How to Stay Connected and Productive in a Flexible Work Environment

How to Stay Connected and Productive in a Flexible Work Environment Image

The COVID-19 outbreak is challenging organizations around the globe to stay agile in the face of changing conditions. From switching to virtual event management after trade shows get canceled, setting up workspaces that allow minimal contact in offices, improving their communication with staff, and many teams are connecting remotely and moving away from traditional work processes for the first time. In a previous post, we discussed the benefits of flexible work policies. InspiringApps remains committed to allowing employees the freedom to personalize their approach to completing their work successfully. Part of that success comes from remaining connected and motivated when we are physically apart. We’ve found we best succeed with productive flexible work in a few ways.

Team Connection

When completing a puzzle, it is helpful and motivating to see the larger picture. Similarly, keeping employees informed about larger organizational developments, as well as their coworkers’ contributions to shared goals, promotes team cohesion and helps generate more informed solutions. Hosting a regular event that increases employee awareness of company-wide operations goes a long way in uniting mobile teams. InspiringApps hosts a team-wide demo day at least once a month, and sometimes more frequently. Since social distancing started we’ve heard from our design team about the steps they take and the software they use to make the apps we create beautiful. The development team showcased their work by demonstrating the features of a complex fintech app we’re developing. And coming up next is a demo from our Quality Assurance team about the tools they use to ensure that software bugs are squashed before our apps go live.

Informal meetings that give employees the opportunity to engage on both a professional and personal level can also advance team unity. If you follow these tips then you will be able to keep your meetings informal while also being productive enough to hit all the agendas of the meeting. Our team usually gathers in the conference room every Wednesday afternoon for lively discussion about current events, TV shows, and music. We’ve moved the gathering online during this time of social distance and have found our engagement with each other to be just as strong. The connection takes a bit more effort over a video conference, but it’s worth it to feel a small sense of normalcy with our weekly routine and to chat about something other than our client projects. Additional advice for engaging whole teams over web meetings has surfaced in recent months. For example, a recent publication suggests using icebreakers to open conversations, calling on team members to increase participation, and debriefing after virtual meetings.

Staying Motivated and Productive at Home

While flexible work arrangements can boost output, team members may need to adjust their own strategies for productivity. Working remotely requires a different approach to personal efficiency. Our team has the following suggestions for staying productive while working from home:

  • Take breaks during the day to move away from your work space at home. Take a walk outside or complete a workout.
  • If you have kids, try to arrange independent activities or learning for them, and if you have a partner, alternate times when you will be responsible for the kids. This obviously depends on the age, independence, and school needs of your children and may be easier said than done!
  • Remember that your team and your clients rely on you. Your productive flexible work is important to their success.

Additional tips for excelling from home include establishing an inviting work “spot,” developing a routine that suits your energy levels throughout the day, and writing your to-do list the night before.

Now more than ever organizations must find new ways to connect teams and continue to work effectively in order to adapt to a changing global economy. At InspiringApps, we have learned firsthand that connectedness and productivity can be cultivated flexibly. The belief that we are #InspiredWhereWeAre has long been foundational to our operations and continues to drive our work during challenging times.

InspiringApps is intent on developing digital products that delight users and reflect customized market solutions. Please contact us with questions regarding how we can bring your next project to life.

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App Design

Designing for Millennials

Millennials are currently the largest generational cohort in the United States, making up more than 30% of America’s workforce. The generation dubbed the “me me me generation” by Time Magazine, who lived through two financial crises and a horrific live terror attack, have now settled down, found successful careers, and have immense buying power — an estimated $4 trillion in 2020 alone. Millennials are fiercely loyal to brands they love, are willing to pay more for well-made or products, and love to buy online. Designing for Millennials should be a top consideration for companies bringing products to market today. In a previous post, Designing Apps for Different Generations, we looked broadly at how your generation influences your relationship to technology throughout your lifetime. Each generation has shared experiences during their formative years that help to shape collective values. These values, in turn, influence motivations, preferences, and expectations when it comes to technology. As you develop products aimed at this generation, understanding these values can provide insights to consider when designing for Millennials. Background on Millennials Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, experienced an upbringing unlike any other in history. The oldest Millennials spent their childhoods in a pre-Digital world, but this generation was quickly characterized by the rise of the internet, the dot com boom, and the surge of technological advancements that came along with it. Also called ‘digital natives,’ Millennials have been fundamentally shaped by technology regarding how they learn, work, socialize, buy, communicate, and play. The internet became the trusted authority for learning and information and is crucial to how Millennials approach solving problems. This sudden disruption has caused a disconnect between Millennials and previous generations. Millennials and Technology Millennials are a highly tech-savvy group dependent on tech in many facets of their lives. This demographic is the first group to be connected to their peers and leverage their social media networks for many purposes. Social media helps them stay in touch, join with brands and companies, access news, ask for peer recommendations, and even connect to job opportunities, to name only a few. They value their lifestyles and relationships first and make life and career decisions based on those factors. When it comes to communication, Millennials prefer text messaging or direct messages over a phone call. In the workplace, platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow teams to connect and collaborate remotely and in real-time, giving Millennials the work/life balance they desire.  Generally, Millennials are more open-minded and civic-oriented than previous generations thanks to access to diverse worldviews on their Internet browser. Collectively, this group wants to have an impact and contribute to the greater good— 70% of Millennials volunteer regularly. Digital Products for Millennials This generation has grown up with the internet at their disposal, and they expect transparency from companies and their products. They know quickly if something is providing value, and if they’re not sure, they’ve created a system of accountability through ratings, reviews, and online forums that will tell them. When Millennials reached a prime spending age, there was a shift in the way that Millennials spent their money compared to previous generations. Millennials place a high value on experiences over things, which led them to leverage technology to fuel the experience economy. In short - Millennials are ditching the fast cars and expensive purses their parents purchased upon adulthood, preferring to spend money on concerts, events, travel and more. Digital products would do well to recognize their desire for connection, fun and flexibility and provide a solution that enhances their real life. Considerations when designing for Millennials When it comes to designing digital products and content for Millennials, keep these four considerations in mind: Speak their language Speaking the Millennial language is both a messaging and experience consideration. Consider Byte, an at-home teeth straightening system similar to Invisalign, which originated in the mid-90s. Byte has identified Millennials as their target audience, and makes it clear through their messaging. Clever copywriting hits on the Millennial desire to work from home and customize their experience, even backing it up with a review that hits on Millennial-beloved products and pop culture. In addition, a digital product can define its user experience so it effectively communicates to the right audience. Millennials have been through the full evolution of digital experiences, so they instinctively recognize and act upon smooth interactions. With a single gesture, they’ll be quick to close an app or ditch a digital cart if they start to sense a stickiness in the product or in the offerings themselves. A company that wishes to speak the Millennial language needs to deliver upon the digital interactions they’ve come to expect. Instant and transparent communication with your user is key – like delivering an automated email after purchase. Companies wanting to encourage brand loyalty can go a step further in creating digital moments of delight that will stick with Millennials: free or two-day shipping, reward programs, loyalty points, free flights and personal assistance are examples of the personalized shopping experience millennials seek. Tech Aversion Millennials have integrated technology into almost every facet of their lives, but recognize their limits. They make a conscious effort to spend time away from their phone. In a world that capitalizes on every minute you spend within a platform, digital products can spark loyalty by showing Millennial users it compliments or adds to their quality of life. Let’s consider a few ways that companies are incorporating Millennial’s desire to have control over their time and digital energy. Instagram users can monitor the time spent looking at their feed. A chart breaks down daily usage and lets users set a ‘daily reminder’ or time limit before receiving a notification from the app. Android and Apple have similar system settings abilities that encourage digital time-outs. Dating app Hinge targets a Millennial audience – even more specifically, an audience who wants to find someone special and settle down (unlike Tinder). In its recent “Designed to be Deleted” campaign, its tone of voice is optimistic – sending its dating pool the message that they ultimately want you off the app and in a relationship. Consider some of the small design & messaging considerations Hinge implemented in their successful dating app to drive the message home: illustrated characters & animations that erase UI elements use of casual, optimistic tone of voice friendly color palettes, round UI elements app-icon characters that emphasize the ‘deleting’ message Access v. Ownership Millennials kicked off their adult life at the start of the Great Recession. In contrast to their baby boomer parents - Millennials aren’t looking to have a vacation house by age 40. They might not own homes at all. Millennials prioritize personal and professional growth as keystones of success. This group is trying to maximize time and resources to live a full, healthy, happy life – using technology along the way. Millennials are getting married later, renting longer, and have been a pivotal part of creating the gig and share economies. To Millennials, access is often better than ownership. The flexibility and breadth of experiences offered by on-demand apps like Spotify, Lyft, Netflix, Rent the Runway, and countless other products have permanently rewired Millennials' expectations and preferences. Conclusion These ideas can give you a sense of the necessary nuance required in designing apps for a Millennial audience. Taking their needs and preferences into account when developing a product can significantly broaden your market potential. Many digital products may be solutions for users spanning multiple generations. Check out our background articles on designing digital products for Gen X & Baby Boomers or learn more about designing for all.

9 days ago

InspiringApps News

Creating a Good Company Culture

Our culture is one of our most valuable assets. Fourteen years ago, we set out to create a safe, open environment for employees to grow and thrive. We committed to hiring a diverse staff that represented and embraced our core values, and we listened to them. This year, our work paid off with an official Great Places to Work ®  Certification™ validated by our fabulous team. Strong company culture can give your company an advantage by fostering loyalty, creativity, and motivation. But what are the ingredients of positive company culture? In the past 14 years in business, InspiringApps has matured from a flat organization to one with an outstanding leadership team. In InspiringApps’ infancy, our culture was driven by the personalities of the relatively few people involved. But as the company grew, we were careful to emphasize the characteristics that fostered a positive work environment and eliminated any contrary to the things we’ve come to value— empathy, inclusion, and personal growth for our employees. It is much more challenging to make cultural changes with an existing team. So we aim to hire people who share those values from the start.  What is Company Culture? Every company has a culture. While it may form organically, greater success will come from consistent cultivation. Intentional company culture combines organizational values and mission with the rewards of employment that come in four main categories: Loyalty-based, performance-based, opportunity-passed, and lifestyle-based. No style is better than the other; it’s dependent on the company and the employees hired. For instance, if your staff prefers lifestyle-based culture—flexible work or other perks—over performance-based culture, including raises and promotions for a job well done, the employees may stay dissatisfied and leave to find a company culture that suits their preference. The best cultures dovetail perfectly: employees and leaders focus on the same mission and encourage rewards. Discovering the perfect combination, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Why Do Your Employees Need an Intentional Company Culture? The job market is booming, with qualified candidates searching for a better way to spend their work hours. A recent survey found that 79% of employees who left their jobs did so because of a lack of appreciation, and 50% said they were more motivated by appreciation than money. This sounds like a job for company culture! In an ideal world, company culture and performance should work in tandem. Employees who are happy with their jobs have higher satisfaction rates. However, lousy work culture can hurt employees, bringing high turnover rates, burnout, and subpar work.  Consistency and time are part of the formula for creating an intentional company culture. There’s no shortcut. Influential leaders seek to understand what employees appreciate, what causes them pain, hear their suggestions for improvement, follow through with promised changes, and repeat that process frequently. Intentional company culture benefits from open minds and a commitment from everyone, especially the leadership team. InspiringApps understands this fundamental truth and implements practices that demonstrate that. An InspiringApps employee explains it best: “I've never been part of a company or even heard of one that not only prioritizes production and quality for the client(s) but also functionality and comfortability of the work environment. InspiringApps has mastered the balance between keeping the clients happy and keeping the employees happy. For me personally, hours are flexible because of my schedule, and the entire team is always open to communication when I need assistance or have a question. My bosses check in on me to ensure I'm doing okay with my work even when I have not reached out for help. Every other employee and my bosses are truly excited to have me on the team, and make that clear to me everyday, which is why I feel so comfortable and open to expressing my thoughts and ideas on projects.” How to Develop and Maintain a Good Company Culture Engaged employees are critical for business success. Experience is the best teacher, and we’ve learned plenty of lessons regarding things that keep our employees a happy part of the team.  We built our culture slowly and methodically over the past 14 years, and these are some of the most successful initiatives that have inspired more than 40% of our staff to stay with us for more than five years.  Promote from Within  Today’s employees are looking for a company with opportunities for career advancement and appreciate roles with a clear path to growth and promotions, as they give them personal goals to work towards.  Along the employee journey, InspiringApps offers professional development opportunities that help our team stay on top of their skills, expand their capabilities and incorporate new and developing interests. By doing so, our employees are able to have long tenures at InspiringApps, while still remaining competitive. At the same time, we’re able to hire the best candidates for our growing positions, right from our own team. “I’ve been able to get help in building new skills, speak at conferences, and grow within the company throughout my time at InspiringApps,” said an InspiringApps employee. As the InspiringApps client roster scaled, so did our team. We promoted long-time employees into our development team lead roles, recognizing their wisdom and honoring their commitment to our team over their tenure. Offer Excellent Benefits  Many start-ups, including InspiringApps, may be resource-constrained in the early days. Health and retirement benefits are expensive, so we focused first on benefits that didn’t require a direct cash outlay. Establishing a two-day-per-week remote work policy over a decade ago, accommodating part-time employees, and offering flexible work hours were all low-cost ways to treat our team with respect. “We’ve had a hybrid remote-work model for many years. Pre-pandemic, this was something that very few companies offered,” said an InspiringApps employee. “It was one of the reasons I chose this company.” As InspiringApps matured, we also added more traditional benefits. In addition to a 401k with match, profit sharing, and a generous and flexible PTO policy, we recently increased the company’s health premium contribution from 50% to 100% and added company-paid vision, dental, disability, and employee assistance (EAP). Be Inclusive Inclusivity is a mandate kept top-of-mind in the projects and clients we take on and the staff we hire and promote. In a historically homogenous industry like tech, inclusivity can be a challenge. Through intentional recruiting and a focus on providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to join the field, InspiringApps is working to build a more diverse team that reflects the users we serve better. Promoting women in tech is one way we’ve made strides in our company. At InspiringApps, women make up 40% of our leadership team and more than a third of our employees—20% more than the U.S. average. Promoting diversity and inclusion provides various perspectives, which is essential for the challenges we’re addressing in our consumer apps. We consider it a competitive advantage as we continue to innovate for our clients. Additionally, we’ve made a concentrated effort over time to welcome new employees. Years ago that welcome included a team lunch on Pearl Street. Since our team has grown, that lunch is now digital – and the efforts to stay be inclusive extend much further than that. Communication and connection is ingrained into the way we set up projects, make progress on initiatives and more. Communicate Consistently Secrecy and unexplained decision-making from leaders lead to unengaged employees. Transparency is the name of the game. About 85% of employees are most motivated when they know what’s happening and why.  “They place a great deal of trust in their employees,” said an InspiringApps employee. “Even to help make product decisions or suggestions to customers.” Open and frequent communication, including stand-ups and all-hands meetings, project or team demos, company newsletters, and social media, encourages employees to gain trust in leadership. Share company goals regularly so that your employees feel confident in knowing the direction they’re working. The more your employees see open communication from leaders and are encouraged to participate in decision making, the better communicators they’ll be with your clients, modeling the positive communication behaviors in everything they do. Technology is your friend when it comes to employee engagement—offering a Slack channel or other internal chat features, an employee app, or an intranet site where employees can share and talk directly to leaders can inspire a transparent culture. Conclusion We’re honored to be recognized as a Great Place to Work. But that recognition is only a small window into the little things that our team is doing every day to reinforce the culture we’ve been nurturing for years. It defines our expectations for the way we treat one another and anyone who interacts with InspiringApps. It certainly makes InspiringApps a pleasant place to work, but we think you’ll also see the results when you work with us and in the apps we create.   Building award-winning apps starts with a language that’s foreign to many of us: code. For more than 14 years, our development team has built easy-to-use iOS, Android, and web applications for more than 100 companies in a dozen industries. See our work.

2 months ago

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