If you’re managing a remote team, you may be worried about productivity. It’s an understandable concern. With your team scattered to the four winds and in-person oversight an impossibility, maintaining efficiency and productiveness, especially over time, can be challenging to say the least.
Why Remote Productivity Matters
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the panic was palpable as companies great and small scrambled to shift to a distributed team setup. Many of these companies had dabbled in work from home (WFH) policies in the past, but they suddenly found themselves out of their element as they set up new, 100% remote operations.
As the ensuing months passed, everyone kept their eyes fixed on a reopening date — a moment in time that kept on being delayed. Eventually, companies like Facebook and Google simply announced that their employees could plan on working from home for the short-term, foreseeable future, government policy or not.
It was Twitter that finally took the big leap to simply inform its staff that they could plan on permanent WFH status if they so choose. This would have been unthinkable mere months before, and the move put the current situation into glaring perspective: if you don’t need employees physically in the office, will you really ask them back?
This isn’t a cut and dry question. On the contrary, many companies have a hard decision in front of them as they assess their remote sustainability (or lack thereof). Everything from greater use of home resources and electrical consumption to lower infrastructure costs and even reduced greenhouse gas emissions must be considered.
If you’re in a scenario where WFH has suddenly become the norm, though, you may be facing an interesting conundrum in the form of productivity.
Remote work is known as a productive way to labor. In fact, 77% of remote employees claim to be more productive when working from home. However, as a manager or employer, it’s critical that you understand how to get the most out of your situation and how you can set your team up to continue to be productive at WFH.
Ways to Increase Long-Term Productivity
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, but you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. Below are four tips that you can mull over and consider implementing as you prepare to address your team’s WFH efficiency and production for the foreseeable future.
Deal with Your Inner Managerial Demons First
Before you send any memos, call any Zoom meetings, or create any remote work guidelines, it’s essential that you begin by exercising your own managerial demons. In other words, take a good look in the mirror and assess your own opinions and biases.
If you’ve always considered remote work an “inferior option,” it’s time to purge that opinion and start over. If you think employees will automatically slack off and need continual oversight, expunge that line of reasoning from your thoughts.
It’s also important to address your company’s upper management communication and remote teamwork before you put expectations on employees. This will allow you to provide a sound, confident structure that your team can follow.
Communication is, unsurprisingly, a critical factor to a productive distributed team. Nowhere is this truer than with management, where honing your various communication skills is an intimate part of your toolbelt.
With WFH situations, in particular, it’s important that you use communication to:
- Set clear expectations for your employees.
- Monitor their progress through respectful, non-micromanaging update requests.
- Manage mistakes with objectivity to encourage employees to keep lines of communication open even when things go wrong.
It’s also important that you communicate with the right tools. There are numerous video chat, text, phone, and workflow applications available to facilitate your team’s communication. Select which of these will serve best for your situation and then make sure your team is well aware of how to use them.
Remote work is a very decentralized way of doing business. With that being understood, it’s important that you clearly define each person’s role on your remote team. For instance, if someone is a content writer and they have a question about how to phrase something, they should already know to direct questions towards your team’s editor.
If everyone knows both what they’re supposed to do and what everyone else is supposed to do, it will enable clear and smooth discussion that won’t be held up by needless confusion.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Finally, if you want your team to consistently be productive over the weeks, months, and years ahead, make sure to set them up for successful work-life balance. Working in your home can make it equally difficult to focus on and disconnect from the job.
As a team leader, bring these struggles to your team’s attention — regularly. Remind them that they should be taking steps to remove distractions and focus on work when they’re on the job. In the same vein, bring their attention to the fact that they must be able to know when to quit and leave their jobs behind when they’re not on the clock.
The Wild, Wild World of Working from Home
Remote work is a completely different animal from a traditional office. As such, it must be treated with a high degree of respect and understanding — especially if you want to get the most out of your situation.
If you can honor the quirky, unique tenets of the WFH world, you will be able to harness the productive energy of remote employees and use it to create the most productive team possible.
About the Author
Adrian Johansen is a writer in the beautiful Pacfic Northwest. She loves sharing information with others, learning along the way! You can find more of her writing on twitter and contently.