Working remotely: how to keep your team productive

Managing a remote team can be quite challenging. Employees experience productivity loss due to distractions and stress. The quality of the team’s communication drops down. And managers struggle with setting clear goals and controlling performance. This article explains how to keep your team productive while working remotely. 

Key productivity challenges of a remote team

Before jumping into productivity tips, let’s have a quick overview of the key challenges of remote teams and how they impact productivity.

Distractions

Even if your employee lives alone, distractions will always be part of their WFH. A pause to have a beverage might send them on an unplanned cleaning spree around the house.

People who have roommates or families at home during working hours (especially, small kids) are even more prone to distractions.

This study on WFH found that distracting environments exert a negative influence on the motivational drivers of people and their engagement in work.

One less obvious outcome of regular distractions is the desolation of the 8/5 routine. WFH blurs the line between the working hours and the time allocated for personal activities. The effect on an individual varies depending on personality. For example, people who need structure can experience significant discomfort. However, the “night owls” might benefit from work during the hours of their peak activity.

Lower quality of communication

Communication is probably the most affected aspect of remote work. Here are some problems that employees struggle with:

  • The sense of lost connection with the team

Work in the office creates a single space for employees to engage with one another and form personal relationships. Remote workers “see” each other only during online meetings where they mostly discuss work. As a result, they might struggle to feel connected to their team and the common cause. It can influence their work engagement and motivation. 

  • Lack of mentorship and guidance

Many employees need managerial support in performing their tasks. They need clear directions or guidelines. Unfortunately, not all managers are ready to communicate with them clearly and provide the necessary mentorship.

  • Zoom Fatigue

Zoom fatigue is a stress people experience from the abundance of online meetings. It is especially impactful if the workers go on calls as listeners rather than active participants in discussions. It can manifest in irritability, physical and mental exhaustion, and even pain.

  • Information loss

Information loss is inevitable in any discussion. In fact, we forget about 50% of the information in just one hour after a conversation. This problem is even greater in remote work teams. Because they communicate via online meetings, the remote workers do lose most of the non-verbal information (which comprises up to 80% of all information we take from conversations). People might often feel lost or confused after the calls struggling to remember what they discussed and what decisions they made.

Work organization

Many remote employees struggle with organizing their work. It is true for both people who only start as remote workers and the experienced ones. In the post-COVID era, managers think that people know how to do it by default. However, the popularity of articles on organizing remote work proves otherwise.

People might struggle with understanding how to create a dedicated space, prioritize tasks, battle distractions, and boost productivity. It’s a manager’s task to explain these aspects.

Performance tracking

When it comes to performance tracking, many managers fall to one of two extremes. Some might think that remote workers are less productive, and thus require constant supervision. It can turn into micromanagement very quickly. Others think that remote work boosts productivity. Thus they apply a hands-off approach.

The reality is that people are different. Some employees thrive under a laissez-faire management style, while others need guidance, regular check-in, and clear rules.

10 tips to keep your team productive

We divided this section into three areas where you can help your team improve their performance. These are work organization, communication, and performance.

Work organization

This is the basis for your team’s success. Studies have shown that an organized workspace and work routine correlate with work performance. However, many managers take a hands-off approach to how people organize their work at home. They consider it to be the province of an employee. While you should never impose strict rules apart from task performance, you can offer your team some guidelines on how to improve work organization.

Here’s what you can do as a manager:

Help team members organize their working space

When talking about a working space we mean three aspects: physical, social, and time-bound. The physical aspect means that you have your workspace in a certain room of the house. Preferably this place should be quiet and not easily accessible by people your employee lives with. 

The social aspect means that your employee should have clear boundaries around their workspace. They need to communicate to others the purpose of this place. They can forbid entering the room and bothering them there unless it’s really urgent.

Finally, they can set boundaries around the time when they work and shouldn’t be bothered. This is especially important during calls or some work that requires excessive mental load.

A dedicated place to work will help your team tackle several problems. First, they will get less distraction. Second, an organized workplace decreases the level of stress. Third, working in one place can help your employees form a working habit with time. Fourth, it will create clear boundaries between work and personal life that many people lack in remote practices.

Prepare tech stack

When forming your tack stack we suggest the following types of solutions:

   1. Cloud SaaS collaboration tools

This category includes messengers, online conferencing solutions, and office suits like Google Workspace. First, they will boost the team’s collaboration and communication. These tools will help your workers quickly share and collaborate on documents. Additionally, you will have all your data in one place.

   2. Cloud security tools, like backups, data loss prevention, CASBs, etc.

In many cases, your company cannot guarantee the security of home PCs that your employees use for work. It might create a number of vulnerabilities in your cloud collaboration tools. You don’t want to be hit by ransomware and get 2-week downtime because your employee opened a phishing email and got your cloud data encrypted.

   3. Task management solutions

It will help you get better visibility of your teamwork and provide additional control over task performance. It will also prevent some projects from falling through the cracks. Finally, people will have a better understanding of what they need to do and by what time.

   4. Tools your team uses to do their work

For example, if you are a sales team you will need a CRM. If you run marketing, you will need an SEO toolkit and CMS, etc.

   5. Performance boosting solutions

Last but not least is a huge category of SaaS applications that enable you to automate your routine working processes and prevent productivity loss events. Here are some examples of such tools: 

  • free meetings transcript (Noty.ai)
  • employees’ timezone viewer (Every Time Zone)
  • passwords keepers (Okta)
  • expense reports tools (Fyle)
  • screen recorders (Loom)

Share individual productivity tips for remote workers

Spread awareness about the key challenges of remote work and how to overcome them. It will help your teammates not only address their struggles but also create a sense that you care for their well-being.

Communication

As mentioned before, communication is the aspect of work that suffers most from the remote model. As a manager, you can help your employees feel less isolated or disengaged by doing as follows:

Reach out and be available

Have one-on-one meetings with your teammates on a regular basis. Talk about their work and blockers, offer guidance, and ask about their personal struggles. It will help your employees feel engaged and connected.

Encourage interpersonal communication

Create a dedicated chat for memes and jokes. Post there on a regular basis. Offer online parties when everyone gets together for informal communication. Allocate some time for informal discussions during the calls.

Make sure your team knows the overall business goals

Communicate business objectives to your team regularly and explain how their work helps achieve these goals. It will create a sense of purpose in your workers and understanding that they are part of a bigger cause.

“Over-communicate”

As mentioned above, information tends to fall through the cracks. If you discuss certain things during online meetings, people might forget them. Make sure you write a follow-up, provide a summary and assign tasks. Meeting notes can help you prevent the loss of mission-critical information.

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Regulate the load of the meetings

More often than not management creates meetings in which people participate as listeners. And in many cases, they have to listen to things that will not impact their performance. For example, a content writer might find it hard to listen to the development team’s one-hour discussion of code. If you want your team to know what’s going on in other departments, make sure that is brief and clear.

Performance

Remote work performance can suffer due to stress, distractions, and lack of clear control and guidance. We suggest doing two things:

Track performance instead of hours

If a person can accomplish their tasks on time, it doesn’t matter when they work – during business hours or not. Some teams choose an asynchronous model because it works for them best. We, however, understand that this model can impact communication negatively. What you can do as a manager is set a certain time frame when everyone is available for communication while leaving the actual work hours to your teammates.

Set a clear framework for performance control

Find a golden mean between micromanagement and laissez-faire approaches. Communicate to your teammates what you expect from them and when you will control the task accomplishment. You should also encourage them to tell you if they struggle to meet the deadline so that you could prepare for it in advance.

Working remotely: how to keep your team productive

By following these tips, your team will be able to improve their performance and boost their productivity. Noty.ai is a great tool that can help your team save time and increase their efficiency.

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