As digital nomads/business owners since 2009, the MAVERICKS team know a thing or two about smart-working. Our team comprises of staff working in Switzerland, UK, USA, South Africa, Australia, Philippines, Egypt and Chile. As impressive as this can sound, in reality, we are a small team of freelance professionals who have learned to work efficiently in a digital environment. Here are our top 5 tips and recommendations we have learned in the last ten years of smart working.
1. MINIMISE INTERNAL COMMS
If you spend 80% of your time on internal comms, endless zoom calls and never-ending email chains, it's not smart working. Smart working is not just distance working; it's also your ability to maximise remote productivity. For smart-working to be efficient, 80% of your time needs to be spent on work, not discussing your work.
If you move onto a structured digital workspace, you can be as radical as banning internal emails and chat rooms all-together, by keeping threads team-specific for each topic. We implemented this system as far back in 2011 and haven't looked back since. We call our time before this the "dark ages" of our company. Once we were able to step away from internal comms, we stepped into the light of productivity and joy at work.
2. FIND A DIGITAL WORKSPACE
After consulting on multiple smart-working projects, we have used and compared several different smart-working digital workspaces. Whereas Monday.com is an excellent solution for corporates and tech, we found that for a small team, friendlier environment, BASECAMP software is the best solution. Up until now, some software such as SLACK can add to the noise by creating chaotic chat threads, instead of opting for a more tree style structure that can be activity-specific.
In a nutshell, basecamp allows for a real "human" feel within a digital space and mainly focuses on organising the workspace to include:
Announcements and discussions
Collaborative document editing (copy only)
Daily, weekly and monthly team updates
Document filing and linking
Tasks and internal tickets
Internal project management
Project planning and calendars
Project management with clients
Another collaborative workspace we find extremely useful is Google Sheets, which is free to use and is perfect for collaborating on more commercial and data-based projects or information. We use a combination of Zapier is another software we regularly use to minimise our work-load by ensuring different bits of tech and data collection can populate in multiple workspaces. For example, form submissions to populate google sheets or automatic creation of tasks and emails.
3. MAKE RULES & PROCEDURES
The number one failure within smart-working and team environment is a lack of organisational structure and a transparent chain of command. It might seem tedious to write out procedures and task charts, but one of month intensive setup beats a lifetime of confusion and constant over-communication. Take your time to think through your processes and add them to your digital workspace in a format that can be updated as needed.
"RULES HELP CONTROL THE FUN" - Monica Geller
4. OUTSOURCE REPETITIVE ADMIN
If you have a lot of tedious copy/paste/repeat type of work - it's most likely going to fall at the bottom of your priority list. But data collection and streamlined tasks keep the engineering of your smart working and company in place.
If your book-keeping, orders, marketing or sales data is sitting in the back of your software, it's not helping you to improve your company productivity. We have been working with Cherry Godmother, based in the Philippines since 2013 - after a major burnout.
Taking the big jump into trusting a person on the other side of the planet was a big leap of faith: even though the promise and the affordability of their expertise is an attractive proposition.
After trying out several virtual assistants, we fell in love with the family environment at Cherry Godmother - a collaboration that has deepened through the years. In 2016, we flew out to the Philippines to meet this incredible team and helped them develop their virtual assistant company so that they could help more lost smart working startups like us.
Whether you choose Cherry Godmother, and individual virtual assistant or another company - the most important thing to remember when working with a virtual assistant is:
Find someone you feel comfortable working with
Add and tasks one at a time (not all at once)
Make all procedures and expectations crystal clear
5. BE MORE EFFICIENT AT MAKING DECISIONS
Another roadblock in the world of smart-working is the difficulty of making decisions within a (digital) team environment. By default, the problem can arise by simply asking an open question such as "What do we think of __________". Our recommendations is rather than asking a team an open question that ends up in an abominable snowball team chat, following a structured approach inspired by the Six Thinking Hats method by Edoardo de Bono.
Before you ask questions or request feedback:
Collect all relevant data, and create headline of information bullets. Avoid endless documents that no one will read; you can always add these as an appendix.
Pre-select two or three potential outcomes, with a short SWAT analysis or pro/cons list
Post the information in your smart-working space in a structured thread format.
Ask your team to respond to specific questions (such as - would you prefer option A, B or C) as opposed to asking open questions. However, leave the opportunity to offer additional comments or variations that can be considered without distracting from the decision-making process.
6. KEEP THINGS, SIMPLE, STUPID.
The last recommendation (having experienced multiple business models ourselves) is to simplify and streamline your activities, products and services as much as possible. Even though it might seem attractive to cover all your bases and offer a whole spectrum of ancillary products and price-points, the bitter reality is that you will be buried in logistics and decision-making. Decide what you're best at and stick with the 80/20 Pareto Law to keep your company profitable and your team efficient!
NEED HELP? VISIT US IN CRANS MONTANA
With over 12 years of experience in digital marketing and smart working (specifically in the sports, wellness and fitness industry) our alpine-based coworking space is available for team training retreats, and all-year-round coworking club membership. Whether you are looking for a weekend team experience or a regular in Crans-Montana, our coaching team is available to help you maximise your team productivity.. so you have more time to enjoy an active lifestyle and healthy life/work balance!
by Jessica Zoo Christensen, Co-founder of Mavericks Active Workspace