Category ArchiveRemote Teams

Task Pigeon Review: The Task Management Software I Use To Run My Business

In my business I work with a large number of Virtual Assistants who work on projects that may be as short as one hour, and as long as a few weeks of continuous work. As a result a lot of the tasks are ad-hoc and need to be assigned in a relatively straight-forward manner.

Until recently the bulk of my business was run off email and spreadsheets. However as we expanded the business and the number of people I am responsible for I quickly found myself swamped. I spent more time checking my inbox and cross-referencing with my spreadsheet than I care to admit.

This led to me reviewing a number of task management software applications. First of all I tried Asana, but it was too complex for our needs and I kept getting emails from my staff, rather than updates in the tool itself.

Instead of wasting time on-boarding staff to a bunch of new task management applications I then spent the next few weeks using various tools as an individual. I wanted to find what worked well before I went to the effort of getting everyone else in my team to use it.

Towards the end of my search I stumbled across Task Pigeon. In my mind Task Pigeon perfectly balances ease of use with the required number of features to be effective.

After a week or so of testing I was convinced that I had finally found the task management tool my team would use so began inviting them to my account. The immediate response was overwhelmingly positive. I didn’t need to spend hours on Skype explaining how we were going to use the tool everyone just understood the core functionality of Task Pigeon in an instant.

One way I have found Task Pigeon useful is to utilize their category feature to represent each of the Virtual Assistants I work with. Essentially one category per person. This allows me to see how many outstanding tasks each of my VA’s have and to easily filter down to see what they are working on.

It has also been good to have a number of different ways to view tasks. These include a tile like system, a standard list and a kanban board option. Most of my staff seem to utilize the Kanban boards and tiles, but it is nice to be able to provide them with options.

Positives

Overall the biggest positive for me as a business owner has been the ease at which my staff have been able to take up the tool and start using. Not having to waste time and money on training has been a big plus.

In general I like the look and feel of the tool as well. It doesn’t come across as complex or cumbersome and is perfectly suited for companies like mine.

Negatives

Depending on your business there are a couple of negatives that you need to consider. Working with Virtual Assistants it would be great to have a built in time tracking tool for each task and to then see a summary of the number of hours worked by each individual on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

I would also like to be able to prioritize tasks/highlight urgent items. You can do this by setting different deadlines but perhaps the option to highlight a tile is a different color or to have an urgent tab would also be a worthy edition.

Summary

If you are a small to medium team Task Pigeon could be the task management tool you have been looking for. Task Pigeon has both free and paid accounts. With my team I stated on the free account before upgrading after a few weeks of use as I could see value in some of the additional features the paid tier offered.

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What Are The Pro’s And Con’s Of Working From Home

With companies wanting to provide their employees more flexibility, and save money, more people work from home. Companies are finding innovative ways to save money and this is the biggest contributor.

The company doesn’t need to hold office space for the person or any office furniture or pay any type of stipend contributing towards petrol or parking. People have become accustomed to it as well.

The millennial generation wants flexibility and opportunity to do more, so why not have the opportunity to work from home too?

Why People Choose to Work from Home

On the flipside, there are people who prefer to work from home as well. There are several reasons that they may choose to do so. One of the main reasons is cost. They do not have to pay for transport every single day to the office especially if the office is far from home.

Closely tied with that cost is the stress of commuting. Whether sitting in packed to the gills train or in the car on the freeway not moving anywhere, it is stressful and a waste of time. The time lost in productivity on the train or in the car means that work continues to pile up. The is continued pileup also causes stress for the employee.

Another reason someone may want to work from home is to be closer with their children. They want to spend more time with their family which makes sense. We can lose so much time commuting back and forth to work on top of the usual work day.

One of the other important reasons is to have some flexibility. This flexibility can include sitting in a comfortable chair or lounge chair to take a call. Being comfortable is the most important. Part of being comfortable may also include having faster internet at home that works better than in the office.  It could also include eating your lunch when you feel like. Or, how about that mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack? They can take that snack when you like and have with it water, coffee, tea, or something else that fancies your taste buds that day. What about even doing a little exercise at home?

Yes, that’s right! They can spend some time doing exercise at home when you ordinarily would commute. It’s quite nice that you have that hour or two to yourself extra. If you don’t want to do exercise, what about giving your office, living room, or bedroom a quick vacuum and wipe down? Well, now you would have that time at home in to do that. What about if they are feeling a little down with the flu?

People can often work from home even if they are a little sick. They can take some medication and still feel well enough to work. This is an increased boost in productivity. The productivity generally can be higher as the person feels more comfortable and with potentially less distractions at home then in the office. Now let’s take a look at some broad Pro’s and Con’s.

Pro’s of Working From Home

  • Reduced cost for the employer
  • Reduced costs (i.e. transport costs) for the employee
  • Increased flexibility for the employee
  • Software to detect productivity and working hours is available
  • Employee feels comfortable working in their own home
  • Increase productivity
  • Less unproductive meetings
  • Builds employee trust
  • Potential positive PR
  • Can attract new employees / recruit from across the globe

Con’s of Working From Home

  • Limited social interaction
  • Potentially less help readily available
  • More distractions while working at home
  • Some people may actually prefer to work from an office
  • Can feel motonomous
  • Potential to overwork

Working From Home Overview

There are many Pro’s than Con’s for working from home. It is for this reason that companies have decided to provide people that opportunity. Sometimes it may not be on a permanent basis, but certainly a number of times per week.

One of the biggest Pro’s for the employer is the increased productivity, and for the employee is not commuting to work every day. On the other hand, the biggest Con for the employer is providing less help available, and for the employee is interacting less socially every day. All in all, the Con’s can be mitigated with the correct action. This is the new age of working in the corporate environment. There is an increasing trend that suggests this will continue. What if working from home becomes the mainstream 21st century way of working going forward?

 

 

what are challenges managing remote team

What Are The Challenges Of Operating A Remote Team

As more and more companies look to save money, or reduce their startup costs, they are setting up remote teams.

Some big companies like IBM encourage working remotely, because they don’t have to prepare facilities or office space for the person.

On the other hand, some entrepreneurs who have start-ups will work from home too. They may need a developer, and this person can work from home rather than coming to an office.

Whatever the context, having a remote team has its advantages and disadvantages. There are also some potential mitigating actions against these remote team challenges.

Advantages

  • On call when needed – You can organise your team in such a way that they are on call when they are needed. If you have them working in different time zones, then you could have 24 hours coverage.
  • Reduced Cost – You don’t need to pay their internet costs, or even their facility cost. The facility cost would include furniture and other amenities that an employee usually receives in an office.
  • Higher Productivity – Your remote team can be more productive when working remotely. Part of this reason is due to the fact they are working in their own environment. This environment is something that they know and that should make them feel comfortable
  • Matrix structure – You can setup the team in such a way that they are working in a matrix. This matrix can include various personalities and skill sets that together provide a great team that achieves results. It would really depend on your choice of structuring them.
  • Faster Incident Response Rate – If you are working remotely, then a team could potentially respond to an incident much faster. Since all the team members are spread out, they can have the tools needed to respond to situations.

Challenges of a remote team

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Tracking their work

It’s quite difficult to see what each team member is doing on a daily basis. You cannot just walk to their desk or into their office to ask them for an update.

Ways to mitigate this include:

  1. There are software applications out there that provide work track solutions. You may have to invest some money into buying the software. However, consider the initial investment may prove to a great benefit in the future.
  2. You can have regular meetings with the team member to assess their progress to specific deadlines/goals.

Startup Person ≠ Remote person

A person that looks like they could really work well in your startup may not have the personality needed to work remotely. For example, they may not have the discipline and focus to work on their own outside of regular supervision and the office.

To mitigate this you could:

  1. Conduct an interview. The interview is a great way to ensure that you can identify the personality and work habits of the candidate. You should take the time to understand if they have previous experience working from home and in what capacity.
  2. You should also consider to potentially give them some remote task as part of the interview process to see how long it takes them and if they deliver the quality that is expected.

Lack of team building

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If the team is working remotely, then it can be very difficult to organise team building activities. It means that the team cannot get together and get to know each other on a more personal level.

To help mitigate this you can:

  1. You can offer to organise an annual team building in a location to which everyone agrees. It’s an opportunity for them to decide collectively what they want to meet.
  2. You can also offer to have regular weekly meetings to discuss what is going on within the team.
  3. Suggesting team members interacting with each offline, if possible, may also encourage them to work together more and getting to know each other.

Difficult to communicate

With everyone being so far apart, it can be really hard to communicate clearly and that everyone understands what is going on. The team manager/team leader and/or team members can experience this difficulty. This is especially true if the team members are working in different time zones and will not have an opportunity to talk in real time.

To help mitigate this situation you could:

  1. A regular, weekly team meeting may help solve this issue as the team can speak with each other. During the meeting, the manager/team leader should ask what is working for everyone and what is not working. This is an opportunity to resolve any issues and build on what is going well.
  2. Some rules should be in place that sets priority to different tasks and communications depending on where they are located and what is needed. This can really help manage the difficulty if team members are working in different times. For example, team members should look to resolve those queries first which are coming from a different time zone.

Work/Life Balance

People may have difficulty distinguishing between working and private life especially if they are working at home and not in a co-working space.

To mitigate this you could:

  1. Ensure that you have a system in place to monitor people’s working hours
  2. Have regular follow-ups with them if you notice that they are working beyond normal hours or you believe there is a risk they may be working too much