lead to.

Lots of small businesses are run remotely, some have an office with a small number of people but all of their clients are remote, some have no office but come together as a team to work effectively.  I’ve been working as a consultant to a small American IT company for a few years.  All of their employees work from home and a number are contractors.  This works very well for them.  Their overheads are low and as business expands and contracts it’s very easy to flex their workforce.

 

What jobs can be carried out remotely?

So if you’re wondering what jobs are available to be carried out remotely you can start with the thought that almost any office based job could be remote and carry on from there.  A quick scan of remote jobs recently advertised included: IT developers, IT testers, IT support, Copy/Content editors, Customer service, Graphic design/Photo editing, Sales consultant, Marketing and communications manager, Education/On-line learning, Health, Counselling, Recruitment, Clothes design, Procurement, Translator, On-line journalism, Data analyst, Insurance claims, Project manager, Growth hacker, Payments processing, Mortgage broker, Bid/Proposal writer, Litigation attorney. And of course, there are many more.

The world of remote work is expanding and is truly international.  There are some roles that will of course never be remote e.g. manufacturing, construction, hospitality and personal services such as hairdressing and dentistry, but if you’re looking to find a remote job than there are thousands advertised weekly.

 

Working for an employer

So, if you’re looking to find a remote job you need to think more broadly than you would for office-based work.  Remote work is international and while there will be some restrictions where local knowledge is required, if you have a skill such as computer programming, project management, copy writing, design, journalism, sales, marketing or procurement these are in demand worldwide.

All job sites ask you to enter the role you’re looking for and a location.  Most but not all will allow you to enter ‘remote’ as location.  This works for Linkedin, Monster, JobServe, Indeed, Glassdoor and many others.

On top of this there are specialist remote work sites such as Remote Jobs, Flexjobs, We Work Remotely and Workew who only advertise remote jobs.  These are some of the longest established sites but with crisis being the mother of invention, new remote job sites are springing up all of the time.

If you search for #remotejobs on Twitter you’ll get lots of hits for remote work.  You can also join Facebook groups set up for remote jobs, just search for remote jobs and you’ll find lots of groups where jobs are advertised and where you can post saying you’re looking for a remote job – you’d be surprised how effective that can be.

The jobs advertised will be both permanent and contract positions but if you do intend working for yourself or setting up your own business to market your skills then you’re better to look at the gig economy – people offering temporary positions or complete pieces of work for a fixed fee.

 

Working for yourself

This is an ever growing and truly international market and there are some good people out there who will help you market your talents.

Toptal – short for Top Talent – they claim to have the top 3% of the world’s talent to hire on a contract basis.  Toptal work more like a traditional recruitment company but focus on supplying quality individuals.  If you think you have a top talent then try Toptal.

Freelancer – is one of the longest established sites for contract work with a huge number of contractors registered for work on it (they claim 15 million) and a very wide range of skills.  Buyers post work and contractors bid for the work.

Upwork and Guru – are more recent arrivals with a similar business model to Freelancer.

Fiverr – works in the opposite way to Freelancer, you post your services and rates and buyers find you and employ you, but be aware that Fiverr rates as the name suggest start very low.  Fiverr has been accused of encouraging a race to the bottom as sellers from all over the world try to undercut each other on rates.  If you use Fiverr you’ll need a strategy to upsell more expensive services or you’ll work very hard for little income!

Most of these sites deal with invoicing the customer and take a cut of what you earn.

Of course, you can forget all of the above, build your own website and market yourself.  In fact, you could use Fiverr to find a website designer and get exactly what you want built very cheaply.  As all small business owners will tell you, setting up a business is easy, it’s getting customers that’s difficult and the best way to do this is through contacts rather than advertising.  I’d recommend you carefully cultivate contacts wherever you work.  If it’s in your mind to work for yourself at some point then connect through Linkedin with everyone you meet, but also invite work acquaintances to become Facebook friends – you might want to have two Facebook accounts, one for personal friends and the other for work acquaintances, but it’s a very effective way of staying in people’s consciousness and contacting them if you’re looking for work.

If you have to rely on advertising then try free posts on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin first and try to work out what captures most attention.  If you’re selling a scarce skill then try to use SEO to get on the first page of a Google search…this is of course easier said than done and can cost a lot of money to achieve.

Gren Gale is an author and consultant

Read the Remote Project Manager  and Remote Work The New Normal by Gren Gale.

 

 

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13 things you need to know before buying video conferencing packages https://www.pmresults.co.uk/13-things-you-need-to-know-before-buying-video-conferencing-packages/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/13-things-you-need-to-know-before-buying-video-conferencing-packages/#respond Mon, 21 Sep 2020 10:43:31 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3530 The post 13 things you need to know before buying video conferencing packages appeared first on PM Results.

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1. Every dollar spent on video conferencing is money well-spent

The proliferation of employees working at home combined with headsets and webcams appearing at nearly every desk gives the management of most companies the belief that they are set up for video conferencing.  It’s also common to see rooms set up as video conferencing rooms with just a hi-res camera and a couple of decent microphones.  In the most basic sense these facilities can be used for video meetings but if you want video conferencing to really work, you’ll need to do a lot better than this.

I can’t stress enough how important a good video conferencing set up is to productivity and teamwork in a distributed team.  Every dollar spent on video conferencing is money well spent and the more you spend the better your communication will work.

 

2. Invest in good cameras and microphones

While there is a proliferation of video conferencing software, it all does pretty much the same job.  Each of the packages has strengths and weaknesses but the biggest difference you’ll make to the experience is how much you invest in the hardware.  Good quality cameras are a little more expensive but are vastly superior to the cameras built into laptops and webcams selling for $30 or less.  They will produce good images even in low light, include autofocus, have a wide field of view and are able to zoom in or out without losing quality.  The better webcams will have dual microphones and capture good quality sound.  If you look on Amazon and you’ll find a huge choice of webcams, but personally I wouldn’t look further than Microsoft, Logitech or Poly and don’t go for the lowest priced models.

Video conferencing is absolutely key for geographically dispersed teams.  Often quite complex work is distributed across a team in different locations.  In this environment the communications software has to be a facilitator not an inhibitor.   Pretty much all video conferencing packages do the simple things well, but there are a number of additional features you might want to look out for.

 

3. Content sharing

All video conferencing packages incorporate screen sharing but not all allow you to share a single window or application rather than the entire screen.  Being able to share a single window reduces the chance that you’ll accidentally broadcast something you don’t want the whole meeting to view.   You may be thinking ‘so what?’ but accidentally broadcasting commercially sensitive or private information could land you in a whole heap of trouble.

 

4. White boards

If you’re in the creative industries and find whiteboards useful then there are plenty of vendors who support shareable interactive white boards which try hard to replicate the meeting room experience.

Of course, if you’ve purchased a camera with a wide enough field of view and that has zoom capabilities, you can share an actual whiteboard rather than a virtual one.

 

5. Webinars and Town Hall meetings

With companies and employees becoming more distributed, video conferencing has become an increasingly popular tool for webinars and company Town Hall meetings.  Many sales organisations like to use webinar facilities to sell to new clients and engage existing ones.  If this is important to you then find out if the video conferencing tool supports these and in particular how many concurrent users are supported.

 

6. Training and remote learning

In a similar vein, you may want to use video conferencing facilities for remote training and learning.  This should be a very similar set up to running webinars.

 

7. Break-out ‘rooms’

You may also be able to make use of break-outs in both training and webinars.  This gives the person who calls the meeting the facility to set up virtual break-out rooms with two or more attendees from the main meeting and then have them re-join the meeting at a later point.

 

8. Recording

You should also look at the recording facilities offered.  As well as being able to record Town Halls, training sessions and live webinars for distribution and later viewing, it can be very useful to record contractual discussions or to be able to provide customers with a recording of a demo by video conference.

 

9. Conventional telephony

If your team is mobile as well as remote then it may be important to be able to include a participant in the meeting who is travelling.  Voice-only is likely be very important in this respect so that participants can dial into the meeting using conventional telephony.

I have several times been involved in meetings where at least one participant was in their car and dialling in hands-free.  Maybe not the best idea for safety but it’s a useful facility for busy people and particularly where people are working in different time zones when your midday might be in the middle of someone else’s commute.  The dial-in number should be toll-free regardless of what country the person is calling from.

 

10. Quality

Quality is king in the video conferencing world.  Get the best quality videoconferencing set up that you can afford.

Desktop licences for video conferencing packages like Skype for Business/Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Lifesize, Bluejeans, Lark, LogMeIn, Cisco Webex and many more are relatively cheap and a high quality webcam, speakers and/or headset won’t set you back very much either.  Camera/screen resolution should as a minimum support 1080p but you may want to consider 4K.  Most new laptops have 4K capable screens.

If you’re going to set up video conferencing facilities in house then look at companies like Poly (formerly Polycom) and Logitech who have been in the business of improving video and audio conference quality for decades.  They existed long before the current proliferation of desktop software packages was even imagined.  Their systems integrate with the leading videoconferencing packages so you can run video conferences with people coming in from multiple sources.  These set-ups better emulate a meeting where everyone is around a table in the same room.  The smart cameras provided will rotate and zoom in on the person talking rather than hearing a voice emitting from a distant video of a group huddled around a table. Every CEO should have this quality of facility in their office.  If you’re having trouble convincing your management to spend money on better quality facilities, then set up a side-by-side demo and the objections will quickly fade.  Entry level systems aren’t that expensive, so please have a look at what is available.

 

11. Security

Security is important for video conferencing.  The absolute must is end-to-end encryption of video and audio.  Most but not all vendors support this.  Don’t invest in a package that doesn’t.  Cisco Webex, Skype and Bluejeans all provide end-to-end encryption.  Also look for features that will allow you to lock a meeting once it’s underway, provide password protection of meetings, a sound when someone joins or leaves (to avoid unauthorised attendees slipping in unnoticed) and the option for the chair to control who joins a meeting.

 

12. Administration and Reporting

Most packages offer reporting for call, device and feature usage and quality of service performance.  They’ll also provide a detailed breakdown of usage by user.

 

13. Other options

There are a variety of options available in different video conferencing packages.  Some e.g. Lark use voice recognition to provide subtitling.  It’s common that the software switches the screen to the person talking but some offer that as an option.  Some e.g. Zoom provide accessibility features to vary the on-screen font sizes.  If virtual backgrounds turn you on then that’s a common feature too, done particularly well by Microsoft Teams right now.  Having your video window always on top is also a nice feature if you’re say working through a problem on a call and need to flit around other windows to find the solution. Several e.g. Cisco Webex provide this.

Gren Gale is an author and consultant specialising in Remote Work and Project Management.

The Remote Project Manager and Remote Work The New Normal by Gren Gale address all of these issues and more

 

 

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Why returning to the office was always a really bad idea https://www.pmresults.co.uk/why-its-ok-to-feel-anxious-about-a-return-to-the-office/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/why-its-ok-to-feel-anxious-about-a-return-to-the-office/#respond Tue, 15 Sep 2020 13:47:02 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3499 The post Why returning to the office was always a really bad idea appeared first on PM Results.

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Return to the office in the UK has lagged well behind the rest of Europe

In August despite a surge in COVID infections the UK government started a campaign to persuade workers to return to the office.  Outside of lockdowns, return to offices has been very slow in the UK with around two thirds of workers opting to remain working remotely as opposed to 17% in France and 25% in Spain, Italy and Germany.  In part this is due to the heavily service based nature of UK business and may also be attributable to the lamentable performance of the UK government in failing to convince the general population that it is on top of the fight against the virus.

 

 

Employers are taking differing bets on the future of the office

Facebook seems to be expecting a return to the old normal of office based work having just taken a lease on a huge new office in Manhattan while other employers are moving in a different direction with Twitter stating employees can work remotely indefinitely and American Express, Google, Uber and Airbnb telling their office based staff they can do so until at least June 2021.  Airbnb even offer remote employees the incentive of $500 to spend on setting up a home office and $500 to spend on Airbnb stays.  In the UK, if anything the trend to remote working is accelerating with the Office for National Statistics declaring that 49% of UK employees worked from home in mid June 2020, up from 41% for the week before.

 

 

Re-opening offices is not simple and carries a threat of legal action if not done well

For employers re-opening offices, meeting health and safety requirements and new government legislation for track and trace is likely to be arduous and an employer encouraging or forcing a large-scale return to work could be taking legal risks.  Would they be open to legal action if such a measure could be linked to the infection and death of an employee?  If they make a return to the office optional, will they spend a lot of time and money preparing offices and health and safety systems only to find employees reluctant to return?

 

Why are people happy to eat out and go shopping but reluctant to return to offices?

Meanwhile with restaurants, schools, libraries, shops and hairdressers all open and doing good business, why were employees happy to go out to eat and shop but were resistant to return to offices? One major feature of the current situation is a loss of control. This may explain why there has been an upsurge in infections in the young who after 6 months of having their lives controlled by the virus, government policies and their parents may simply have had enough, thrown off the shackles and cast caution to the wind.  Middle and later age employees are unlikely to be so cavalier with families to support and vulnerable parents to consider.

Shopping and eating out are optional activities and generally reached by walking or driving.  If you feel unsafe then just forget it come home and don’t worry.  Going into a city to work feels like a much greater level of risk and loss of control.  How crowded will the station be? Will everyone be as committed to social distancing as you are? How busy will the public transport be?  Even if the commuter train isn’t overly crowded then it’s highly unlikely to have windows that open for fresh air, rather it will have air conditioning which recirculates the air that your fellow travellers are breathing out.  I’ve heard the spread of this virus compared to being in proximity to a cigarette smoker.  Sit outside or in a well-ventilated area then you’ll get a whiff of their smoke, sit in a closed room and you’ll eventually breathe lots of their smoke in.  One hour on a commuter train and the chances are you’ve breathed in a lot of other people’s exhalations.

 

Most public transport and offices have frequent touch points and air conditioning that recirculates everyone’s exhalations

Public transport is full of frequent touch points – touch screen ticket machines, carriage door opening buttons, arm rests, roof hangers and tables.  As if that wasn’t enough once you get to your office, you’re faced again with a lack of opening windows and recirculated air through office air conditioning systems.   A brand new tower block at 22 Bishopsgate in London has switched off their air conditioning for this reason, but clearly that’s not going to be an option for all offices.  What about elevators? I know someone who works for a bank in a new skyscraper in London.  Their main complaint pre COVID was the queues at the lifts at peak arrival and go-home times.  How will an office like that cope and who wants to be in a lift in a pandemic, mask or not!!  Remote work has many attractions.  Losing the commute, greater flexibility, child care positives, a general feeling of greater control and ability to get more work done are often quoted by home workers, but even if we put these to one side, the uncertainties inherent in work in cities is going to keep the return to offices low for a good time yet.

Remote working will be one of the long-term legacies of this pandemic.  Employers and employees have proved it can work and it has so many advantages for both that it’s not going to fade away once a vaccination is approved.  A mass return to the office at the end of the pandemic seems increasingly unlikely.

 

Enterprises need to re-organise to optimise the gains from remote work

However, to reap all of the potential gains of remote work, it is vital that companies do this right, re-organise for home working and not just continue the same office-based processes but remotely.  Communication strategies need to be worked on, employees looked after and helped to overcome negatives like loneliness and anxiety and attention paid to their home office working environment.   Staff at all levels need to be trained to support the ‘new normal’ and strategies worked out to help people who are unable or unwilling to adapt to this way of work.

Read more in Remote Work The New Normal and The Remote Project Manager or call me on +44 (0) 7788 925027 if you need help in making remote working really work for your company.

Gren Gale is an author and consultant.

 

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What is the UKs biggest weapon in the fight against COVID? https://www.pmresults.co.uk/uk-biggest-weapon-fight-against-covid/ https://www.pmresults.co.uk/uk-biggest-weapon-fight-against-covid/#respond Tue, 08 Sep 2020 18:39:42 +0000 https://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=3462 The post What is the UKs biggest weapon in the fight against COVID? appeared first on PM Results.

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Is the UK different to the rest of Europe?

There would seem to be very little difference in the way that people across most of Europe are living their lives under COVID.  Several countries are more insistent on the use of face masks outdoors as well as indoors but people are going to shops, restaurants, hairdressers and beaches in pretty much the same way as they doing in the UK.  However there is one major difference between the UK and the rest of Europe.  The level of remote working is far higher in the UK and is bound to be a significant factor in controlling infection.  Remote working reduces both the risk of contact and the use of public transport and has proved to be a significant factor in the fight against COVID.

 

 

The prevalence of remote working is much higher in the UK

While people have returned to their offices in large numbers in many European countries, that hasn’t been the case in the UK.  In France 83% of office staff have returned, and in Spain, Italy and Germany around 75% have returned to work.  In the UK only around one third of office workers have returned and the contrast is even more stark when you look at big cities with London seeing 69% of the workforce staying away from their workplace as opposed to 26% in Paris and 22% in Barcelona which also  implies much higher use of public transport in those cities than in London.    The Economist in May identified the UK as the country best set in Europe to have a large proportion of its population work remotely because services are such a large part of the UK economy.  Ironically the poor performance of the UK government in combatting COVID-19 may also have added to the lack of enthusiasm of employees to return to the office. From polling the UK government lags behind most European governments in how well they responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, so there would appear to be a gap in trust between employees and what their UK government is saying.

 

 

The UK government should accept and adapt to remote working rather than showing futile resistance

For understandable short term economic reasons the UK government is pushing to get employees back into their place of work particularly in big cities where the service industries dependent on office workers are on the point of collapse.  While it’s clearly difficult to cope with an almost instant revolution in behaviour perhaps the UK government bow to the market and accept that the nature of work is about to change dramatically.  To do otherwise would be to act like King Kanute trying to hold back the inevitable and would also throw away one of the UK’s most significant weapons in the fight against COVID.

Employers can see huge long term benefits from costs savings, reduced risk, improved productivity and a happier team while studies carried out by Cardiff University and the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham and University of Kent  and others indicate that employees in the main seem to be happier working remotely.   Even the short term formula looks better compared to a return to offices, with infection risks increased by working indoors usually in offices with no opening windows and air conditioning that recirculates the air everyone breathes, let alone the risk of getting there by public transport.

Accept and adapt seems a better policy than futile resistance.  Its not as if employees will lose their enthusiasm for espresso coffee, prepacked sandwiches and meals out, they’ll just spend the money nearer home.

 

 

Employers need to reorganise for remote work

However, to reap all of these potential gains, it is vital that companies do this right, re-organise for home working and not just continue the same office based processes but remotely.  Communication strategies need to be worked on, employees looked after and helped to overcome negatives like loneliness and anxiety and attention paid to their home office working environment.   Staff at all levels need to be trained to support the ‘new normal’ and strategies worked out to help people who are unable or unwilling to adapt to this way of work.

Read more in Remote Work The New Normal and The Remote Project Manager or call me on +44 (0) 7788 925027 if you need help in making remote working really work for your company.

 

 

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