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Chatbots for Travel and Tourism: Travel Experience Made Better – ReadWrite

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Integrating instant messengers with chatbots


A decade ago, if you had fancied a vacation to the Bahamas, it will take at least or half of it to plan and get the itinerary in place. Booking flight tickets required visiting multiple travel agents in person, comparing costs, and then fixing an agreement with the best of the lot. Then there was planning the itinerary, choosing the place of stay, mode of commute — all of which is not for those who take traveling lightly. Here are chatbots for travel and tourism — travel experience made better.

If you are someone like me, packing the rucksack, wait until a few hours before the flight takes off. Meticulous travel planning is not my cup of tea. Luckily for folks like me, chatbots are taking over travel planning. Along with it, they are also reforming travel and hospitality as we know it for good. 

Here are some real-world applications that are out there right now. The next time you even think of planning a vacation, you might stumble upon them or their likes. 

Real-world chatbot applications in travel and tourism

What can chatbots possibly do in travel planning? 

Aren’t they supposed to be super-complicated software systems that only large enterprises use? 

Well, this is one of the myths that has shrouded chatbots as a mystery technology. The fact is, chatbots are logic-based programs that can be used even for basic functionalities. That makes them a perfect fit for the travel and tourism industry, where the scale of low-priority and high-volume* transactions is high. 

*Low-priority — frequently asked questions that can be easily addressed by a system without the intervention of a human agent. 

High-volume — hundreds, thousands, or even more simultaneous real-time transactions. 

1. Integrating instant messengers with chatbots

Instant messengers have literally replaced emails and text messages for quick messaging. They are fast, convenient, and save a lot of time. Imagine the convenience they can introduce to the travel and tourism industry

Let’s take that convenience one step ahead. What if chatbots can converse through instant messengers. As you are reading this piece, there could be countless conversations happening on instant messengers that are being led by chatbots. In fact, WhatsApp, which has become the de-facto medium for instant messaging, offers chatbot integration. Other messengers like Facebook are also popularly used by travelers. 

Business owners like tour operators, hotel property owners, travel aggregators, etc., can use chatbots to automate conversations with customers. The IM-chatbot integration makes it possible for travel businesses to have an always-available virtual assistant who can respond to guests through instant messages. In fact, airlines are already using IMs to send boarding passes and flight details to travelers.

Source: Airline Staff Rates

What benefits do integrating a chatbot with an instant messenger offer?

  • It spares the business owner from having to initiate basic conversations.
  • Standard or canned responses to frequent queries can be handled by the chatbot.
  • The user gets a trail of information in an instant messaging app that they use the most.

2. Make ticket bookings based on real-time fare comparisons

Like I mentioned earlier, flight ticket bookings have taken the online route. Millennial customers have, in fact, moved to the mobile route where travel aggregator apps and flight booking apps make things easier than ever before. 

However, there is one challenge that is still troubling travelers. Finding the best flight tickets. If you have tried booking a flight ticket before, you know how the ticket cost fluctuates with a mind of their own. It is complicated even for a net-savvy person to stay track of it. Also, it is almost impossible to comb through all airline websites to find the best fare. 

Can chatbots help here? Of course, they can. Like how they facilitate booking management for travel business owners, chatbots can help travelers find the best flight tickets as well. 

A chatbot can help determine how much each airline is charging for a flight cost from New Zealand to Copa on a given day. The search gives class-wise details that make it easy to book or look for alternative options instantly.

Skyscanner, a popular website for finding flight ticket prices, has already surpassed one million chatbot interactions (eConsultancy Interview with Filip Filipov, Skyscanner). If the user is not satisfied with the ongoing price, they can instruct the chatbot to set a price alert. The chatbot will notify the user when there is a price change. This is akin to having a personal travel agent who finds the best flight tickets at the nick of the time.

Make ticket bookings based on real-time fare comparisons

Image Credit: Chatbots Life

3. Facilitate web check-ins 

Chatbots can help travelers initiate web check-ins for flights or hotels through a chatbot for social media, instant messenger, or a website. Sounds too futuristic? Well, the truth is most have already used the airline website for web check-ins. A chatbot can make the chore a tidbit easier by enabling you to do it from your mobile phone. 

chatbot Facilitate web check-ins

Image Credit: Engati

This has several benefits to it:

  • You can check-in if you are stuck in traffic en route to the airport.
  • If you don’t have access to a computer
  • Or make use of premium member privileges that are available only on mobile.

4. Sketch a detailed travel itinerary

Until recently, there were two types of travel: business and leisure. But, millennials who value experiences more than material possessions are using their business travels for leisure as well. This has led to the formation of a new travel type: Bleisure. 

Bleisure is travel where business matters and leisure activities are taken care of in the same trip. According to Forbes, Bleisure trips are growing by 20% since 2016. While leisure sounds great as a concept, it poses unique challenges for the traveler. To begin with, finding nearby attractions for exploration. 

Of course, there are travel websites, blogs, and magazines that describe at length where to go, when, and how. However, they are usually written from a leisure travel perspective and do not consider leisure.

For millennials who want to make the best use of the opportunity, a chatbot based recommender system can help. The chatbot, which was probably used to book the flight ticket, can suggest nearby attractions. The traveler can plan the itinerary and also avail of deals for hotel bookings. In short, it is a win-win situation for all the parties involved. 

chatbot Sketch a detailed travel itinerary

Source: Chatbots Life

5. Customer Support— 24/7 

Chatbots do not need recesses, holidays, or weekends off. They are always available. You can make them work on your website, mobile app, or even integrate them with the social handles of your business. That makes them perfect for donning the hat of customer support professionals

In their customer service role, chatbots can offer:

  • Real-time flight status updates
  • Request for change in hotel arrival times
  • Cab or hotel service requests
  • Book restaurant tables

If you think about it, travel is a global phenomenon. Travelers are not always from the same time zone or destination. This can cause serious staffing issues in the support department of a travel business. A chatbot can fill the void by fending basic queries that come in large volumes from customers. 

What’s more fascinating is that a single chatbot can handle dozens or more queries at the same time from multiple customers. Compared to that, a single customer service rep can handle only one customer at a time. That is a huge leap in productivity that we are looking at. 

chatbot for Customer Support— 24/7

Source: Chatfuel

Final thoughts: 

Travel is a personal and intimate experience. For the experience-driven millennial generation, it is one of the priorities in life. Like everything else, travel businesses must also take efforts to improve the customer experience with the aid of technology. Chatbots provide just the means for that. 

They enable travelers to make quick travel plans, sketch out a travel itinerary, avail the best deals on hotel bookings, and much more. They provide the convenience of on-the-go lifestyle arrangements that mobile has made us accustomed to.

Still more, chatbots will enable travel business owners to maximize their productivity without shooting their own foot with hefty costs. 

Be it for travelers or travel businesses; chatbots prove to be worthy virtual companions.

Dhaval Sarvaiya

I help Startup and Enterprise with their Digital Transformation

Hey there. I am Dhaval Sarvaiya, one of the Founders of Intelivita. Intelivita is a mobile app development company that helps companies achieve the goal of Digital Transformation. I help Enterprises and Startups overcome their Digital Transformation and Mobility challenges with the might of on-demand solutions powered by cutting-edge technologies such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, IoT, and Native Mobile Apps.

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B2B Growth in the Light of Digital and 5G Era – Middle East Market – ReadWrite %

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telecommunication in MENA


The telecommunication industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region grew moderately between 2010 and 2014. Increased revenues resulted in a 1.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2014. The market flourished even when compared to the American and European telecom industries.

B2B Growth in the Light of Digital and 5G Era

Notably, most operators have invested in mainly the fiber and mobile markets (4G and 5G). The industry’s revenue is anticipated at 1.7% CAGR, which amounts to $7.1 billion. This rapid growth can be ensured by deploying innovative digital transformation and technologies.

The Telecommunication Industry in MENA Region

MENA Telecommunication market growth in B2B, especially in the context of their ongoing Digital Transformation and the preparation of 5G network and new services deployments.

 

The Telecommunication Industry in MENA Region Image Credit: pixabay; pexels

The MENA Market Trends and Forecasting

By 2025’s end, the MENA region will mark its stellar achievements in the telecom sector. This will be done with digital revolutions and the integration of new technologies and services—the data provided below spells out the telecom industry’s potential milestones by 2025.

Mobile Subscribers

There were 375 million mobile users in the MENA region in 2017. This amounts to 64% of the total population. It is projected to increase to 69% (459 million unique mobile subscribers) by 2025.

Mobile Operator Revenues

The revenue generated from mobile users was $68 billion in 2017. Trends and forecasts show that this will become $78 billion by 2025. The operator capital expenditure (CAPEX) from 2018-2020 is $34 billion.

Smartphones Connections

In 2017, smartphone connections were 49%. This percentage will be 74% by 2025’s end.

Telecom Market in the Digital Transformation Era

  1. Evolving Core Telecom Market

  • A great demand for data.
  • The decline of voice revenue due to the high demand for over-the-top media services.
  • A challenging regulatory environment.
  1. Growth in digital services

  • Growth in B2B (Business to Business) services such as IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and megaprojects (E.g., smart cities).
  • Growth in B2C (Business to Consumer) services such as digital across entertainment, digital lifestyle, and emerging services.
  • Growth in areas like mobile financial services (MFS), digital advertising, and e-commerce.
  1. Network Transformation

  • Deployment of new access technologies (E.g., 5G, Fiber, Edge, NB-IoT, LTE-M).
  • Network virtualization and digitization of front-end and back-end.
  • IT full-stack modernization and Exchange-to-Exchange (E2E) orchestration.
  1. Changing Consumer Behaviors

  • Demand for a seamless customer experience.
  • Increasing demand for digital interactions across the customer journey.
  • Evolution of enterprises powered by Industry 4.0.
  1. Internal efficiencies and transformation

  • Enhancement of efficiencies and agility with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), analytics, and AI.
  • Optimization of operating models and process re-engineering.
  • Culture change and talent acquisition/ re-skilling for new capabilities.

Industries that will be impacted by 5G

Energy Sector

5G technology will ensure the efficient control of energy and power production. Furthermore, it will be used to process tower monitoring and remote transmission. It will also improve security.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing 5G use cases are tied to the mission-critical concept of factory automation (the processes that must happen in extremely tight time frames to ensure revenue stability without any loss).

In this industry, 5G will also enable abilities like real-time production inspection and assembly line maintenance.

Healthcare

5G will facilitate remote telesurgery and patient monitoring. This will enable doctors to provide care from afar. The network could help augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.

Smart Cities

5G will improve smart cities’ prospects, including transportation, smart buildings, and smart metering.

Transportation

Thanks to 5G, the emergence of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is growing faster than expected.

Enterprise concerns regarding 5G and Internet of Thing (IoT)

Concerns regarding 5G IoT
Enterprise concerns regarding 5G and Internet of Thing (IoT)                                         Image Credit: pixabay; pexels

1. IoT Use and Cases

IoT is associated with a positive investment profile. It is a key driver of the fourth industrial revolution. However, a surprising number of enterprises are still unconvinced about it.

40% of enterprises cite poor understanding of its benefits and use cases as a concern, the joint-top answer. IoT’s game-changing potential may be lost if these basic concerns are not addressed.

2. Immature Strategy

While the 5G investment is set to catch up with IoT spending over the next two years, doubts surround its readiness and relevance. 34% fear that 5G is immature, while 32% believe it is not relevant to overall technology and business strategy.

This is instructive since Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) providers position 5G as much more than just a better mobile connection. Findings suggest that 5G has yet to punch its weight as a driver of strategic change.

3. Security and OPS

Both 5G and IoT will give rise to a new horizon of connectivity endpoints. While this can help catalyze new value propositions and closer customer relationships, it may also open the door to new cyber threats. Tellingly, this ranks as the highest concern for both technologies.

Enterprises also struggle to see how both technologies integrate with legacy systems or function with other emerging technologies.

Select 5G use cases for enterprise and B2B

Here are the three main pillars in which 5G might affect the use cases for KSA:

SMART GRIDS

  • Public
  • Mission-critical utilities –water active grid & energy active grid

Global electricity demand is growing at a tremendous pace. To manage this demand, new technological solutions such as smart grids and virtual power plants have emerged.

Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) are connected entities that optimize energy flow through the entire network. VPPs help owners gain maximum profit while keeping the electric network’s balance at the lowest cost available. Typically, they combine several types of resources.

LOGISTICS

Semi-Autonomous vehicles: Fully autonomous, self-driving cars may not be a reality just yet. However, semi-autonomous vehicles with intelligent driving systems installed by default will take to the highways in 2021. And by 2022, 100% of the new vehicles shipped by OEMs will have smart telematics and other connectivity systems.

New Solutions for vehicles: The greater state of connectivity will result in multiple new technological innovations and business models. These include new fleet management solutions, in-car payments and connected commerce, remote diagnostics and OTA updates, predictive maintenance, usage-based auto insurance, and more.

SMART CITIES

Smart Street Lights: A connected system that manages street light schedules, combined with LED lights, can decrease energy costs by up to 77%. This will generate a positive ROI in four years.

Connected CCTV Systems: They can streamline more data in real-time to ensure better monitoring of traffic conditions and public safety. For example, smart streetlights equipped with a video camera and/or gunshot detection sensors can deliver real-time information to officials so that they can respond faster.

Intelligent Parking: Smart parking stations can send 5G data about free parking spots and pricing straight to the driver’s onboard vehicle system. Such solutions can reduce traffic congestion by 8% and generate $93,700 in monthly revenue per parking space.

Connected Traffic Lights: New real-time traffic management systems can emerge and deliver a greater level of control over traffic flow in response to specific demand levels. The integration of 5G will allow for the creation and deployment of traffic strategies in response to real-time conditions like rush hour and congestions.

City managers could also use other strategies to prioritize public transport and optimize the overall traffic flow to reduce stop-start driving. This will reduce pollution.

How can 5G contribute to MENA operators?

1. Customized Pricing

Most providers offer multiple pricing plans with different data limits and other features. One plan might have low set-up fees and high overage charges, while a second offer the inverse.

When evaluating their options, most companies choose a standard plan rather than requesting a customized offering. This is because they lack insight into their connectivity needs and usage patterns.

Without this information, they often pay for unnecessary features, such as a data-volume allowance that far exceeds their requirements.

2. IoT Solutions

Solutions that are easy to adapt must be implemented. Real-time data analysis and the provision of rapid actions to changing needs will drive various sectors. Considering the MENA region and KSA landscape, smart cities, health care, and energy will be the leading sectors.

3. New Products & Services

With the enhancements of 5G, businesses will further change their working traditions. Virtual offices, holographic communications, and real-time live translations might easily become part of the new business environment and customer services. As Saudi is a service-oriented country, some of the new solutions could easily be monetized.

4. Smart Cities

Due to the government’s investments in improving the nation’s quality of life, there is vast potential in the adaptation of these services with a particular focus on security.

Conclusion

This article concludes that introducing the 5G network with digital reforms will create many opportunities for the MENA Region. It will assist investors and the telecom industry. Furthermore, it will lead to economic growth potent enough to enable the region to compete with the rest of the world.

Additional sources you may wish to read:

GSMA – The Mobile Economy Middle East and North Africa 2018

Ericsson, NGMN, TechRepublic, Tech Pro Research, ZDNet, CNET

TM forum Analysis, And Press Releases of Telco Op.

https://www.ey.com/en_gl/telecommunications

Additional Links on this Subject from ReadWrite:

  1. As Oil Flags, Middle Eastern Capital Flowing to IoT, Smart Cities
  2. Big Data in the Telecommunications Ecosystem
  3. Are Telecoms Being Overlooked in Smart City Deployments?
  4. Not Just Connectivity, Telecom Must Leverage the Most of IoT to Deliver Value-Based Services

Top Image Credit: jo kassis; pexels

Doruk Sardag

Digital strategy & innovation lead

Doruk Sardag is a Digital Strategy leader in Digital, and Innovation Competency in EY’s Consulting MENA. He has two bachelor’s degrees in engineering and two master’s degrees in Strategy and Finance.
Throughout his 17-year career, Doruk has gained expertise across a number of sectors, including Telecommunications, Banking & Technology, and Government & Public Sector. He has led large-scale digital strategy and transformation projects across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and has partnered with clients to develop and implement organizational strategies as well as start-up new organizations. Doruk’s experience in diverse markets such as Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Nigeria gives him a unique understanding of cultural differences and their implications when planning and executing short- and long-term strategic and innovative business plans.

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The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology – ReadWrite

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The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology - ReadWrite


It’s not news that technology has become an important factor in almost every aspect of our lives. More people are getting rid of traditional satellite TV and moving to streaming services, Alexa letting us know when to water our plants, and the average person spending almost 3 hours and 30 minutes of their day just on their phone. It’s safe to say technology is an essential part of our day-to-day lives.

It isn’t just limited to entertainment and convenience in our personal lives either; many of us could not do our jobs without technology. Whether we’re graphic designers whose entire role exists within a computer, to supermarkets whose tills use complex software to keep the shop running.

The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology

Our lives revolve around technology in many ways, which raises the question of why the UK is falling behind in adopting newer technology such as AI and deep learning in the workplace?

What if diversity in the technology industry is a related factor in whether or not your business will fall behind.

What does diversity have to do with technology?

A criticism often given to technology is that its level of diversity and inclusivity fall behind many other industries.

The technology sector is currently expanding 3 times faster than the rest of the UK economy, but the diversity numbers fall beyond other areas. Gender diversity is estimated at just 19% in tech, and this is compared to 49% in other industries. When you get to higher-level executive roles within the tech industry, gender diversity falls to just 5% of women in senior positions.

From a business perspective, McKinsey’s Diversity Matters Report found companies with high diversity levels are 33% more likely to outperform competitors.

There are four types of diversity that can be found in the workplace.

  • Internal – These are things individuals are born with that are difficult or impossible to change, such as ethnicity, age and gender.
  • External – Refers to characteristics an individual is not born with, but are shaped by their experiences and circumstances such as education and appearance.
  • Organizational – This refers to whether organizations have a wide variety of job functions, union affiliations and work locations.
  • World View – Dealing with the experiences that shape how an individual views the world, such as their political leaning or cultural background.

When a company looks to create all four types of diversity, they create an inclusive environment where there is no status quo on how an employee should look, or be. Research shows employees who feel they work in an inclusive environment work harder and are more likely to tackle difficult tasks with a positive attitude due to their sense of purpose and loyalty.

These varied issues don’t just lead to a better work environment — they lead to a better product.

How does diversity create a better product?

Timnit Gebru, a Microsoft researcher and co-founder of Black in AI, says the lack of diversity will definitely affect the development of artificial intelligence and progress in computers:

“There is bias to what kinds of problems we think are important, what kinds of research we think are important, and where we think AI should go.

When problems don’t affect us, we don’t think they’re that important, and we might not even know what these problems are, because we’re not interacting with the people who are experiencing them.”

Gebru’s argument is that because there is a lack of diversity within technology, there is a lack of diversity in the technology it produces, especially when it comes to complex artificial intelligence.

When we look back at only 19% of tech workers being female and how Apple’s first promised “expanse” health app tracked blood alcohol but not menstruation cycles, you can understand why a more gender-diverse team may have seen this addressed before public release.

For many people, adopting new technology can be difficult because the technology is simply not built for them.

We’ve seen soap dispensers with sensors programmed to only recognize lighter skin tones that simply don’t register darker skin tones. Then there is voice recognition, with many examples of people having to fake southern English accents so that Alexa can actually understand requests and statements.

If the newer technology can’t recognize your voice — this creates an idea that technology is not designed with a diverse society in mind. Therefore, it can’t be used by a diverse society. Some of the voice programs have AI — so it’s just a matter of ML that will eventually get your voice tones — so keep trying to be understood!

A Microsoft report shows only half of UK employees use AI to work faster, compared to 69% of employees worldwide.

The demand for AI and deep-learning technology is not going to slow in demand anytime soon.

Industries increasingly see uses for it, not only to solve complex data problems but to predict customer behavior and habits. However, only 32% of UK employees actually feel their workplace is doing enough to prepare them for the growing necessary use of technology.

Technology relies on not just testing in developmental stages, but real-world applications to evolve and improve.

With the UK’s slow adoption rate of some technologies, it limits a technology company’s ability to fully realize the potential of some applications.

When you look at technology through the lens that it may not be made for you, and therefore may not work for you — it becomes easier to see why people have a negative bias towards it in some countries.

Is there any way diversity and technology can work together?

Part of why it’s important to be critical of technology is because it’s become so important to us, and we’ve seen the incredible work it can do with regards to diversity and inclusion.

One of the many ways technology can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace is through dedicated diversity and inclusion technologies. 43% of D&I technologies are used for the purpose of talent acquisition, including candidate sourcing and selection, and the key to many of these technologies is artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence can help remove unconscious bias in recruiting throughout the entire hiring process.

AI has actually been used to write job postings, where it can write factual descriptions without leading statements or biased language that could be seen as exclusionary.

We’re also seeing AI being used in applicant screening, where it can be programmed to ignore demographics like race, age – all of which have been shown to give candidates an unfair disadvantage whilst applying for jobs.

Research shows applicants with “white-sounding” names have a 25% chance of being called for an interview, whereas applicants with “BAME-sounding” names only have a 10% chance of being invited to interview.

AI will screen CVs without registering this information instead of focusing on relevant skills, experience, and keyword matching to ensure it’s the best talent for being interviewed for roles.

Technology can also be used to improve existing problems in the workplace, not just focus on finding new talent. We’re seeing increased use of intelligent automation in employee benefits and compensation.

By combing through multiple sources, a cognitive bot can offer accurate insight into the compensation and benefits patterns across your organization, giving an unbiased view of gaps across your workforce and creating an even working environment.

Technology has its part to play

Compared to many industries, technology as we know it is an incredibly new industry. But, it’s important to note that while it still has a long way to go to become the diverse, inclusive space it needs to be to create the most cutting-edge technology, it is actively working towards this and helping support other industries in this pursuit.

The biggest takeaway is that technology is still a product of human design, which means it is not a completely unbiased creation.

If we want to create programs and tools that the wider workforce can adopt, it needs to be designed by groups that represent the wider workforce and can look from a variety of angles.

Image Credit: fauxels; pexels

Amy Hunt

Amy is a digital marketer specialising in content marketing and digital PR for UK based agency, Boom Online Marketing. She has a keen interest in and is particularly fond of writing about mindfulness, well-being and workplace productivity.

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‍5 Remote Working Tips for the Modern Workplace – ReadWrite

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Man holding up five fingers in front of the camera.


It’s not an exaggeration to say that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed everything, including how we work. Many people have become remote employees, at least temporarily, for the first time in their careers.

While remote work has many benefits, it can be a difficult working arrangement to adjust to for some people — especially when other family members and/or roommates have been forced into quarantine at home. Home and work-life are constantly colliding.

We’re here to help and have created this brief guide with remote working tips to help you be as productive as possible during this new remote working era. Let’s dive in!

‍The Remote Working Era

Remote work has been growing in popularity for some time. In fact, in 2019 48% of U.S. workers worked remotely at least once per week. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, pretty much everyone has become a remote worker.

While the current circumstances are quite undesirable, remote work, in general, has numerous benefits — even as we all shelter in our homes and practice social distancing:

  • Most employees are 22% more productive when working from home.
  • The average person has 43% less meetings than they did before the pandemic.
  • Most people have 2.5 more hours in their schedules than they did before COVID-19.

These are promising stats and proof that there is a silver lining, albeit a small one, to the current pandemic we’re all facing. We just have to take advantage of it.

‍5 Remote Working Tips for the Modern Workplace

Remote workers have the potential to be more productive than their in-office counterparts. But you have to follow a few tips, tricks, and best practices to reach this level of efficiency. Here are five remote working tips you can implement right now to become super productive during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.‍

1. Remove Distractions

Distraction is an ever-present concern, whether you’re working remotely or in-office. In fact, one in three millennials list chatty co-workers as their biggest distractions in the workplace. Now that we’re all working from home due to social distancing best practices, chatty co-workers are much less of a concern. But self-quarantined family members can make it hard to focus, too.

What’s the game plan? How can you concentrate on your work for solid stretches of time, even when the world around you seems intent on distracting you? We have a few suggestions:

  • Lock Your Door: This is one of the most important things you can do to avoid distractions. Why does this work so well? Because you’re physically blocking distractions from entering your workspace. Your family members won’t be able to just burst in and ask you a million questions that take your mind away from the task at hand.
  • Wear Headphones: We also recommend working with headphones on. Again, this is another way to block out distractions. If you can’t hear what’s going on in the room next to your home office, you won’t be tempted to postpone your work and engage with the commotion. Similarly, when your family and/or roommates see you in headphones, they’ll be much less likely to interrupt you unless absolutely necessary.
  • Turn Off the TV: You know what really kills remote productivity? Netflix, Hulu, Disney+… The streaming networks are so convenient and will suck you in if you’re not careful. For most people, it makes more sense to never turn the TV on during work hours, that way they’re not tempted to watch “just one more episode!”
  • Mute Your Notifications: If possible, turn off your phone and log out of your email while doing your most important work. A text or email, even if it’s job-related, is a distraction that will keep you from doing your best work. If you’re not willing to turn off your phone and log out of your email because you need to be reached in case of an emergency, try silencing your notifications so that you’re not breaking focus as often.
  • Prioritize Deep Work: Deep work is a popular phrase that was originally coined by Cal Newport in his 2016 book of the same title. According to Newport, deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” In other words, it’s the practice of setting aside time to focus on one (keyword, one) important task. By doing this, you naturally eliminate distractions.

If you follow these five quick tips, you’ll be able to quickly reduce distractions and focus on your work for longer stretches of time, guaranteed.‍

2. Keep a Standard Routine

It can be tempting when working remotely to wake up late, wear your pajamas all day, and start work whenever you feel like. You don’t have to commute to the office, so what’s the harm in a more relaxed schedule and work wardrobe? A lot actually…

Many experts encourage remote workers to keep a standard routine that’s very similar to the office schedule they’re accustomed to. Get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, etc.

For some folks, setting a standard routine is difficult when working from home. Without a standard time to clock-in, it’s too easy to base your day around how you feel in the moment. But this rarely leads to high levels of productivity.

Instead, follow these three tips to help you keep a standard routine:

  • Know Yourself: When are you most productive? Some people work best in the morning, others excel in the midnight hours. Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different. The key is knowing how you work best and then planning your schedule around your natural tendencies and preferences.
  • Have an Accountability Partner: Just because you work best in the morning, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be excited to get up, get ready, and start working every morning. That’s why having an accountability partner can be so effective. If you know that your colleague is expecting you to check-in at a specific time before work, you’ll be more incentivized to get yourself out of bed on time.
  • Reduce Meetings: We suggest scheduling company and team meetings for specific days only. Meetings are widely known to be incredibly unproductive for most organizations. But you can’t simply not meet. Instead, plan meetings for specific days and then give your team the autonomy to complete their work by the required deadlines.‍
  • Have Fun! It can be easy to forget to have fun, but its important to help with mental health.

3. Use Calendar Blocking

A white calendar and an orange highlighter.

Calendar blocking is the practice of blocking out time on one’s calendar to focus on specific tasks. Simple, right? Unfortunately, very few people actually do this consistently. Here are a few tips to help you properly calendar block:

  • Prioritize: There are a million things you could do every day. But some projects and tasks will be more important than others. You need to prioritize these activities and make sure you block off enough time on your calendar to accomplish them.
  • Eliminate: Look at your list of tasks and ask yourself, “What does not need to be on my calendar right now?” After you answer that question, cut any tasks (especially meetings!) that don’t fit your current schedule or aren’t one of your immediate top priorities.
  • Prepare: You want to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as you begin working. This means starting the day with preparation is unproductive. Before you clock-out, decide what you’re going to work on and when the next day. Then block out time for each one of those tasks in your calendar.
  • Review: There’s one final task you should accomplish before you shut down your computer and exit your home office: a daily review. How was your day? Did you achieve everything you planned to? Were you able to stick to your calendar? Now use these insights to plan an even better day for tomorrow.‍

4. Take Productivity Breaks

As the old saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” While it may seem counterintuitive, breaks throughout the day will actually increase your productivity levels. They’ll also make your day more enjoyable, which is equally as important and worth mentioning.

But breaks can be tricky when working remotely for a couple of reasons.

  1. First: It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your work that you forget to stop for a quick breather. When working in a regular office, this is less of an issue because you’re usually able to see your colleagues take occasional breaks and are reminded to do the same.
  2. Second: Some remote workers are afraid to take breaks at home because it’s so easy to become distracted while doing so. What if your significant other has the TV on in the living room and you hear it when venturing to the kitchen for a snack? Do you have the willpower not to sit down and watch with them? Not everyone does. To combat this issue, use the techniques we outlined above in the “Remove Distractions” section.

It’s crucial that you don’t just try to take breaks, but you actually schedule time for them in your calendar. That’s right, use the calendar blacking strategy for breaks too!

If you’re wondering how to take a productive break, we have a couple of ideas for you:

  • Go Outside: Enjoy the sun and listen to the birds. Sip a cup of coffee or tea while you’re out there or consider meditating if that’s your thing. Whatever you do, plan two or three times (at least) during the day that you can break from your work and reset in nature.
  • Leave Your Work Zone: What if it’s raining and you can’t go outside? Simply go to another room or area of your home. This physical split from your normal work environment will help your brain “turn off” for a few minutes and rest.
  • Play a Team Game: Get your colleagues involved in your break time and play a game with them while you all rest and rejuvenate. There are plenty of apps that will allow you and your remote teammates to play trivia, go on digital scavenger hunts, and more. To really up the ante, divvy out rewards for those who win the games!

Breaks, as crazy as it sounds, will definitely help you become more productive as you work remotely. Give them a try and see for yourself!‍

5. Manage Your Technology

Technology can be a great asset when it comes to productivity and time management. From communication tools to automation solutions, allow the various software applications available help you get more done in less time. Here are a few top options in this regard:

  • CloudApp: CloudApp combines screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and screenshot features into one solution that makes team collaboration between remote employees quick and easy. Why send a long-winded email when you can simply record yourself explaining your thoughts or an annotated image pinpointing your exact areas of concern?
  • Calendar.com: Calendar is a popular calendar app used by industry heavyweights like Fox News, Forbes, and CNN. Your most precious asset is your time. This app helps you spend it wisely by allowing users to quickly schedule meetings and block off time for productive deep work. It also features AI and machine learning to tailor the Calendar experience to each user and detailed analytics so you can discover exactly how you’re spending your time and refocus your efforts when needed.
  • Slack: In all likelihood, your organization has been using Slack for years. Now that your entire team is working remotely, it’s an even more valuable tool. If you’re not familiar with it, users can converse with each other via text, voice, and video chat; organize conversations into specific channels; and easily search past conversations with Slack’s handy searchable history feature.
  • Zoom: Zoom has held the title of “most popular video conferencing app” for quite a while. But ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, usage of the tool has really exploded — with good reason. Zoom is a great way to connect with your team and host meetings. It also comes with some useful features including HD audio and video, meeting transcripts, and virtual backgrounds.
  • PandaDoc: We all create, send, and sign documents regularly. PandaDoc will help you do it much more efficiently with its suite of time-saving features that include customizable templates, a drag and drop editor, esignature capability, convenient document storage, and integrations with other top tools.
  • Google Docs: Many companies already use Google Docs to craft blog posts, proposals, and other written documents; then easily send them to each other. But if your organization doesn’t use the tool to collaborate on specific projects as well, it’s missing out. Google Docs is a quick and easy way to work with your team and get writing jobs done faster than ever before.
  • Project Management Apps: Tools like Trello, Asana, and Airtable help keep teams on the same page and focusing on the right goals. They also allow colleagues to converse about projects, send important files to each other, and more. We suggest researching each of these three apps in greater detail (if you aren’t already using one of them) and choosing the tool that best fits your team’s needs.

At least a piece of the modern workplace is remote. These tips will help you to maximize your place in the future of work.

Top Image Credit: kelly fairytale; pexels

Joe Martin

Joe Martin

VP of Marketing

Joe Martin is currently the GM and VP of Marketing at CloudApp, a visual collaboration tool. He has more than 13 years of experience of marketing in the tech industry. Prior to his role at CloudApp, Martin was the Head of Social Analytics at Adobe where he led paid social strategy and a research team providing strategic guidance to organizations within the company. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, Executive education in Entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Utah and a digital marketing certificate from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and other top tier outlets.

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