Workplaceless is Here to Help Remote Work Thrive

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Interview with Tammy Bjelland, founder of Workplaceless, a professional development company on a mission to help remote workers, managers and companies thrive in location-free environments.

Can you please describe what Workplaceless is all about? / How did Workplaceless come to be?

I'd been working in remote or flexible teams for most of my career. That career and professional passion were really centered in learning and development. So while I was working remotely, I realized there were limited, if any, resources to directly support the professional growth of my remote career. There was no structure to career pathing, no recommendations on how to best communicate with my teams, and definitely no framework for accountability regarding all of the different factors that affected my remote work. At the same time, my peers were interested in more flexible career opportunities, which were growing, but not having ever worked remotely before, they were challenged to prove that they could be successful in a remote role. Hence, the birth of Workplaceless, which originally started as the only Remote Work Certification program. We're now working towards the broader mission of not only empowering remote workers, but also giving companies the tools to benefit from distributed teams. Ultimately, closing the gap between the high demand and low supply of remote opportunities -- which truly benefits a wide range of job-seeking communities.

Why is it there a need to educate teams on how to work remotely?

We frequently talk about the "elephants in the room" when it comes to remote success and failure stories. While so many of us ingrained in remote work and teams recognize the benefits, we also know you can't just take a high-functioning in-office team and ask everyone to work from home without changing some of your processes. Some of the same rules of in-office engagement just don't apply in the same way for remote teams. Two of the biggest: are team communication, and output accountability. There are nuances to these skills in a distributed team environment that need a dedicated focus, alignment across the whole team, and examples of real-world application in order to be successful.

What will you learn in the courses?

With Workplaceless, it's really not just "one course". The key to successful remote work, remote teams, and remote organizations is that everyone is on the same page and operating from the same "remote guidebook" if you will. Each course within our portfolio is designed to address the needs of that member of the team - to give them the language, the tools, the frameworks, and the applications to succeed in their own jobs and but also all courses work together to elevate the performance of the entire remote team. For example, the Workplaceless certification includes modules on Productivity and Autonomy, the Leadplaceless program for leaders includes modules on Performance Management and Conflict Management, while they both include modules on Communication.

What is the biggest challenges you see with remote work today?

Thinking there's a "one-size-fits-all" solution. The objective of every organization and every team is different, so to expect the same structure to work for every team is unrealistic. Additionally, you need to start from a foundation of trust. Every single team member is going to make a mistake at some point, but as leaders and colleagues, you have to assume those mistakes are made with good intent. And you have to uncover ways to foster open forms of communication to try to avoid mistakes just because people couldn't connect, or to resolve issues when mistakes inevitably do happen.

How can you overcome the remote work challenges?

Get on the same page. Our programs really guide and reinforce ways to effectively do this, including crafting Communication Charters, Remote Work Policies, Culture Canvas, etc. And then adapt. Teams need to live in to the definition of "flexible " -- able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions -- in order to be effective in flexible working environments.

What is the biggest reason why remote companies fail?

They don't adapt and they don't get on the same page for communication, productivity, career development, etc. Many remote organizations don’t think about growth and development strategically, which leads to employee dissatisfaction, disengagement, and eventually, attrition.

How do you get started as a remote team?

We think it's really important for you to understand where you are now, and what you're ready for, in terms of "going remote." We've developed a free Remote Readiness Assessment that helps you analyze your current baseline as well as gives you actionable next steps tailored to your organization.

Which companies are your experts in the curriculum?  

We’re lucky and proud to build upon the expertise of a wide-range of Subject Matter Experts from all kinds of industries. Our case studies include real-life interviews and business examples from leaders in organizations such as Evernote, Hotjar, Microsoft, Zapier, BELAY, Buffer, Remote Year, and TaxJar.

We always love chatting about remote work and experiences alongside learning and development. If you’re interested in diving into any of the Workplaceless programs, visit their learning system here.

Borge Dvergsdal, Customer Relationship Manager

Børge is positive, energetic and creative with a strong entrepreneurial can-DO mentality. Børge is our Customer Relation Manager and he is a curious person that likes meeting interesting people. Before joining appear.in he was the founder of a technology startup based both in Norway and Silicon Valley. He lives by the vision of “be inspired every day and every day inspire others” and has a goal of making a huge positive impact on this world. You might see him jogging early in the mornings (humming to the Rolling Stones) or finding him somewhere hiking in the mountains. He has watched Star Wars too many times and believes the force is strong in this generation

Our Remote Team: Welcoming Meghan

Our remote team is continuing to grow at appear.in adding team members to new locations like Trondheim (Norway) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). We now operate from 11 different locations!

At appear.in one of our core values is to embrace flexibility. That means people can choose their own work location and work when they are most productive. We believe that if people can chose their own location and organize their life as they like, then both work happiness and productivity improve.  

For example our new Support Specialist Meghan Gallagher is learning Spanish in Argentina while providing our customers with excellent service.

Interested in a new challenge regardless of where you call home?

I had a chat with our new team member (over appear.in naturally) about joining the appear.in team and remote work culture.

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Meet Meghan

Who are you?

Even though I’m originally from Wisconsin, I came to Argentina about three years ago, spending two and a half years in Posadas and the past seven months in Buenos Aires. The reason why I decided to make the jump to Argentina was because of my husband Matias. We had actually met in Europe but wanted to be closer and I wanted to learn more about Argentina :) When I came here this is when I was exposed to remote work and started working small jobs until I was working for an Amazon seller as a Customer Love Manager. As much as I loved working in e-commerce, I found that technical Customer Support positions were a little more challenging which was exactly what I was looking for!

Why did you want to join appear.in?

If I had to say why I chose appear.in in just one word, it would be transparency. From the blog to the knowledge base, one can tell right away that the company cares because they are transparent with their customers no matter what. Even through the interview process the transparency really shined.

What’s your experience with remote work?

I have been working remotely for about two and a half years. Ever since I came to Argentina this was a great way to find work for expats. Once an opportunity presented itself, I took it right away! After working a few months in my first full-time remote position, I made learning more about how to succeed in remote work a priority. My remote work experience comes from reading lots of blogs, talking to other fellow remote workers and most importantly adjusting my work habits to a remote lifestyle.

Why do you love most about remote work?

Flexibility. Flexibility. Flexibility. I cannot say flexibility enough because this word has come through for me in so many ways! Not only can changing locations such as working in a cafe or co-working space is nice but I feel like it makes me more productive and is always helpful to change environments. There were sometimes though where I was sick or needed to run a quick errand and was not worried about missing work because I could make up for that lost time later that evening or the next day. I believe that flexibility can make work less stressful thus resulting in more productivity and creativity!

Fun fact?

Even though I have dedicated a majority of my career in customer support, I actually majored in finance! Don’t get me wrong, any chance I get to use Google Sheets I love it!

What’s your favorite remote work hack?

Just a matter of a few weeks ago I stopped using the tool Toggl, previously it was required by my employers to send in our Toggl reports. The reason why I stopped using the time tracking tool was that I found myself working too hard and not being as productive. Even though I stopped using Toggl, I still keep track of the time that I am online and when I take breaks.

Welcome to the team Meghan!

Borge Dvergsdal, Customer Relationship Manager

Børge is positive, energetic and creative with a strong entrepreneurial can-DO mentality. Børge is our Customer Relation Manager and he is a curious person that likes meeting interesting people. Before joining appear.in he was the founder of a technology startup based both in Norway and Silicon Valley. He lives by the vision of “be inspired every day and every day inspire others” and has a goal of making a huge positive impact on this world. You might see him jogging early in the mornings (humming to the Rolling Stones) or finding him somewhere hiking in the mountains. He has watched Star Wars too many times and believes the force is strong in this generation

Tips for Having a Successful Video Meeting

If you’ve been doing business in the last couple of years, chances are you’ve had a video conference at some point. For some people, video meetings have changed the way they do business, and for others they are a constant source of frustration. Regardless of what video platform you’re using to connect, there are several things you can do to ensure your meeting goes smoothly on the big day.

Test, Test, Test

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In many cases, the issues with video conferencing software happen because it’s the first time that the software has been using for one or more participants. Delays can happen because a user needs to set up the software for the first time, or because it’s not clear how the user joins the meeting.

With appear.in for example, we always recommend that you and your guests have a demo meeting before the actual meeting takes place. This is an opportunity to get everyone set up and comfortable with the software. This also means that any issues you encounter can be resolved; either by writing in to our support team, or by looking through troubleshooting articles in the Support Center. For the majority of users we can get the issue resolved in a few hours, and this way you won’t run into any interruptions when it’s time to have the real meeting.

Make sure you have a fast, stable internet connection

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Nothing is worse than trying to decipher broken, choppy audio while on a video meeting. Video meeting technology has come a long way in the last few years, but it isn’t magic unfortunately. Sending high quality video and audio to many participants requires a lot of bandwidth, so making sure you have a strong connection is key to having a successful meeting.

With appear.in, we recommend having at minimum 2 Mb/s upload and 2.5 Mb/s download for a one-on-one meeting. For multiple parties, we recommend at least 3.2 Mb/s up and down (but more is always better). Speeds are only one part of the story though, so we also recommend that your latency is below 100ms. High latency can be caused by a poor wifi connection, or possibly something wrong with your service overall. You can test for all of these conditions by searching for a Speed Test on your preferred search engine.

Find a quiet space with good lighting

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Your internet is only one half of the equation when it comes to your video meeting. You can have have a perfect connection, only for it to be ruined by poor lighting or a noisy environment. If you’ve ever had a meeting with someone in a loud coffee shop, you know first-hand how distracting it can be. A quiet space where you know you can be free from any distractions for the duration of your meeting will make it a better experience for everyone on the call. Additionally, make sure that you have bright light that’s in front of your face. If your light source is behind you, it can wash out the picture and make it impossible to see your face!

We have many features built-in to appear.in that are meant to address poor lighting and lots of background noise, but these aren’t cure-alls. Things like speaker detection and auto-muting of other sound feeds work great when there is a little background noise, but if the environment it noisy these can actually cause problems for other users on the call!


How do you prepare for a video meeting; are there other suggestions that you don’t see here? Leave a comment and let us know how you set up your space to have a great meeting!

Remote Mob Programming on appear.in

After the INNOQ team reached out to us to describe how they use appear.in in their daily work, I took some time to ask more about how their development team collaborates remotely and is pushing the boundaries of what remote development can be

1. What does INNOQ do, and why does a remote development team make sense for you?

INNOQ is an IT consulting company based in Germany and Switzerland. We do software architecture consulting and digital product development for our customers. That comes down to designing the architecture, writing the code, talking to users, figuring out a great UX, and delivering the software. We have 7 offices in Germany and Switzerland, but many of us work from home regularly. For some of us “home” can be quite far away from the nearest office or customer, and traveling requires significant time and money. This is what led us to try and find a system that thrives in a remote environment. 

2. How do you work together in your distributed team?

Simon, Jochen, and Martin are using Remote Mob Programming. This is built off of the Mob Programming concept, but with a focus on distributed, remote teams. The main goal of Mob Programming is that "all the brilliant people in a team work on the same thing, at the same time, in the same space, and on the same computer" (Woody Zuill), so we have been using appear.in to remove the location requirement. We work in a virtual space, but we can still work on the same shared screen, at the same time, and on the same thing with the whole team thanks to appear.in. We love working like this, which is why we've written up our experiences at https://www.remotemobprogramming.org.

A Remote mob session in action

A Remote mob session in action

As you can see in the photo above, one person shares their screen and all the other members of the team work off of the shared screen. 

3. What challenges did you face as you were trying out Remote Mob Programming?

Trying out a new way of working is hard at first. Not everybody was on fire right from the start, but the whole team had the courage to "just do it" and try it out in an attempt to get used to it. The customer was understandably skeptical, because it seems so counter intuitive to have a whole team working at the same thing at the same time. We were lucky that they trusted us nonetheless. 

The test period wasn’t entirely flawless, and we did face some technical issues. When working remote with the entire team on video, a reliable wifi and internet connection is simply a requirement. It took some time to find a good wifi setup that was consistently reliable. High audio quality is also paramount for the long term, which is why everybody in the team bought a microphone suited for recording.

4. How has Remote Mob Programming changed your development flow? 

First and foremost, we noticed that the software we produce had outstanding code quality, because any code that was written is immediately reviewed by all team members. This immediate review makes waiting for code reviews and merging of pull requests superfluous, which leads to an incredible development speed (which of course the customer loves).

Last month, another developer joined our team, and on-boarding them has been astonishingly fast. Through working as a mob, our collective knowledge is shared all the time. Anybody that’s a part of the mob can go on leave anytime, because everybody knows everything about the project. 

5. Where is your team working from?

The whole team in our project is distributed across Germany, as you can see in the picture below. The customer is in Stuttgart, and the product owner lives in Hamburg. We're all living near Nürnberg. Simon's living quite remotely in a small town named Gerolzhofen, which is a 30 minute drive to the closest train station. Jochen lives in Ansbach, and Martin lives next to the Playmobil-Funpark in Zirndorf, 15km southwest of Nürnberg.

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6. What makes appear.in so suited for Remote Mob Programming?

Our customer had already been using appear.in with their own team, so we were initially exposed to it through them. After using it, it turned out that appear.in was perfectly suited for us doing Remote Mob Programming. We love the ability to share the screen and still show our camera feed with the Pro plan, which is a critical part of our process (see the "Camera Always On" section of our post). The concept of virtual rooms is also great, because at the start of every day, the room just fills up until we can start with our Remote Mob Programming, giving us the opportunity to do a little small talk before starting with coding. Last but not least, appear.in has a really low barrier to entry, requiring only a browser and the room address to join. This makes it very easy to also have nontechnical people join our mob for a short time.

We sometimes fall back to Slack, but it lacks the ability to share the screen and the camera feed at the same time. In rare cases we have even used our phones, because it just works anytime. :-)

7. Anything else cool that you want to share?

Simon has written a book on clean code in Java. If you're into that, just have a look at Java by Comparison.

8. How can people reach you to learn more about Remote Mob Programming?

If you've become curious about Remote Mob Programming, have a look at https://www.remotemobprogramming.org. If you have any questions, just reach any of us on Twitter. We're happy to answer all your questions about Remote Mob Programming.

https://twitter.com/simonharrer

https://twitter.com/jochen_christ

https://twitter.com/Waterback

Announcing the appear.in Refer-a-Friend Program

Since launching appear.in PRO in 2018, we’ve helped thousands of customers have high-quality, flexible and easy to use video meetings with their clients and colleagues all around the world. Many of them have shared appear.in with other people in their network, so we felt that there should be a reward system in place for you.

With the new Refer-a-Friend Program, you can get rewarded with account credits for spreading the word about appear.in PRO. Our members have been asking this for a long time so we’re incredibly happy to offer this to you today. Please note this is only available to active PRO customers at this time.

You can sign up for the program by logging in to your account and going to your Billing Profile. From there you’ll see an Enroll Now button, and you can use this to get signed up with the program (powered by FirstPromoter).

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Once you sign up you’ll get your own unique referral link, and this can be shared in your network to generate referrals! Each friend that signs up for a PRO account from your referral link will apply a $20 credit to your account automatically. So if you refer just 6 members you’ll get an entire year of PRO for free. Not bad!

If you have questions about the program or want detailed instructions on signing up or tracking your referrals, check out the article in our Support Center, or reach out to our support team at pro@appear.in

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Thanks again for your continued support and evangelism of appear.in. It always makes us happy to see your recommendations online. Now we’re even happier to be able to reward you for it!

Upcoming changes for PRO membership

Recapping 2018

2018 was a historical year for appear.in. We launched the PRO plan, and introduced great new features like built-in Recording! During the last year we’ve seen 10+ million unique users on appear.in, who in turn have held over 58 million video meetings. Wow! Thank you for your support, and for trusting us with something as critical as your collaboration needs.

We wanted to share a few important changes that we’re making to appear.in in 2019, as part of our commitment to transparency in how we’re building appear.in and keeping our supporters up-to-date!

A note to existing PRO members

We don’t want these changes to impact the 11,500+ users that have supported us on this journey so far. In appreciation of this support, all active paid PRO accounts as of 28 February, 2019 will retain the existing limits of their plans for a minimum of 1 year. As long as your paid subscription remains active you will retain the previous PRO limits and PRO features, so we recommend switching your billing to annual. This will minimize billing issues and ensure your account isn’t mistakenly canceled. If you make changes to your account after this time (such as downgrading or adding/removing add-ons) this may also result in the loss of these benefits. If you have questions please feel free to email us for further clarification or before making changes to your account.

What’s changing in 2019

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2019 is fresh in our minds, and with the new Business plan released we took some time to evaluate how our plans align with the different use-cases of our customers. For some time the PRO plan has been used by individuals and businesses alike - despite being designed as a personal-use plan from the beginning. Features like user management and organization never really existed on the PRO plan, and it was for this reason that we created Business. With new plan options, we feel it’s appropriate to evaluate the offerings of each plan, and make adjustments based on what the average user’s needs are.

With that in mind, as of 00:00 GMT 1 March, 2019, all new PRO subscriptions will include ownership of 3 rooms (previously 10), and will no longer include the Membership feature. These changes have been made to better align PRO with what it was originally designed as - a personal-use plan for individuals.

If you’re an existing FREE user and want to lock in the current PRO features, you can upgrade your account now to PRO now with the coupon code GOPRO2019 to receive 30% off your first month.

For teams and organizations that are looking for a shared account, the new Business plan offers built-in user management, a custom subdomain, Recording for free, our new Calendar integration, and a variable limit for users so the plan can grow with you!

appear.in Business is here for easy collaboration across teams

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Our goal at appear.in has always been to make collaboration over video as seamless and easy as possible. With appear.in Business, you can share all of the great features that are available in our PRO plan with your entire team using a shared Business account! You’ll also have access to our entire suite of add-ons and features, and you’ll even have a custom subdomain (yourcompany.appear.in) so you can guarantee the rooms you want are available!

A plan designed for businesses

Private subdomain

There are common rooms names (like, “sales” or “dailystandup”) that many customers can’t use because the domain is already taken by another PRO customer. We decided that with the new Business plan, users shouldn’t need to settle for their second pick of room name; so every Business account comes with a subdomain (yourcompany.appear.in/roomName). This guarantees that any room name you could want will be available to create. Sign up now to reserve your company’s subdomain!

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Team Management

Many of our PRO customers are using two or more PRO accounts for their team in order to patch together multiple users under a single team management system. With the creation of appear.in Business, centralized account management allows teams to manage billing and payments, multiple admin roles, and company-wide branding, so you can manage your entire team from one convenient location.

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Branding and Customization

Branding is important for both internal and external meetings, so we built in customization features that let you make your rooms your own. With appear.in Business, you can create a consistent design across all of the rooms in your account with our Branding feature. Set up logos, backgrounds, and welcome pages that fit your brand, and apply them to every room at once with the click of a button.

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Familiar features, plus some extras

We felt that Business customers shouldn’t need to sacrifice on features, so we included all of the features that are available in PRO with appear.in for Business. Everything from larger room sizes to Branding of your rooms is baked in to Business.

We also included all of our add-ons like the new Recording feature, and a Calendar integration with Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook so you can add your meeting room information with one button. You can see all of the features that are included with Business on our Pricing Page.

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Plans that grow with your business

Start with the plan that fits your team and scale as you need! To service teams of all different shapes, sizes, and use cases, we’ve created Small, Medium, and Large appear.in Business. Plans range from 25 to 50+ rooms, and are made up of Team rooms (shared) and Personal rooms (one for each user). Everyone on your team will have access to the meeting spaces they need.

Have custom video meeting needs? Contact sales and speak with our account managers to create a custom plan that works for you.

Every user in a Business account has their own Personal Room which they manage and control. In addition to this, your account comes with a certain number of Team Rooms, which are perfect for stand-ups, team meetings, and projects.

Upgrade your team today, and start collaborating like never before!

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