David Papp Blog

How to Improve Productivity for Remote Teams

The most major concern that leaders and managers have when forming a remote team is that no one will be productive.

Many businesses want to know how they may compel compliance and activity from potential “sloths” so that they get what they pay for!

However, that is ultimately the wrong strategy. It’s like the Kaleel Jamison quote about relationships being like sand. “Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers.

Instead of trying to oversee every element of your team’s day, remote managers should let go and trust the people they’ve employed. In fact, GitLab recently polled 3,000 employees and discovered that 86% of them believe their leadership team affords them agency and autonomy.

When you squeeze too firmly, you kill one of the most important advantages of remote work: autonomy. To help you hang on loosely without entirely letting go, we’ve compiled a list of the top techniques to assist your remote staff stay productive:

Establish clear expectations for your staff

Setting expectations as a team is the greatest method to start raising productivity or resolving performance issues in remote teams. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider answering the following questions:

  1. Metrics: What are your objectives, and what steps must be taken to achieve them?
  2. Communication: Do you have daily scrums where everyone shares what they accomplished the day before and what they hope to accomplish the next day? What is the expectation for how everyone should communicate to keep everyone on the same page and aware of the team’s overall performance? Is your staff aware of the value of collaboration?
  3. Tools for productivity: What are the resources available in your team’s technology stack, and how should they be used?
  4. Work measurement: How will you assess work? This might be difficult, especially if things come up that you did not expect. Some teams employ story points, but it’s critical to find what works best for your team.

Prioritize performance over presence

It can be liberating to tell grownups that you trust them, and it will also enhance your productivity.

But keep in mind that deeds speak louder than words; you must not only tell them, but also demonstrate your trust in them. The easiest approach to accomplish this is to prioritize production over time spent on chores.

Great managers do this by:

  • Providing their team with the resources and space they require to be effective and efficient
  • Getting rid of the “never leave work before your boss” mindset
  • And changing to a “I trust you to work where and when you’re most productive” mindset
  • Measuring their team’s effectiveness rather than the number of hours they spend online

You want your team to concentrate on finishing the job rather than being available at specified times. This will inspire them to complete their jobs and will encourage greater participation in the process.

Get your team on board with this strategy

The most important thing you can do for your team is to emphasize that they will be judged on their performance rather than their presence. Show everyone what this looks like.

Let them know, for example, that you don’t mind what hours they’re online as long as they achieve their deadlines. Set team guidelines for what will work best for everyone. Don’t tackle this from the top down. Instead, be collaborative.

You want to instill autonomy and accountability in your team, and focusing on performance rather than presence is the ideal approach for remote teams to do so.

Monitor projects and conduct regular reviews

You can’t walk into the workplace while everyone is remote, so it’s difficult to nudge individuals about a project without appearing to distrust them. You require a virtual means of checking in on how things are progressing.

Create a standardized procedure for reviewing and tracking goals. This could include:

  • Tools for project management that track project progress
  • Virtual scrums on a daily basis
  • Team meetings that occur on a regular basis
  • One-time gatherings (for example, project kickoffs)

To achieve goals, ensure that the team is aligned and set up for success

As a remote manager, you should establish clearly defined goals and processes for your team to ensure that everyone is on the same page about what the goals are and how to get there. Consider this a work in progress. Some things you can take to ensure you’re on the right track are as follows:

  • Examine the team’s progress toward goals as a whole.
  • Inquire with your team whether they believe you are communicating successfully or if there are any gaps that need to be filled.
  • Gather feedback on your processes to see whether they may be improved.

Maintain consistency in your evaluation process so that everyone understands how they will be rated. This is true for in-office teams as well, but remote workers may have fewer direct interactions with you, giving them fewer opportunities to raise questions or clarify issues.

Emphasize positivity

Relationships, even those at work, require little magic, which arrives in a 5 to 1 ratio.

The “magic ratio” states that good relationships necessitate five positive interactions for every one bad interaction. The study began with marriage in mind, but it’s also a useful tool for remote managers.

Because your remote workers have fewer encounters, maintaining the ratio must become a deliberate endeavour. Thanking colleagues for performing exceptional work during a project is one of our favourite strategies to keep remote teams happy. Thanking your team and promoting exceptional work in public on a regular basis — think of your daily or weekly meetings — motivates teammates to appreciate each other throughout the process.

This is related to how you provide feedback to others.

Make communication simple

How you offer feedback is an important element of the process. Remote teams have different time zones and cultural differences in what to say and when. That implies managers must understand each employee’s culture, communication style, and optimal times to communicate.

This is something that any manager, whether remote or onsite, should practice.

Look for simple tools and collaborative opportunities that make communication straightforward. If your team enjoys video chat, get a service that they can access at any time via a regular link. Slack provides robust real-time messaging, while email and phone conversations round out what you need to facilitate effective collaboration among your team members.

Use images to your advantage

Video is the most effective medium for teaching clients and workers. Creating short-form material to demonstrate how a task is accomplished, as well as lengthier lessons on an entire process, is appealing to teams of all ages. More than 80% of today’s workers prefer to learn how to accomplish anything by watching a video.

That’s a lot of videos that are specifically intended to exchange information by integrating with your other platforms. You want to make sharing as simple as possible so that your team can interact in the ways that are most effective for them.

Encourage freedom and engagement

Because every team is distinct, procedures and tracking will differ, but you want everyone to be there and working when they say they are. This entails being open to and engaged in feedback and collaboration.

Knowing when people are online and available — even if you don’t need anything — may be a huge stress reliever for leaders. It gives us confidence that, if something comes up, you’ll have a better idea of when you’ll be able to bring on someone else to help solve a problem.

Your duty is to figure out what works best for you and your team. One of the greatest choices is to have a daily check-in to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that no one is getting stuck. This can be a standup meeting, a Slack channel chat, or simply requesting folks to submit a note to your meeting agenda. If you use an agenda or chat, make sure someone on the team is responsible for getting all of the responses in by a certain time. Consider time zones so that the project leader understands when to check in with everyone before they sign off for the day.

Explain how to be adaptable

You should also set precise expectations for availability via email, chat, phone, and other communication platforms throughout the workday. This can include items such as:

  • Making it a practice to keep your Slack status updated (for example, “on lunch”, “away”, etc).
  • Choosing a time that works for everyone for your recurrent team meeting (and making it a requirement that everyone be on the call)
  • What actions someone must take if they are going on vacation, such as passing off assignments, performing jobs that may otherwise obstruct a teammate, and so on.

You should clarify, however, that flexibility comes with increased responsibilities. Put in the measures to hold your team accountable while yet allowing them the freedom to be their most productive selves.

Set a good example

The easiest approach to convince employees to use benefits is for leaders to do so.

Your employees will only feel safe taking a sick day or seeing the dentist during “normal” business hours if they know you are as well. You set the tone as a manager.

Your duty is to foster workplace responsibility, which is best accomplished by first being accountable yourself. Meeting deadlines, arriving on time for meetings, and being accountable for the performance of the team are all part of normal job. It also requires demonstrating how people might use their benefits appropriately in rural areas.

Utilize your advantages

The most difficult aspect of leading by example for executives will be demonstrating how employees can use these benefits to achieve work-life balance. It can be awkward to reveal that you’re going to the doctor or that your children are unwell. At the same time, some people do not want to reveal trip specifics or personal life issues that require time off.

You are not need to provide specifics, especially if corporate policy allows your employees to request days off without providing specifics. What you want to do is let folks know when you’ll be gone and how it will affect your work. When your team sees the changes and considerations you’re making to keep things running smoothly, they’ll do the same.

Something as easy as informing your workers that you will be unavailable unexpectedly on Monday or Tuesday but that they should leave regular notes via Slack and only email with emergencies sets the tone for your company.

Demonstrate accountability so that your team can learn from you.

Assist new remote workers in feeling connected and useful

Find ways to maintain personal connections. Creating amusing Slack channels to share “office” pets, or an open video invitation to hop on and enjoy a morning coffee with others, are examples of this.

The switch can be a major change for many folks who are new to remote control. People shift from seeing and communicating with their coworkers face to face on a regular basis to seeing them on their computer screen once in a while. There are numerous advantages, but because of the drastic change, remote employees may experience feelings of loneliness.

According to Gallup and Buffer, the top challenges for around 20% of the remote workforce are loneliness and isolation, which is both emotional and operational.

Focusing on the emotional aspect

Try to virtualize the tiny interactions that your new remote employees had in the office, such as a Slack channel for discussing pets, photos, and non-work stuff. Make it possible for members of your team to form strong virtual interactions. You will be assisting them in establishing and maintaining personal ties, as well as providing them with buddies and people to rely on when they are in need.

Focusing on the operational aspect

Show your new staff how their work affects the business. Find strategies to keep them motivated and give them a sense of purpose. Discuss how working flexibly can help employees achieve their goals faster, promote teamwork, allow people to take ownership of different components, or provide other benefits. Also, take the time to ask them what they require to attain their objectives.

This technique provides you with a clear opportunity to remind your staff that remote work is fantastic and has numerous advantages. It improves their job satisfaction (which increases productivity!)

It’s all part of keeping your team balanced, and it’s how you make remote-work work.