Remote teams: the challenges of productivity

Organizations have used geographically dispersed teams for many years, to boost competitiveness with diversity and local knowledge. However, the issue of how to manage productivity in remote teams has become even more topical in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remote work brings communication challenges. Misunderstandings can easily arise and collaboration can be a major hurdle.

So how do top-performing remote teams cultivate and maintain productivity? Here are eight strategies for ensuring your remote team stays effective and productive.

1. Align on strategy and goals

Aligning to the company mission and team goals can be far easier in the workplace where you’re provided with constant reminders about the organization and its objectives. Dispersed team members can easily lose sight of the bigger, long-term picture.

For this reason, team leaders should conduct regular discussions about team goals and the organization’s overall strategic direction. Also, take every opportunity to remind everyone they’re an essential part of the organization. Staying connected to the bigger picture can foster a sense of purpose and, in turn, productivity.

2. Define individual roles and goals

It’s also essential to provide reminders about individual roles, goals, and objectives. Remote workers can be at a higher risk of losing track of why they matter and what they need to be achieving. Whether it’s through one-on-one conversations or chat messages to reinforce priorities and milestones, these reminders help employees better understand their role.

By doing so, you help strengthen the individual’s sense of purpose, accountability, and belonging to the organization. Consequently, you’ll likely foster higher productivity in each team member.

3. Track outcomes and not actions

While it’s crucial to offer individual team members reminders of their responsibilities, avoid micromanaging them. Micromanagement can be a timewaster. What’s more, it demonstrates you have little trust in your employees.

Instead of incessant check-ins, focus on outcomes by ensuring team members complete their projects on time. By allowing them the freedom to perform their roles with discretion, you’re promoting both a culture of trust, individual responsibility, and accountability – all of which can support higher productivity.

4. Size matters

Smaller and more agile teams could be the best way to achieve high productivity with a dispersed workforce. Larger teams can be cumbersome to manage at a distance. Smaller teams can find it easier to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate themselves.

5. Encourage informal communication

Remote teams don’t have the advantage of informal channels like hallway conversations. Hence, individual team members can feel isolated and detached from their leaders and colleagues. However, different collaboration measures can facilitate informal conversations and employee engagement.

Virtual lunches and happy hours, online game breaks, or video conferencing are some ways to bring team members together for casual, relaxed interactions. These can increase team cohesion, dynamism, innovation, collaboration, and productivity. It’s also important to keep channels open and allow remote employees to give feedback about their work arrangements.

6. Be efficient about distributing essential information

Consider how to distribute crucial teamwide information quickly. Critical updates can become lost in the noise when you have different platforms and multiple team members posting numerous updates. Choose one forum or channel that’s exclusively for sharing essential teamwide information and updates.

By having a dedicated channel that everyone knows they should pay attention to, you can keep your team members alert to essential updates. This ensures the team stays coordinated and productive.

7. Utilize productivity tools

Elite remote teams use appropriate productivity tools for their team set-up, function and type of work, and collaboration needs. These can include, for example, customer-analytics platforms or CRMs as well as project management tools that let you quickly identify any delays or issues.

They can also include document-management tools, employee-recognition platforms, time-tracking apps, and virtual calendars for hassle-free scheduling and schedule syncing. Offer training on tools where necessary and make sure team members have time familiarize themselves with any new technologies.

Whatever your collaboration and productivity needs, you can probably find a perfect tool for them. For example, you can make use of encrypted apps for extra secure conversations, digital whiteboards for sharing public notes, and productivity apps with distraction-blocker features.

Effective remote teams don’t happen by chance

Remote teams seem to be here to stay, with employees valuing flexible work arrangements and employers aware of the potential benefits of offering remote work to talent. Whether you’re building a new remote team or transitioning to remote work with an existing team, have a clear plan for how your team will communicate, collaborate, and achieve goals.

Keep team members aware of the overarching mission as well as their progress. Also, focus on effective communication channels, including informal ones, and use the right tools. These can support increased employee engagement, team cohesiveness, and productivity.

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