How to Get More From Your Conference Calls in Less Time

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a great parody video on what a conference call is like in real life.  Unfortunately, the video is funny because it’s true. Conference calls can become a black hole of unproductivity, but with mobile workforces, they are a reality for businesses everywhere.

So, how can you get the most from your conference calls without them taking all day?  Here are a few tips:

Circulate an Agenda in Advance: Not only will setting an agenda give you a roadmap for keeping the call on topic and productive, but circulating it in advance will give participants time to prepare.  State the call’s objective, participants, agenda outline and time allotted.  That will minimize the need for introductions and let everyone know what needs to be completed in a specific time frame.

Keep it Manageable: The more participants in a call that feel the need to be heard, the longer and less productive your call will likely be.  Ensure that all participants need to be present and be clear that notes will be circulated post-call to recap takeaways for everyone who isn’t mission-critical to be participate.

Have a Designated “Bad Cop”: Have the leader of a call or other head participant be designated to be the person to keep the call on task. Remind everyone of the time limit at the beginning of the call.  As time goes on, feel free to use segues like, “We only have about 15 minutes left” to mark the time.  Also, if someone gets off topic, offer to address the issue in a separate discussion. Pick someone for this task who can be “bad” in a “good” way- i.e., someone who is affable in their productive dialogue.

Recap: Before ending the call, give a high level recap of things discussed, action items and deliverables and who is responsible for each, all with firm dates.  As soon as practicable, follow-up after the call with notes incorporated into the original agenda.  Don’t forget to distribute not only to the attendees, but to anyone else needed on the team or project.

Meet in Person: While conference calls can be convenient, you risk productivity if participants are distracted in their offices or on the road.  For important meetings, schedule a time to meet in person, perhaps in a location central to all participants.  Regus’s meeting rooms are a perfect option for a meeting like this, as they can be rented by the hour.

Leverage Technology: If one or more participants aren’t able to meet in person, think about using technology like video conferencing (video conference suites are also available through Regus).  Having a video connection minimizes participants’ ability to slack off and lose focus during the call.

These tips should help you to make your conference calls shorter as well as more productive, giving you and your employees more valuable time for work or play.

How will you be working in 2020? These 6 innovations will radically affect you

Workplace technology has come a long way since we opened our first centre back in 1989. As Regus opens in its 100th country, Nepal, we ask where is it going next? Fifteen years ago, sending emails via mobile phone was a futuristic concept. Today, we can log in to the office wherever we are, and dip in and out of meetings at the click of a button.

So how will future technology affect the way we work over the next decade? From holographic meetings to robotic colleagues, here’s how your working practices are predicted to change…

1. We’ll be able to wear our computers… and work halfway up a mountain
The line between laptops, tablets and mobiles is going to get even more blurred. The device you’ll carry in future can be worn as a wristwatch or necklace, and unfolded when you need to make a call or send an email. And the battery charges using solar energy, so you don’t even need to stay close to a power socket. Nokia’s ‘Morph’ concept device is already exploring these capabilities.

Wearable tech in the office

2. We won’t need to look at screens to work
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a prototype called SixthSense: a wearable device that turns the world around you into a computer. Want to write an email? Project a keyboard into the air and get typing. Need to browse the internet? A screen appears in view, which you can navigate with small gestures.

3. We’ll all be dealing in zettabytes…
Say goodbye to gigabytes – by 2025, there will be a predicted 100 zettabytes of data stored globally (that’s 100 sextillion bytes). Enough for 36 billion years of HD video.

4. Our co-workers will be holographic avatars…
Instead of having your face appear on a computer screen when you teleconference into meetings, a 3D avatar of you will actually appear in the room. Microsoft is already working on holographic telepresence technology which uses infrared cameras to ‘construct a 3D hologram of a remote user to enable face-to-face meetings’.

If these infrared cameras are on every street and in every building, we could be able to freely explore whole cities as a holographic avatar – while never leaving the comfort of our homes. You could easily work and socialise in lots of different countries at the touch of a button, so your social and professional network will be truly global.

5. Our lives will be run by robots…
Robots will be used for many administrative jobs. They’ll answer phones, book travel, order food, pay bills and balance account ledgers Beyond that, you could have a robotic lawnmower at home, or a fridge that suggests what to cook using the ingredients inside it. Plus, your car will drive on autopilot via GPS – all you need to do is enter your destination and sit back.

The cumulative effect? We’ll have much more free time, and more space to create and innovate. Kevin Kelly from Wired magazine says: ‘When robots and automation do our most basic work, making it relatively easy for us to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, then we are free to ask, “What are humans for?”’

6. We’ll be happier and more productive…
The new work-anywhere ethos allows people to choose how, when and where they work. Because of this, we will be more productive. British Telecom found that flexible employees (working where they choose) are 20% more productive than their office-based counterparts; they also take fewer sick days, and report better job satisfaction. Once flexible working becomes the norm, we can all reap these benefits.

How do you think technology will change our working lives in the future? Would you welcome robot assistants and holographic co-workers? Leave a comment

5 inventions that created the global workspace

In 1989, when Regus was launched, the first portable Mac hit the market. Weighing 16lbs and with a $6,500 price tag, it wasn’t a practical piece of kit for workers on the move. But it represented the first stage of a revolution. 

History of the office

Twenty-five years later, technology has enabled truly mobile ways of working. Here we take a look at five game-changing inventions that enabled the shift from local workplace to global workspace:

  • 1991 – Email: With the launch of world wide web in 1991, email started to change the face and pace of business. It was the first internet application widely adopted by business and remains the most important,.The overflowing desk – covered in memos, letters and faxes – became replaced with the email inbox, and a revolution in productivity began. 
  • 1995 – The Laptop: Early portable computers were more ‘luggables’ than laptops.  By the mid-1990s, however, the sight of people hunched over their Dell Latitudes on the train, on planes, and in hotel lobbies soon became commonplace.  The office ceased to be the only location to work, and became merely one option.
  • 1999 – The BlackBerry: Mobiles phones became business must-haves when the first BlackBerry and email on-the-go arrived in 1999. Busy executives no longer needed an Ethernet cable and a computer to carry out essential management tasks – the office was everywhere, all the time. 
  • 2001 – Wi-Fi hotspots: With the arrival of Wi-Fi in offices, homes and public spaces, workers stopped being tied to cables – informal breakout areas and business lounges replaced rows of fixed desks in modern companies. In 2001, Starbucks introduced WiFi and millions of freelancers moved their businesses into coffee shops. 
  • 2013 – Cloud-based services: The cloud revolution is still in its infancy, but its implications are huge. When you take away the filing cabinets and servers, the meaning of the office changes. It is no longer a corporate hub – just a place where you choose to work. In 1989 most tasks could only be accomplished in head office. In 2013, any one of the 1500 Regus centres or the growing network of Regus Express locations has everything you might need to work effectively

What about you? Which technological innovations have affected your work the most?

Virtual vs Personal Assistants? We still need the human touch

Even the greatest leaders from Alexander of Macedon to Nelson Mandela have been obliged to call on the services of a personal assistant. I think it’s time we gave them their due.

What do we need a personal assistant for? I need several, some human, some electronic, often working simultaneously in different places and time zones. A lot of what I need comes under the heading of information.

This is where IT offers us so many options. With Wikipedia we now have instant access to information that would once have required us to head to the nearest library. With Google Earth, we can find our way almost anywhere.

Twitter, Skype and Facebook can help with ideas, business networking, or to stay in touch with friends and family around the world. 

My own life has been made a lot easier in recent months by the British Airways app, which enables me to plan my travel, book and pay for my tickets and review my options when my plans change. 

Another interesting new app is Word Lens, an instant translation service which claims you can point it at a menu and see the words transform into your own language. Sounds neat, doesn’t it?

Answering the phone is another vital task where assistance is required.

Entrepreneurs soon finds themselves needing to be in different places at once, while they need clients or potential clients, to be able to contact them – and not just via their mobile number. For credibility’s sake, they need a real person on the end of the line. 

Today there are telephone-answering services all over the world, many of them indispensable to small businesses and start-ups, with Regus being one of the leading providers. 

Finally, there are times when we need someone who is a receptionist, concierge, gopher and many other things besides.

We need such a person to be well-informed, reliable, intelligent, discreet and unflappable. He or she must be able to organise meetings, brief staff, make connections, field complaints, calm nerves, and make everything run smoothly. 

In the upper echelons of business, there are always strong personalities competing for attention. Amid these clashing egos, the perfect assistant is a reliable sounding board who will filter out emotion and help us get things done, without fuss.

There are no ego problems with a virtual assistant or an electronic app, and this is one of their great attractions. But there is no app or IT program that can take an instant briefing, communicate an idea, sound people out, negotiate, interpret and report back. 

I like to think that Regus, with its concierge service, and the other services available at our business centres, provides some of these qualities for our clients. 

As the company’s chairman and chief executive, I count myself fortunate indeed that I can personally call on the services of several personal assistants. Some are male, some female. All are intelligent, sensitive and tolerant. It would be invidious to name any, but I know I couldn’t manage without them.

Five ways to ensure your boss trusts you to work flexibly

We’ve got the technology to make flexible working a reality – but it’s taking time for our bosses' mind-sets to catch up, according to the findings of Regus’ global survey on new ways of working.

Of the 24,000 responses, a staggering 89% said that their managers needed to accept flexible working more, while 85% said they wanted their bosses to show more trust in staff who are working flexibly. 

So how do you convince your manager that your days out of the office aren’t spent lunching with friends or channel surfing on the sofa?

Is this what your boss thinks you're doing when you work from outside the office?

I manage a flexible sales force of accounts directors. My people work where they need, when they need, and I judge them by results. Getting to a place where I felt confident doing this wasn't easy, though. The trick is to create a foundation of trust – trust that you’ll keep your boss and your team in the loop, that you’re as productive as you where when you were desk based, and that this new way of doing things won’t negatively impact business or customers.

Easier said than done? 

Here are my five top tips on to ensure your manager trusts you to work flexibly:

1: Meet fears with solutions

Cutting days in the office may aid work life balance, but for your boss it means you're harder to keep track of. Provide them with the solution. Can one of your team deputise for you in those impromptu meetings? Can your boss genuinely reach you at any time on Skype or your mobile? Have you shared your calendar with him, so he can always know where you are each day?

2: Keep colleagues in the loop

It’s not just your boss who may be anxious about flexible working. If you manage a team they’ll want to know how it impacts them too. Take their feelings into account. What’s in it for them? Is there a chance to use new technology  - Google Hangouts, perhaps, or videoconferencing – to bring your team closer together.

3: Test it out

Give yourself, your boss and your team, time to adjust with a trial period. This can be as short as month or as long as six. Meet your boss half way through, and at the trial’s end review how it went and hopefully tweak and move forward. 

4: Track your performance 

Work out how you will demonstrate your performance to your boss. This is less of an issue with sales where targets are set, but with project work, it may be worth providing your boss with a daily or weekly to-do list or status report to keep them informed of your workload and when tasks are complete. When the UK listings company Yell switched to flexible working, they found productivity increased across the board. You'll probably find the same – so make sure you can prove it.

5: Exercise some give and take

If you want to work flexibly – then be flexible. That means that your Blackberry’s always on, an urgent email will be answered at the weekend, and you head to your local Regus office at short notice to be video-conferenced in on a crisis meeting. Make this the new normal, and everyone will understand that you still take work seriously even if you’re not in the office.