Tips To Improve Remote Team Productivity
Use a Collaboration Platform
Working in the same physical space helps with time management and collaboration. When everyone is in the same place, emails and phone calls may be enough to keep everyone connected and on task. However, when your team is spread out across multiple locations, your communication and project management need processes to be more intentional.
Consider using an online collaboration platform that can keep all of your projects and teams on the same page. This makes it easy to track progress, communicate with your teams, set goals and deadlines, and answer questions in one place instead of tracking down various emails or messages across different platforms.
Productive Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings can be a great way to stay connected when your team can’t be together, but they run a little differently than traditional meetings. To run a productive virtual meeting:
- Use a waiting room. This helps you control who is in which meeting space and helps to avoid people randomly popping into your meetings.
- Dress to impress. Even though you can work from home in your pajamas doesn’t mean you should. Get dressed like you’re going into work. Doing this will help you shift your mindset into work mode and prepare you for a video call with your team and clients throughout the day.
- Mute yourself if you aren’t talking. Background noise can be distracting during a virtual meeting. If you aren’t talking, mute yourself so others can talk without hearing the music you are playing, your dog barking, or the sound of your dryer in the background.
- Record the meetings. Recording the sessions can be a helpful way to go back and revisit some of the issues and questions brought up during the meeting. Recorded conferences can also be shared with those who could not attend and saved for future reference.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you choose to set up your computer in a neutral and non-distracting area in your home. In front of a blank wall, in an organized office, or at the kitchen table are good options.
- Look into the camera. Your audience can tell if you are looking into the camera or at yourself on the screen. For a more professional meeting experience, look into the camera to connect with your team.
Check In Without Being Overbearing
Since you see less of your team when they’re working remotely, it can be harder to track their progress. When working remotely, you may be tempted to check in more often or provide more detailed instructions. While that can be helpful, it’s important to find ways to manage your team’s progress without wasting time micromanaging them. Daily check-ins with your team can be a simple way to monitor their progress, set goals, and offer feedback when needed.
Be Flexible & Patient
Working remotely may require an adjustment period, especially for those who are used to working in an office or specific on-site location. Getting used to conducting meetings virtually, understanding new technology, and learning to adjust to a work-life balance will take some getting used to. This means patience and flexibility are vital in keeping company morale up and increasing productivity. Embrace new strategies and procedures and be open-minded to try new things.
Your team will fall into a groove, but it can take time. Communicate to your team that this new work model is a new adventure for everyone, and your understanding can help your team adjust quickly. Be sure to also provide all the necessary training for any new tools your team will use for working together remotely.
Streamline & Restructure
If your team is working remotely for the first time, you may have to spend some time adjusting your current processes and procedures. Methods that work in the office may not make sense when working remotely. Get feedback from your team about how you can streamline and restructure some of the current tasks to make more sense for this new work style.
Restructuring the workday may make more sense for your remote team. For instance, maybe client phone calls are better moved to the afternoon, or your traditional lunchtime meetings could take place earlier in the day. Being open to restructuring your day will increase productivity and maximize work time.
Remote Team Building
Team building has long been a staple of a traditional office work environment. It can take many forms, as scheduled outings as a group, theme days, birthday parties, and even group games that help to build trust and help everyone bond as a team. Team building is effective because it helps with communication and cohesiveness, improves morale, and even helps teams be more productive. The bottom line is that keeping your team engaged with each other and with your business will make you more money.
The problem is that many of the team-building techniques mentioned above can’t happen in a remote work environment, or are at least tricky to do. You can modify some of them, however. For birthdays, you can arrange to have cupcakes sent to the homes of your team, or drop them off yourself, and have a meeting to share them. You can do something similar with team meals.
Online games are another way to keep your team cohesive and working together. You can do something as simple as having each team member send in a photo of themselves as a baby, and having everyone try to guess who it is. You can also get your team to sign up for online multiplayer games and practice working together and against each other to win prizes.
Trust Your Team
There are a lot of business managers who like to be seen by their employees. They walk by their desks, check-in on their progress, and call employees out when there’s an issue. This is not always the best strategy in normal times, and is impossible when the team is working remotely.
However, too many managers have tried to continue to work this way or by micromanaging with the tools they have. Perhaps they are sending a lot of update requests to team members, or checking in constantly to see where they are at. The thinking is that since employees are at home, they may be watching television or surfing on their phones more than they are working. Micromanaging is a bad strategy, though. In fact, the opposite is true. Giving your team autonomy and trusting them to do their jobs is the best approach, as it increases productivity.
This is because employees respond to being trusted and valued. They are more satisfied with their jobs, and they get their jobs done. You still need to have deadlines, and you still need to have goals, of course. The best thing to do is to define those deadlines and goals, and let your staff meet them in their own ways. Everyone works differently, but they will respond and meet those standards if you let them be.
Never forget that working remotely is about more than just having a desk at home to work from. There are extra distractions, such as family, children, pets, and even the home phone ringing off the hook. This can be stressful enough, and a boss breathing down the neck will only up those stress factors. If a remote worker has to adjust their schedule to meet clearly defined deadlines, that’s okay.
While you certainly want to provide autonomy and flexibility, that does not mean that you shouldn’t offer some semblance of structure as well. Structure, even if it is looser than it would be in a traditional workplace environment, is key to keeping your team on task and productive.
Start out by identifying, as a team, what your goals are. Both long-term and short-term goals should be cumulative and need to be defined and communicated to the entire team. This will give them the direction and focus necessary to push forward. For some teams, it might be valuable to provide daily or weekly to-do lists. You have a bird’s eye view of everything, so you can set those deadlines to make sure that certain tasks are completed on time to move forward.
You can also help your team with carving out a place to work at their homes. If there is equipment or furniture they need, then make sure that you provide them. Having a defined workspace will help them focus during work time. Lying on the couch with a laptop may only encourage them to do the things they normally do on the couch.
Remote working is absolutely a challenge for any business. However, it can work and is easier than ever with the technology we now have at our disposal.
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