Remote work is fast-becoming the new normal, but it isn’t surprising that’s the case. With remote teams, businesses can cut down on costs. There are no rental fees, office maintenance costs, or even furniture expenses when everyone is working from their own home.
Managing a remote team, however, can be challenging. After all, how can you ensure your team members remain productive when you’re in an entirely different location?
In this article, we’ll show you that it’s possible for teams to succeed and get just as much work done, even when all members aren’t working from the same place. Here are 6 strategies you can use to increase your remote team productivity.
1. Try time-tracking tools
You’ll need time-tracking tools when you’re running a remote team. Because you aren’t working together in one place, where you can visibly track the time everyone spends working, you will likely need tools to track that information digitally. Monitoring the hours your remote employees spend working is very important to make sure you are paying everyone accurately and holding employees accountable.
Time-tracking tools can also help you figure out why employees are not producing the output they’re supposed to produce in a day. Many time-tracking tools also allow you to see the specific activity of remote employees during work hours. This lets you understand if there is a justified reason for the delay, allowing you to make necessary adjustments to improve remote team productivity.
For example, let’s say your team is in charge of digital marketing. You might see the writers tasked with creating guest post content take two days to write a 1,500-word article. If you use a time-tracking tool with added visibility, you can see how they are allocating time on each stage of the writing process.
Can you help cut down time in any of those steps? Maybe there are opportunities to improve productivity with added training or additional tools. If you notice your writers take too long doing research on the content to be written, you can hold seminars on research best practices to improve their productivity. There are webinar platforms you can use for this.
You should choose the tool that best addresses your team’s needs. Here are some of the characteristics you need to look for in a time-tracking tool:
- It should be easy to use: In general, tools that have a steep learning curve are just not worth the money spent. Instead of focusing on other aspects of your business, you end up wasting too much time trying to figure out how the tool works.
- It should have great customer support: It’s best if the customer support team is accessible 24/7. You never know when something goes wrong, after all.
- It has all the features you need: Maybe you need GPS tracking and payroll management features, too?
- It integrates with the solutions you’re already using: How does the time-tracking tool fit in your existing tool arsenal?
2. Use online communication tools
Communication is essential for any team to succeed, so this is a no-brainer. But because remote teams aren’t in the same physical space, employees have to utilize new channels, apps, and platforms to share information. The good news? There is no shortage of communication tools to choose from.
Email, for example, is still a popular one. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s so easy to create an email account and send an email to someone halfway across the globe. But if you’re looking for a tool to take your email communication to the next level, try a more comprehensive collaboration tool like Hive. With Hive, you can turn any email into an actionable task, assign it to teammates, and even set a due date. Now that’s a modern email hack.
So what else can your remote team do with Hive? Hive is an all-in-one project management tool that brings everything you need to work remotely into one single dashboard. Do you use Slack to communicate all day long while working remotely, or use Zoom or to host virtual meetings? Hive has integrations with both of those popular remote work tools, so you can chat with coworkers and start meetings without ever leaving the app.
What are other tools that facilitate effective remote communication? We mentioned Zoom already, but LiveWebinar, and Google Meetings are also great tools for running virtual meetings. Video meetings are especially beneficial for remote communication because face-to-face interactions let you see your team’s verbal and non-verbal cues.
Make sure you establish communication guidelines for your remote team. Set up rules for Zoom meetings, for example, so that no person takes up too much of the time allotted for the meeting. You can also specify how soon you’d like team members to respond to messages, or set protocols for away messages and OOO email alerts. With everyone on the same page, your team will be more productive than ever before.
3. Avoid micromanaging
No one wants their every move to be scrutinized by their bosses. That just makes people feel like their bosses don’t trust them. When employees feel there’s no trust, their individual productivity and engagement suffer, according to Harvard Business Review.
Although you might think it will solve your team’s inefficiencies, micromanaging is not a way to make your employees more productive. According to Process.st., it’s easy to spot a micromanager.
Micromanagers tend to display the following characteristics:
- They don’t delegate.
- If they do delegate work, they take over when they spot an error in the work.
- They hate it when decisions are made without them.
- They focus on the small details, not on the big picture.
- They ignore other people’s opinions.
- They find deliverables unsatisfactory.
Micromanaging doesn’t just affect individual productivity and engagement. It affects overall remote team productivity as well. Just think about it. Since micromanagers spend too much time checking and rechecking a team member’s work, no work is ever completed on time.
Moral of the story? Cut the members of your remote team some slack and let them do what they were hired to do in the first place. Give them space to solve problems and come up with ideas on their own. Just check up on them once in a while, and their individual productivity and your team’s overall productivity will increase.
Besides, when you don’t micromanage and employees feel you trust them, they’ll be more committed to the organization. According to Gallup, organizations with a highly committed workforce outperform their rivals in terms of earnings per share — by a whopping 147 percent!
4. Streamline processes
Since members of your team are dispersed across locations, it’s critical to have standardized processes in place to ensure productivity. In addition to standardizing your workflow, it’s important to make them as short and simple as possible as well. A complicated workflow defeats the purpose of standardizing work in the first place.
Instead, streamline your processes so only those that are critical become part of the workflow. Here are some simple steps to help you manage your workflow.
Remove unnecessary stages in the workflow
So how can you shorten a complicated workflow? Start by making a list of the processes your team follows to complete their work. Then just check out which steps can be eliminated to ensure faster delivery of the output. If you’re struggling to cut down a long chain of processes, you can also use workflow management software to automate these steps, saving time that way.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your team is in charge of content creation for guest post campaigns. Before content is approved for submission to a website, it will have to undergo a rigorous editorial process. Let’s assume you mapped out that process and it looks something like this:
Once you have a visual representation, it’s easier to determine which stages are necessary and which are not. In this case, for example, the review outline stage may be that unnecessary stage. The editor, after all, still reviews the final article. That means during that stage, the editor also already reviews that article’s outline at the same time. Removing unnecessary stages will help make sure you have processes in place to ensure productivity.
Reduce frequency of meetings
Don’t get me wrong. Meetings are important. But if they’re done too many times, they might just be hurting your remote team productivity. Make a list of everything you discuss in each of your regular meetings. From there, decide if you actually need meetings to tackle all of these topics. Maybe there is a more efficient way to collaborate, and you can actually accomplish the same amount of work via email or chat.
Reduce the number of tools used by your team
By all means, use as many remote work tools as you need. It’s important to make sure, though, that each software platform or app provides added value to your existing arsenal of tools.
For instance, don’t ask your team to use Slack if you’re all already using Chanty. They’re both chat platforms, and you can expect communication issues to ariseIf you have half of your team using Slack and the other using Chanty. With information spread across multiple tools, team members are more likely to lose track of project notes or misunderstand instructions. In the end, your team’s productivity will suffer.
5. Reinforce company culture
Your company culture is your identity as a company. You need to reinforce that all the more when your business relies on employees who work fully remotely. Your team members are, after all, dispersed across different locations. Without a strong organizational culture, you can’t expect them to be as committed to the company. It follows, then, that you can’t expect them to be productive.
Reinforcing the company culture is not that difficult. If, for instance, you want to be seen as that business that values work-life balance, then create company policies that place a premium on that. For example, you might make it company policy for employees to work only until 5 p.m. and during weekdays. You walk the talk so you never email them about work during weekends or past that time.
Reward employees who take to heart the company’s core values, too. For example, if you want to be known as the company that considers time as gold, you’ll want to give a shoutout to that employee who consistently meets deadlines. In the same manner, you’d sanction that one employee who always arrives late in meetings.
6. Introduce fun activities
Remote team members have fewer opportunities to interact with each other, making it harder for them to get acquainted and build relationships. After a while, this lack of socialization may eventually result in feelings of isolation that lead to decreased productivity. This is why virtual team-building activities are important.
A study has shown that team-building activities have a positive effect on a team’s cognitive functions, emotional states, and even workplace performance. This is true with remote team-building activities as well. When you bring people together — even virtually — you improve emotional and mental well-being, which ultimately improves productivity. It’s a win-win for the entire team.
With that said, here are some team-building activities you can host:
- Jigsaw puzzles or virtual board games.
- Office trivia or an online game of Pictionary.
- Digital karaoke
- Tiny campfire – virtual campfire for remote teams.
- War of Wizards.
- Virtual dance parties.
Be as creative as possible. Take your cue from Weekdone, which hosted a virtual escape room for its remote team members via Zoom:
You can also set a regular schedule for team-building activities so your team members will have something to look forward to.
Remote work is likely here to stay. More businesses are seeing the benefits it provides for employees, while enjoying reduced overhead expenses at the same time.
But despite the positives, managing a purely remote team can be difficult. It’s not easy to make sure all of your remote employees are staying productive when you’re somewhere else and don’t have the same level of supervision as you once did.
The good news is that remote productivity is not impossible. We’ve given you some great tips for managing your remote team. When you take advantage of the tools at your disposal, avoid micromanaging, and streamline your processes, there’s nothing stopping you and your team from reaching maximum remote productivity. Good luck!
Matt Diggity is a search engine optimization expert and the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, and LeadSpring LLC. He is also the host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.