There’s a common misconception held by a lot of people that when employees work remotely, their productivity levels take a tumble.
The reality is that while there are different challenges to overcome when keeping team members on-task and motivated in a remote working scenario, it’s not objectively worse than everyone sharing the same office space.
All that’s required is a new approach to deal with the dilemmas and keep everyone optimally productive.
Here’s a look at how to go about this.
Working from home isn’t like working in an office, so don’t expect employees to adhere to the same rules and structures.
Instead, offer flexible working to anyone who wants it, as this will allow them to better balance their professional duties with their domestic responsibilities.
People who can fit their job around their life will be more productive when they’re at their desks, rather than being inconvenienced and demoralized, or distracted.
Provide the right hardware and software tools
Remote working productivity will nosedive if employees don’t have what they need to operate efficiently from moment to moment.
Part of this involves acting to ensure efficient IT incident management, rather than overlooking issues that team members raise or putting them on the back burner.
In addition, network connectivity has to be taken into account. Patchy Wi-Fi can cause all sorts of problems, and expecting employees to deal with this themselves won’t do much to demonstrate that you value them.
Emphasize the importance of good time management
One drain on productivity when working remotely is poor time management, and so leaders must instill best practices in team members so that everyone has the right techniques at their disposal.
From establishing a set of priorities to handle in a given day, to limiting the amount of time that’s allocated to a given task, seemingly small changes to habits can have major benefits.
Use automation to your advantage
Speaking of time management, there are some tasks which are unavoidable and yet feel both tedious and wasteful of the precious minutes or hours they take out of an employee’s schedule each day or week.
That’s where automation emerges as an appealing solution, since there are a multitude of tools and solutions out there today which seek to do away with mind-numbing duties, allowing team members to focus on more stimulating tasks.
From managing customer relationships to handling payroll and expenses, automated software services are a boon for modern businesses.
Thus you can squeeze more out of your existing resources and also improve employee engagement and job satisfaction, all in one simple step. You could even consider outsourcing these tasks, depending on your budget and needs.
If every remote worker is using their own preferred solution for sharing files, communicating with colleagues and collaborating on projects, this can quickly lead to confusion and unnecessary complexity.
It’s better to steer clear of a fragmented approach to teamwork by picking a single, unified collaboration platform that will underpin your entire operation.
You will need to take stock of the tools that are used at the moment, and ensure that everyone is on the same page about which ones they can and cannot use. Clarity and consistency are your friends here, while ambiguity or simply failing to act will lead to issues.
Minimize virtual meetings
It’s understandable that if you’re managing a remote team, you don’t feel the same sense of connection and control that comes with working in an office together.
However, that doesn’t mean the answer is to pack the schedule with group meetings and individual catch-ups. This can put the brakes on productivity, and also be a straining experience for those involved.
Moderation with virtual meetings is key. It’s not just about optimizing the number of meetings each day or week, but also about limiting their length. The longer the call, the more fatiguing it will be for all participants, yourself included.
For those meetings you deem essential, don’t insist on all attendees using their cameras, as the audio-only approach is less intense from a cognitive perspective, and reduces the likelihood of video call burn-out.
Employee recognition is another thing that can go out the window in a remote working environment if you are not careful.
Productivity is contingent on employees knowing that when they hit targets, or go above and beyond, they will be celebrated for their successes.
You can handle this spontaneously, but with dedicated employee recognition platforms emerging in recent years, it’s more convenient and consistent to take a formal approach to this.
Show that you trust team members
One of the peripheral reasons that constant virtual meetings are also problematic which we didn’t mention above is that they can make remote workers feel like they’re under constant scrutiny, and not being given the autonomy they need to work effectively.
Showing that you trust them by letting them take the initiative in terms of how they work towards targets is sensible. You can still take steps to verify that they’re making progress, of course. It’s just about letting team members have more autonomy and power.
If something is wrong, you want employees to tell you, and not bottle it up or feel like they aren’t heard if they do raise a concern.
This goes double in a remote working context, because it’s harder for managers to understand the nature of the obstacles that lie in the way of team members when they aren’t sharing an office.
Being open to feedback and actively asking for input from employees on how you can make their lives easier is a must. It will help you with so many of the other areas mentioned above, and lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
Remote working is the biggest upheaval in business in recent memory. The trend isn’t going anywhere, so establishing best practices for productivity now, rather than hoping that things will swing back to a traditional office setup soon, will set you on the right course for what the future holds.