428 Offices & Counting: How I Work From Everywhere

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Credit @DesignDeveloper blog

I’ve been a prolific Foursquare user ever since it was released several years ago. I rely heavily on its Swarm check-in app to keep a digital journal of my travels for auditing, sharing, and the occasional #tbt.

I recently did some searches for words like “work,” “office,” “Fuze” (our company name), “working,” etc. in an effort to try and find all the places I’ve checked-in over the past two years where I was working.

What I discovered was actually a little surprising.

All in all, I found 428 “offices” in my travel history. That’s 428 unique places that I can claim to have been doing work at.

Here’s a sample of some of the random places I’ve called an office:

  • A Waffle House restaurant in Atlanta, GA 
    (breakfast meeting with the local sales team)
  • Stalled somewhere in the south of France on the EuroStar train from Paris to London 
    (a video call with a customer back in the U.S.)
  • A donut shop in Park City, Utah 
    (emergency virtual team meeting during a ski weekend)
  • The pilot’s lounge at Heathrow Airport 
    (internet was down in the BA lounge so they brought me in there as I claimed I needed to join this emergency meeting)

While I was looking through this diverse list from across the globe, I started thinking about how few of my friends and colleagues are able to work in these sorts of places with any kind of consistency.

Some of course, would just prefer not to, and that’s perfectly fine.

However, in working at a globally-distributed company I have found that my ability to work from anywhere has not only increased my productivity, but also has allowed me to enjoy the freedom of having the world as a workplace.

And for me, that beats the corner office any day.

1. Build Hubs, Not HQ’s

More than anything, leaders and companies today should focus on making their spaces more conducive to the modern digital worker.

At our company, Fuze, we’ve recently taken steps to do this by making our new headquarters a true hub for our workforce. Our offices are now designed around collaboration spaces – both for large-scale meetings as well as smaller, huddle sessions – in addition to more traditional, individual work spaces. It has lots of “hotel” desks for employees like myself that are typically there for a few days before moving locations.

We made these changes because an increasing amount of our employees expressed a desire to work from home, and a majority of remote/field workers (myself included) wanted a better experience when they are in an office for a few hours or a few days. This was coupled with the primary goal of using the office space to work more collectively with fellow colleagues when you’re face-to-face.

In this way our office has become a hub for face-to-face interactions and networking amongst teams. Unsurprisingly, this has led to higher productivity and better ideas, since workers can take care of their own agendas at home, and spend their in-office time focusing on shared projects.

2. Embrace Mobility

Individually speaking, in order to do this well you should invest in some common tools of the trade.

My must haves?

Get a good headset (I love the Apple AirPods). Get a great portable battery (I love my Anker). And get comfortable using remote collaboration software.

In terms of helping your employees become more mobile, take steps to build positive team culture by requiring video to be turned on in all meetings, and practicing effective video conference techniques.

Perhaps even more importantly, be sure you’re present and stick to your meetings schedule whenever possible while traveling. This will encourage your team to do the same.

At the end of the day, transparency and mobility like this is good for everyone, and has been shown to increase productivity and employee satisfaction – two important indicators of a successful business. The reason why is not a difficult concept to wrap your head around, since if employees are encouraged and able to work whenever and wherever they want, they’re able to get more done.

3. Be Physically Present

Another way to encourage working mobily and collaboratively is to plan time to bring your team together at one of the your company’s hubs once per quarter.

When doing this, budget and spend the money to bring remote people to the hub. Also, make sure it is not always the typical two-day “offsite” gathering, and instead do a week where everyone just “works from the hub.”

Doing this will leave time for spontaneous and planned face-to-face meet ups, which are some of the best opportunities you’ll have to connect with your employees during the get together.

Importantly, these 1:1’s will also offer a chance for you to promote further mobility by doing things such as bringing the meeting outside – a surefire way to be more effective and constructive with this time.

4. Balance Your Life

Ultimately, moving around a lot will often translate into suddenly realizing you never found the time to get to the dentist or run other life errands that you needed to be home for in order to do.

To remedy this, I make a point of blocking off one Friday per month to pack all of those appointments and tasks into, and I leave that day otherwise untouched on my calendar.

Doing something like this will ensure you remain grounded.

Embracing a flexible work style will unlock your true productive potential and probably even make you happier in your job, but without balance it can also allow your work to bleed too far into your life.

In other words, go see the dentist.

And, if you find yourself on a EuroStar train or sitting in a Waffle House somewhere in middle America, you can have that video conference, but don’t forget to also appreciate the French countryside flying by, or just how much you enjoy putting syrup on top of everything.

This post originally appeared on my Inc.com column on June 16, 2017.

How to Get 100 Hours of Work Done in Just 60

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This post originally appeared on my Inc.com column on March 27, 2017.

“Time is money.”

That tired old adage was used almost exclusively by the Wall Street fat cats of yesteryear, or your father when he was trying to teach you a valuable life lesson that one time.

Here’s the thing, though. Time is free, and we all get the same amount of it. Thus, unless you’re able to consistently find ways to produce more with the time you have, yours is going to be worth the same amount as everyone else’s–which is to say, zero (at least from a fat cat perspective).

But even if you’re not aspiring to be the next Wolf on the Street, learning how to be more productive with your time, especially in today’s age of hyper-connectivity–in which someone, somewhere, is always working on the same project you are, and will be emailing you about it tomorrow, early–can help you find success in all aspects of your life.

In my own experience, there are a few key habits one can learn to be as productive as possible. And, though, as with any habits, they will take time to develop, effectively integrating them into your daily routine will allow you to achieve a more balanced life in general.

1. Wake up early

Every weekday, I wake up at 4:22 a.m. I have for a long time.

Now, despite the litany of questions I receive about why in the world I would possibly do this to myself, it remains one of my favorite productivity hacks, and is without a doubt incredibly effective when it comes to keeping me healthy in my life.

Hopping out of bed before the sun has even thought about rising allows me to address the personal chores that I either won’t have the time to do once I get home or the desire.

You can read a full description of my morning routine and how I think it’s benefited me here, but I will give you the gist, since this is an article about saving time.

Some of the main things I try to accomplish before work include taking care of mindless household tasks like laundry or paying the bills, catching up on the latest news in the tech world, going to the gym, and partaking in a little self-improvement by learning a new language.

Each of these tasks exists under one of the four tenants I follow to maximize how proactive I am with my time in the mornings: Get to Work, Get Organized, Get Smarter, and Get Healthier.

Now I realize that altering your sleep schedule is neither an easy nor attractive proposition. However, I implore you. Start small. Wake up 15 minutes earlier every week for a month. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with a little discipline and coffee.

2. Become an expert time manager

This is a simpler way to fuel productivity, but no less effective.

I would estimate that for a majority of you reading this, the areas where you will be able to trim the most fat are in places like answering email and scheduling. For these, don’t underestimate the value of using Google or Office 365 to set up organized folders and calendars using the platforms’ wealth of management tools.

Again, some tweaking might be required to find a sweet spot, but generally speaking, utilizing these tools will help you shave valuable minutes off these otherwise monotonous tasks.

For everything else, experiment with the wealth of productivity apps available on the market today. Personally, I like organizational tools like Hootsuite and Pocket to manage my social media and news, as well as YouNeedABudget for taking care of my financials efficiently.

3. Make your meetings active

Whenever possible, I like to hold my one-on-one meetings in an active atmosphere.

As with the rest of these hacks, it’s not a novel idea, but in practice I’ve found it to work wonders for both the quality of communication I have as well as my ability to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle throughout a busy day.

Doing something as simple as walking outside and talking instead of sitting face-to-face across a desk will allow conversation to flow more freely, and encourages my employees to be healthier themselves, which ultimately leads to a happier team and a more productive organization overall.

If you can’t get outside, or are holding most of your meetings in a videoconference setting, remember to employ some active strategies to remain focused and engaged in the conversation. These methods include things as simple as using your hands when you speak or standing up, but can lead to vastly more effective communication.

Stretching this idea of activity even further, I’d encourage you to look into things such as intramural sports leagues for your co-workers, which, at the end of the day, can not only be superb team-building exercises but are also almost unanimously considered to be an awesome time.

And, to reiterate, being awesome (and efficient) with your time is kind of the whole point.

3 Steps to Make Virtual Meetings Actually Productive

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Photo Credit: StudioC

This post originally appeared on my column on Inc.com on July 18, 2016.

Videoconferencing is revolutionary. It allows people in the East Village to connect with international colleagues in real time–not only hearing what they have to say, but also seeing how they gesticulate when they’re talking. Seeing as though much of human communication is nonverbal, this is nothing to take lightly.

At Fuze, I manage a team of Product Managers spread across four different time zones. And I’m proud of the fact that I’m able to use my company’s software to connect with my team. I spend about 50% of my time traveling since I believe face-to-face meetings are immensely important. However when I’m back in my office in NYC, my days usually consist of joining back-to-back virtual meetings from my office for hours at a time. How exactly can you and your coworkers stay productive when you’re in videoconferences all day long?

Setup your office correctly

Believe it or not, making a few changes to the way you configure your work environment can have a tremendous impact on your videoconferencing productivity.

Not surprisingly, videoconferencing drives engagement during remote meetings. Those who attend videoconferences hold their attention 52% longer than those their peers who meet via conference call. What’s more, in a recent survey, 56% of respondents indicated that they multitask often during phone meetings. Compare that to only 4% of respondents doing the same during videoconferences, and you begin to see how these modern meetings are more productive.

But this all doesn’t mean that switching to videoconferences will automatically make your meetings more effective. You have to set yourself up for success. Here’s how:

Use your hands

Having a wide-angle camera (I use this Logitech webcam) allows you to be standing in full frame three or four feet back from your computer. Other attendees won’t just see your face. Wide-angle cameras make videoconferences more authentic because they enable you to talk with your hands, making it feel as though you’re in the same room with remote team members. Authenticity comes from engagement; when your meeting attendees see you actively talking and gesturing they know you’re being serious. Since people can see you in totality, they’re not worried if you’re hands are off-screen typing or using your phone. Remember, just because videoconferences are more productive doesn’t mean attendees won’t browse the web here and there. A wide-angle camera cuts down on those unproductive habits.

Sketch it out

There’s certainly a lot of digital whiteboarding software out there and it tends to work well when needed. To best mimic the in-person experience, however, you may be better off pairing your wide-angle camera with an actual whiteboard that’s facing it. That way, other attendees feel that much closer to being the same room as you. Sketching is a great way to get your creative energy going and help come to consensus faster when brainstorming with another person.

Stand up

The last thing you want is to doze off during a videoconference–something that becomes more likely when you have to go long periods of time without talking. To mitigate the risk, utilize a standing desk. This will make you more alert–and more importantly, less likely to embarrass yourself or the speaker by falling asleep!

Get up and walk out

Lastly, above all else, don’t forget to get up and out periodically. Though you may be tempted to stay in your office all day when you have back to back meetings, sometimes it’s okay to change the environment even though it seems to be working well.

It’s easy to get caught up in back-to-back meetings where you end one videoconference and launch another. In some instances, this may be unavoidable.

You should block yourself small chunks of time you can use to go for a walk, bounce ideas off a colleague, or have a one-on-one meeting. Movement encourages motivation. So take a break, get water, or interact with a local barista to make sure you’re not sitting (or standing) in your office all day.

Videoconferencing can seriously improve productivity. But you have to set yourself up for success. Follow these tips and you should see your videoconferences become much more effective.

1 Simple Change to Make Your One-on-One Meetings Instantly More Productive

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This post originally appeared in my Inc.com column on August 12, 2016

Why I Fell in Love With Walking

I’m the VP of Product at Fuze, a tech company in the enterprise communication space. I’ve been an athlete and fitness enthusiast for about as long as I’ve been a geek, and in a past life I became a certified personal trainer at my local gym during college. Over the years I have learned that there’s a science behind feeling better as a result of moving and being active. Working as a personal trainer got me excited to help my clients be happy and healthy–which ultimately resulted in them feeling inspired and excited. Nothing made me happier than to see my clients achieve their fitness goals and then get ready for the next challenge.

Several years later while working at Microsoft I remember getting restless during a 1:1 with one of my team members; it was a gorgeous Seattle summer day outside and I hated being inside the office. I decided to try something simple and different during my next 1:1. Instead of sitting in my office for the meeting, I asked my team to try walking around campus and talking with me instead. Microsoft had these wonderful soccer fields that made it easy to do some laps around.

Not only did this turn out to be a healthy activity, the resulting conversations were also incredibly more personalized and free-flowing than they’d be if we just sat around in the office going over the same content.

I quickly found that walking meetings served as a great way to merge my passion for physical activities with the needs of management, meetings, and other work tasks. There’s a benefit from a business perspective, and a clear benefit with respect to you and your teams’ healthiness.

Build a Healthy Team

Right around the time I started walking for my meetings at Microsoft, the first of the quantified-self set of companies launched and, being a data and gadget geek, I bought a Fitbit to start tracking my steps during runs, soccer, and daily activities. Sometimes after meetings I would share the step count graphs from my FitBit profile with my employees to celebrate that we hit funny milestones like “longest meeting of the week in steps” or “fastest meeting in mph.”

My employees quickly took notice. Many of them bought their own devices and we started to enjoy a fun little competition. One of my team members at Microsoft was so inspired by some of our conversations that she got a Fitbit and a nutritionist to help focus on her health and wellness. We talked each week about her progress and I shared tips and insights from my own experience to help. It was wonderful to see her achieve a number of her personal health goals while excelling at being a product manager.

If walking meetings aren’t your thing, there are a number of other ways you can bring your team together while encouraging healthy behavior.

During my Microsoft days, I organized intramural soccer events between different teams in our group as we had those soccer fields nearby. In almost every city there are soccer fields and parks where you can easily organize a pick-up game for your team.

When I was at Contactive, my team and I joined an intramural dodgeball league that played in the Lower East Side. Playing dodgeball as an adult was hilarious and exhausting, but competing as a team every week kept us active and was a welcome stress relief from the 20-hour early-startup-days we were working.

Now, at Fuze, it’s not uncommon to catch me and my team doing a group run after work through the Flatiron here in New York City. We hit a milestone last month when we ran from our office to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, celebrating the 6-mile run with some wings and a beer at my favorite pub.

Healthy Thinking

I challenge you to take one of the things you like about an activity, sport, or exercise that you personally enjoy and find a way to share that with your team. It can be soccer, dodgeball, or even a simple walk around your neighborhood. Create active cultures and you’ll spur healthy thinking in your employees.

We all spend 40 or more hours working in an office each week. To drive health and wellness–and therefore create a more productive organization–you can incorporate daily fitness- or health-oriented activities into your workflow. Not only will your team be healthier, they’ll also be more happy and productive–a truly win-win scenario.

Header image from Advanced Aquatic PT

What do Tesla and Fuze Have in Common? A Look at Disruption in the Communications and Automotive Industries

Originally posted on the Fuze blog on Tue Oct 25.

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With user experience at the center of decision making, companies reimagine what’s possible

It’s tough to deny the appeal of the Tesla brand, whether as a technology lover like me or simply because of the name it has made for itself as an innovative force in the automotive industry. From its look and feel to the fact that it’s all-electric, the entire experience is captivating. For this and many more reasons, the company has cultivated an impressive following. After recently hosting events at local dealerships to invite Tesla lovers to get to know Fuze a bit better, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between how the two brands are challenging the status quo and all that we’ve come to know about driving and communication.

Though the similarities may not be immediately apparent, they embody what any brand hopes to achieve when marketintelligence meets market opportunity. When you take great pains to capitalize on the intersection of these two critical elements – and when you are passionate about putting experience at the heart of your product from concept to deployment – everybody wins.

Here’s what we stand to learn from companies that are bold enough to shake things up:

  • The need to anticipate market shifts.

Tesla moved the needle on the electric car industry at a time before demand was certain. In just three years, the global electric car market moved from selling just 12,000 electric cars to selling one million vehicles. Tesla tapped into a real need by betting on electric cars and getting it right. Timing is on Elon Musk’s side.

The time is also right for companies to consider the move to UCaaS. In 2015, market growth hit an all-time high, but even still UCaaS has less than 10 percent market penetration. Market share is expected to grow by a factor of almost 6x by 2020 – up to 40 percent – and forward-looking companies will want to make the move ahead of the competition to take advantage sooner. Much like Tesla sensed the market’s openness to electric cars before it became more widespread, innovative communication companies will be wise to observe shifting preferences for how teams wish to communicate in today’s modern business setting.

  • Putting user experience at the forefront.

In my mind, the fact that a Tesla Model S is an electric car is the least interesting part of its value. Those that have purchased the car for this attribute in particular will disagree, but what piques my interest is how it feels to sit in the driver’s seat. After taking a test drive, it’s not hard to imagine how a Tesla owner might approach travel in a completely new way. With a large touch screen panel, drivers can scan their route and quickly map out steps throughout a trip much as they would on their mobile device. All of this functionality is intuitive. They barely have to process their actions. It’s a natural extension of what they do at work or at home, blending technology preferences with driving behavior in ways never before experienced.

Likewise, messaging, video, and voice should function intuitively in the business setting. Up until recently, the experience has been clunky and required use of many different platforms – both sanctioned by IT and not. By simplifying that process, UC vendors can allow users to focus on the equivalent of hitting the road: improving collaboration and outcomes.

  • Steer your course with data on the dashboard.

Tesla’s dashboard takes the guesswork out of everything. If you’re going on a road trip, you can enter your destination in the center console and the car will take it from there. It can tell you where to charge up, how to optimize your route, and which sites are worth seeing along the way. Contextual information enhances the overall experience.

For workers – salespeople, in particular – contextual data can also make their journey smooth. With the right unified communications platform, they can gain insights about a prospect from previous touch points, purchase decision behavior, even social media activity, all available at their fingertips. The right application gives sales teams the right information to move along a conversation and get closer to closing a deal.

Be it transportation or communication, the confidence in knowing something just works is the Holy Grail of a positive experience. Experts will want to know how the gears turn, but most won’t be concerned with understanding how the backend supports the frontend. All that matters is that it runs well when we need it to. We build trust and confidence when it does. With the user experience at the center of innovation, all industries stand to benefit. The companies that lead the way will make their mark by changing the way people work and play.

How I Stay Productive in 8hrs of Video Meetings

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Photo by wikipedia user Raysonho

Videoconferencing is revolutionary.

It allows people in the East Village to connect with international colleagues in real time—not only hearing what they have to say, but also seeing how they gesticulate when they’re talking. Seeing as though much of human communication is nonverbal, this is nothing to take lightly.

Check out the full post on my Inc.com column.

#UCExpo Series: A Q&A with Michael Affronti

This was originally posted on the Fuze corporate blog on Tue Apr 19.

We sat down with Michael Affronti, VP of Product for Fuze, to dig deeper into the michael affronti“appification” of the enterprise ahead of his upcoming session at the UC Expo in London.

Attending the show? Click here to check out Michael’s conference session.

How have you seen the industry shift to address more user-centric technology? What have companies gotten wrong when it comes to applying this thinking to new innovation?

Several years ago the phrase “Consumerization of IT” caught on as early-adopters inside of companies were pushing IT to adopt new products and services. It then became “Consumerization of the Enterprise” as it extended beyond the IT function and into the everyday apps and services used by every information worker (IW). IWs spend nearly 65 percent of their time at work communicating and only a fraction of that time (20 percent) creating and editing content.

Smart companies embrace a BYOD philosophy, while picking the right tools for core collaboration scenarios. It is great to allow your teams to bring their own mobile phones to work, but having their work communication scattered across a smattering of consumer tools is both inefficient and dangerous. The smartest companies look at what and why their employees are doing with consumer apps and then bring in the right enterprise-grade tools to be used in place of them.

Fuze recently conducted research in Europe, indicating that two-thirds of those surveyed thought workplace technology needed to catch up with personal technology. What can businesses learn from user preferences outside of work?

The “appification” of consumer services has now fully bled over to the enterprise. The pattern that a user employs at home is what they expect to happen at work: if their work tools don’t provide the right functionality, they will just find an app in the app store that does the job. It used to be the case that only a handful of companies, usually small/medium-sized businesses, allowed for users to bring their own devices and use their own apps. We’re now seeing financial firms and healthcare companies moving services to the cloud and allowing for their teams to use more and more modern apps. This is often in conjunction with a mobile device management strategy.

This sounds like a BYOD issue. What should employers keep in mind when navigating unsanctioned app usage in the modern workforce?

Having a clear and enforceable BYOD strategy is important. Even more critical is deploying apps and services that your employees actually want to use. If you roll out poorly designed apps, your users will vote with their feet and find a way to use the apps they love (even if they’re consumer-based and insecure). I’ve even seen users rubber-band two iPhones back to back – one locked down too tightly by their company, the other a personal device where they use WhatsApp to talk to their co-workers!

How can companies support the modern worker to be more collaborative by using technology?

Listen to your workers! Ask them about their favorite apps and find out why they’re using them. This will directly impact your rollout plan for introducing new apps and help you communicate it in a way that will be receptive to teams. Next, find out what line of business apps they want linked into their new apps. A critical part of rolling out new collaboration tools is having them connected into the important systems they use on a daily basis.

If you’re heading to UC Expo, come visit us at stand H805 and learn more about our presence here.