How to Increase Remote Team Productivity
Is working from home positive for your team? How can you ensure productivity when not monitoring your members physically? How can you guarantee they will accomplish the job while being tempted by so many distractions out of the office?
As it turns out, the office might not be the answer for productivity issues. Problems related to inefficient work cost companies almost $2.00 trillion every year, and the same research shows that around 30% of an employee’s day at the office is wasted in unproductive tasks. The numbers do not lie: working in the office is not a synonym of being productive.
Productivity is located somewhere else: in the work processes. It is not about the place where the work is realized. It is about the process being adopted.
Netflix is one example of a business which entirely focuses on productivity rather than working hours or time in the physical office. Planet Money explores the management style of Netflix and its unique approach to work, which is translated into their timeless PowerPoint presentation of the company’s culture.
Telecommuting, however, is not always the answer. IBM, who has been a pioneer in adopting the practice, recently suspended the benefit to thousands of its employees. If not implemented correctly, telecommuting is as inefficient and as costly as bad in-office policies.
Focusing on productivity solves many issues that physical offices leave unaddressed. This article discusses five proven techniques that will ensure the productivity of your remote team. When implementing them, you will soon notice considerable differences in team motivation and output!
Check Whether Remote Work Is a Good Fit for Your Team
Remote work is not for everyone. And it is not for every company.
Before actually creating and implementing a telecommuting policy, you must consider whether your business is a good fit for it. For some types of company – such as the aforementioned Netflix – in-office work might not be required. For others, such as banks and retail stores, being present in the office or in the store is a must for effectiveness.
What is the current situation of your business? Do you need people physically in the office or stores in order to build clients’ trust? Or is your business built around outcomes that can perfectly be met when working away from the office?
Analyzing this requires you to identify the key performance indicators of each job description. While banks need a team at the counter to receive and deal with customers coming to the agencies, other teams of corporate managers or financial investors might achieve the same results while telecommuting.
Consider the type of work involved, as well as the person who is doing the job. When you identify an opportunity for remote working, it is time to move to the next step.
Create a Remote Work Strategy
Creating a remote work strategy is an essential step in ensuring productivity when telecommuting. The remote work strategy is a plan created by you and by your remote team to clarify how the work will be done, how the output will be delivered, and the behavior you expect from your remote team.
How do you decide when to allow remote work? How to ensure that people are not simply taking advantage of your policy to avoid actually working? How to deal with unproductiveness in remote work?
When creating your home-office policy, think about the following topics and issues:
- If the job was done in the office, what would be the deadline?
- How much would you demand from your employees if they were physically present? How often would you ask for updates?
- How fast would you reply to their requests and doubts?
- How would you address unproductiveness?
The remote work strategy is what will guide the work of your members and establish the right course of action for the work. The document does not need to cover every single aspect of remote working, but it should be thorough enough to clarify any ambiguity in the work rules.
Ensure Your Team Has Enough Bonding Activities
A great benefit of office commuting is team integration. Team members are physically together, so the natural consequence is a closer bonding among people. Team building has well-documented benefits, and it directly impacts productivity and team motivation in the workplace. Once teams – or members – go remote, maintaining the benefits of integration becomes considerably harder. As members locate themselves in different geographical areas, physical meetings become more scarce, and this might lead to lower motivation levels.
How should you address the issue? How to promote integration activities for your team?
There is no easy answer to the question, but you want to start by creating open online communication channels not focused on work. Create spaces – groups or channels in messaging apps – where the team can share their thoughts, news, funny pictures of kittens (yes, they increase your productivity). If it is hard to get everyone together physically, opt for a relaxed online environment.
SquidHub’s groups offer you the perfect solution for this. You can create a group with all your members straight from your dashboard in just a few clicks. The same functionalities of your work groups will be available, so you will be able to benefit from the messaging app, resource manager, and to-do lists for work-unrelated interactions.
When your members are engaged with each other, they are much more likely to establish synergies that result in higher outputs.
Do Not Ignore the Importance of Physical Meetings
Although not everyone might be located in the same city, physical reunions are also an option that must not be forgotten. Teams that work in the office but have remote members are especially suited for this policy to foster integration.
Plan events or meetings in-office to give the possibility for remote members to join the reunion. It might be a corporate lunch, a team meeting, or an integration evening at a restaurant or pub. While planning the schedule, make sure it fits that of as many telecommuters as possible.
Be Clear about the Work Policy
We already discussed the importance of creating a remote work strategy. The telecommuting policy is another essential piece of information you must put together.
How often will your team members be allowed to work remotely? How much time in advance do they have to notify you about their intention to work out of the office?
A telecommuting policy is essential for establishing what you expect from your team members. They are the rules that will guide your remote work strategy. Remote work is built around trust, and trust is built around well-defined expectations.
For teams that are born remote (as is the case with many creative teams, developers, designers, writers, among others), it is essential to agree beforehand on the work policy. How many work requests will you send on a weekly or monthly basis? When do you expect the outputs to be delivered?
Establish Clear Deadlines
Clear and realistic deadlines are a crucial component of telecommuting. This follows from the very nature of the practice: the productivity of your remote workers will be measured by how well they meet the deadlines and by the quality of their work. Office and online hours do not matter, as long as the work is delivered on time and within the quality standards.
Establishing deadlines is a two-way street. You must meet the deadlines demanded by your superiors while taking the availability of your team members into consideration.
Dialogue is the best option for reaching an agreement. Once your members agree on the deadlines, you have the right to hold them accountable for the delivery of their work. Remote work is a benefit that must be constantly earned by your members. They must prove themselves worthy of it through higher productivity and work commitment.
Organize the Work Effectively
Many companies avoid remote work based on the belief that it leads to organizational and efficiency hassles. There is, indeed, an initial inertia that must be overcome when first implementing remote work practices. The organization and the rhythm of telecommuting are different from the work performed in the physical office, hence the need for a different work configuration.
Centralize Resources and Communication
The first important element that your new workflow must address is the centralization of resources. How will your team access the necessary documents and guidelines for performing their work? How will they deliver it? How will you keep track of everything?
Resource centralization solves many (if not most) of the complications of telecommuting. It offers your team a centralized pool from where anyone can retrieve and provide all the relevant documents to the current project.
While many online apps offer some functionality related to resource management in their messaging or project management features, SquidHub decided to offer a dedicated section of its dashboard to project resources. Together with its messaging and to-do sections, the resources section integrates the dashboard of all users from the very beginning. It facilitates the integration with Google Drive and other online repositories, allowing you to add links to different formats of resources, as well as create your own documents directly on the platform.
In addition to the centralization of resources, the other essential components of a productive remote team is effective communication. There are many elements in communicating efficiently, but the most important three are:
- Accurate targeting: people in your team must know who they must contact for each specific matter. Knowing whom to address makes communication considerably easier and more efficient.
- Timely response: team members should be willing to answer the messages as soon as they can, be it a sensitive or a more general topic. Answering messages usually does not take long, and if there are further actions involved, it is better to send a quick note acknowledging receipt and informing about your next steps to deal with the issue.
- Clear message: remote teams must be as clear as possible in their messages. Personal communication involves many other signs – facial expressions, intonation of voice, body language, among others – that shape the message. These elements, however, are not present in written communication. Therefore, clarity is of extreme importance to ensure the message is correctly communicated and that everyone understands the next steps of the work.
Communicating effectively will facilitate the engagement of the team members and it will show your concern in providing a good environment for telecommuting. We already discussed the possibility of creating several groups for different purposes in SquidHub, and the messaging functionality of the online app presents several features that help you speed up and clarify the communication of the team.
Implement Effective Tracking Tools
Last but not least, you must consider how the tracking of the remote work will be done. What are the essential metrics you must measure to ensure high productivity? Where will you keep track of them? How will you hold your team members accountable for their actions?
Tracking documents are efficient only to the extent that they are used. Creating a beautiful spreadsheet with Gantt charts and project deadlines is of no use if the team does not work to follow the initial plan. There are many ways of tracking remote activity, but you should look for tools that allow tracking by your own members. Avoid the hassle of running after updates from your team members by simply making it clear that they should report their status proactively. Trello is a great project management tool that can be shared by all your team and in which members can use Boards and Lists to keep track of their activities.
You might also want to explore using online spreadsheets where you can detail the deadlines and the details of each task, as well as the person(s) responsible for the job.
SquidHub also offers the possibility of delegating to-dos and defining deadlines for them.
The bottom-line of tracking the work of your remote team is very simple: have the team members delivered the work within the agreed deadline? Is the work according to the quality standards previously communicated? Productivity itself is about meeting these two criteria as efficiently as possible. You can rest assured that, as long as you provide a great environment for commuting and ensure the delivery of the work, you will be very close to maximizing the productivity of your remote team!
Images from Freepik.com