Strategies to Increase Remote Work Productivity Within Your Team
COVID-19 has forced businesses to rethink the traditional working environment. With social distancing measures in place and offices closed, working from home has become the new norm.
The ability to adopt this online operating model has been a lifeline for businesses everywhere. It’s enabled companies to stay open and afloat. They’ve been able to generate revenue and experiment with exciting new systems.
But it’s also created challenges. Case in point? Remote work productivity.
Employees are learning brand new systems and tools. Managers no longer have the luxury of being in the same room as their teams. And everyone’s trying to do their job alongside the stress and distractions of home-life.
It’s natural for productivity levels to dwindle. Know the struggle and need solutions?
This article should help.
Today, we’re going through a comprehensive selection of effective productivity tips for remote workers. Starting with some key definitions, we’ll turn to the challenges faced by business owners in charge of remote teams and the strategies they can employ to boost productivity levels therein.
What Is Remote Working?
Remote working is the ability to work from anywhere at any time.
In other words, you aren’t reliant on a physical office space anymore. You could be in an offshore office, at home, or on a beach in a tropical paradise! As long as you have a reliable internet connection and a computer, you can perform your ordinary roles as normal.
This setup goes hand in hand with the rise of digital. Thanks to cloud-based systems, the availability of tech, and the pervasiveness of high-speed Wi-Fi, the majority of operations across many diverse industries can shift online. Your employees can bid farewell to the commute, sign in from anywhere in the world, and (in theory) do their job as normal.
What Is Productivity?
The notion of productivity’s more difficult to pin down. It always relates to levels of output, efficiency, and performance. Yet the reality’s that productivity means different things to different businesses!
Consider a factory and a service-based company, for example.
Defining and measuring a factory’s productivity is straight-forward. It’s a matter of assessing the time it takes to produce a product, right? The more items you make in a given day, the more productive your workforce has been.
Digital agencies, consulting firms, and other service-based businesses have a harder task of measuring output though. After all, they don’t produce anything tangible. Productivity in these working environments usually relates to revenue instead; higher productivity levels both generate and equate to more income.
Measuring productivity is a matter of dividing output by input.
For instance, you’d assess how much money a worker made the business in a given day (or how many items the workforce manufactured altogether). Then you’d divide that total sum by their salary (or the number of people on the floor if you run a factory). The answer reveals someone’s level of productivity.
The Challenges of Remote Teams
From reduced overheads to greater employee satisfaction, making the shift to remote work model promises many benefits to business owners.
Yet there are plenty of productivity challenges too- especially when you’re accustomed to traditional office environments. Here are the primary trials and tribulations you can expect to face as the manager of a remote team:
Staying in regular contact with everyone on a remote team is an ongoing battle. Why?
Because in-person meetings and face-to-face micro-exchanges are a thing of the past! So too are chance encounters in the corridor and casual conversations around the water cooler. You have to rely upon emails, direct messages, phone calls, and video calls instead.
Keeping everybody in the loop and up to speed becomes far harder as a result. Important messages are more likely to fall through the cracks and/or be misinterpreted. You have to find viable virtual meeting times that fit peoples’ schedules and bad internet connections can add insult to injury.
Modern communications software makes a big difference. However, some products are better than others, and all of them involve a steep learning curve. You also run the risk of conversations starting in one place, and ending up halfway in another.
Tracking productivity and progress is simple when you’re in the office. You can look around, see what’s happening, and/or ask people how they’re getting on. That changes when you switch to remote working though!
All of a sudden, you have to trust that the work’s being done at a reasonable rate. You can check-in, send emails, and follow up on deadlines, but it’s all-but-impossible to remain fully aware of progress.
This opens the door to other problems too. For instance, the allocation of work might be unfair, with some employees having to work harder than others. It’s also more challenging to recognize peoples’ contributions, award promotions fairly, and so on.
What happens when you encounter a problem in a traditional office environment? You ask the colleague next to you for their input, find a solution, and get on with your day. It’s instantaneous.
This isn’t always possible for remote employees though. Employees who need support now have to make calls and send emails to get the answers they need. They could be waiting for hours to resolve the issue if their colleagues are unavailable, or operating in a different time-zone.
Now imagine that someone else can’t complete their portion of the task until the first employee finishes theirs. The initial delay leads to another, which has a ripple effect. In worst-case scenarios, the entire workflow grinds to a halt.
Access to Data
Members of your team need access to the data, files, and information required to do their job, right? With no physical filing room available anymore, though, you have to employ (and learn how to use) a digital file-sharing platform instead. Then there’s the matter of assigning access to certain files based on roles and seniority.
Imagine being a project manager in charge of a complex project. You have employees in a variety of roles across different departments working on different tasks at the same time. Making sure everybody has access to the right files at the right time can be a nightmare.
The good news is that clever tools, such as Dropbox Business, make light work of problems like these. A few clicks allow you to restrict and enable access to digital files at will.
5 Remote Work Productivity Tips
The challenges associated with managing remote teams are undeniable. Thankfully, there are plenty of effective tools and strategies to mitigate them too! Check out the coming section to learn how to get maximum productivity from an offshore team and remote workers in general.
Leverage Cloud-Based Document Management Tools
Few tools facilitate remote working better than cloud storage systems and document management systems. These modern software programs enable you to store files online without having to buy your own servers. Everyone on the team can upload, access, edit, and share files from anywhere in the world.
The benefits involved extend far beyond storage though. Take a smart workspace solution, such as Dropbox Business. Solutions like Dropbox delivers a wide range of features that solve many of the challenges highlighted in our previous section.
With no limit on storage space, for example, you can record all virtual meetings and save them straight to Dropbox. Your employees can then re-watch them to double-check key points, instructions, and objectives.
Then there’s Dropbox Paper, which functions in a similar way to a whiteboard in the office. Team members can create a working document of ideas, complete with embedded code and media files. This could be used to collaborate on new projects, help you monitor the team’s progress, and pitch/explain matters to clients.
Collaborate using Project Management Tools
Do you have a team that works on numerous projects, plans, and tasks at the same time? Having a project management tool can help everyone keep everything organized while planning and running projects smoothly.
A good project management tool should have some of these features:
- Project Planning
- Tracking project evolution when it comes to completion, time and costs
- Scheduling and Time Management
- Resource allocation
- Budget planning
- Communication and Collaboration
Project management tools help improve remote work productivity by helping everyone on the team manage tasks and deadlines. There will be fewer delays due to miscommunications and confusion of tasks.
Depending on how big your organisation is, and how complicated the projects your team handles, you can choose enterprise level project management tools like Asana or Jira. You can also opt for more streamlined project management solutions that are focused on ease-of-use, like Dropbox Paper.
Utilize Communication Solutions
It’s hard to overstate the value of remote work productivity tools that aid communication. Because you’re no longer sharing a physical space, it takes extra effort to stay in touch, share messages, and check-in.
That’s why digital communication solutions are priceless.
Depending on the specific tool(s) you use, you can chat, swap messages, share files, and start conversation topics as a team. You’ll be able to collaborate on projects too, start video and audio conference calls, and more. All told, you can stay in near-constant contact from afar, helping the team:
- Avoid miscommunication,
- Find swift solutions to problems,
- Alleviate the sense of isolation, and
- Keep you up to speed on their progress.
Popular communication solutions like Slack, Facebook Workspace, Zoom, all come to mind.
With numerous options available nowadays, the trickiest part’s finding the right communication solutions for your team.
We recommend selecting one or two primary methods to avoid complicating matters. Be sure to seek employee buy-in to ensure they’re on board with the decision as well.
Offer Rewards and Acknowledgments
When it comes to boosting productivity, many managers forget the power of recognition and rewards. Indeed, a lack of recognition is one of the three main de-motivators in the workplace. To work hard, employees must feel respected and appreciated; to have their efforts acknowledged.
These factors are important in typical working environments too, of course. Yet they take on a greater significance in remote teams. Why?
Because it involves working alone! There’s nobody around to offer appreciation for a job well done, making it harder to attain validation.
Make a point of sharing peoples’ achievements and acknowledging their hard work (both in private and with the team). A simple email exchange or message on whatever communications tool you use can work wonders. Expect morale, motivation, and productivity to all increase.
Improve Employee Satisfaction
A lot gets said about the benefits of remote working on employee satisfaction. However, the reality of working from home during COVID-19 can be very different.
For one thing, people didn’t choose the change. It was forced upon them through circumstance and necessity. For another, they’re away from colleagues, juggling the responsibilities of home-life and the stress of adopting new systems and practices.
Fail to address this situation and rates of employee satisfaction will soon suffer. That’s a worrying development for numerous reasons, including productivity. After all, happy employees are hard-working employees! Some studies even show that happiness delivers a 12% increase in productivity levels (whereas unhappiness leads to a 10% decline).
With that in mind, take action to bolster your remote team’s wellbeing. You could set up virtual game nights or post-work drinks, for instance. Or how about taking an afternoon off work to share lockdown stories and catch up as a team?
Lead By Example
Effective leadership’s more vital than ever before. Remember, your attitude and approach will have a direct impact on your employees! In a remote context, you have to go the extra mile to communicate your vision and motivate the team.
Virtual communication’s key when you’re operating at a distance. Emails and DMs are great, but regular video calls are a better way to ensure everyone:
- Feels supported,
- Feels connected, and
- Understands what’s expected of them.
Being available to answer their questions and address their concerns throughout the day will be essential too.
Oh, and avoid the temptation to micromanage! It’ll only lead to extra frustration among employees who are already dealing with a lot. If you’ve cultivated a first-rate company culture, you can trust that the work’s being done (whether it’s happening during usual working hours or not!).
Time to Increase Remote Work Productivity Within Your Team
The rapid shift to remote working due to COVID-19 has presented business owners with innumerable challenges over the last 12 months. But few of them are as significant as trying to maximize remote work productivity levels! With any luck, though, the tips, insights, and strategies in this article will help you do it.
Looking for a robust cloud-based platform to facilitate productivity levels in your team? With its cloud storage, team collaboration tools, project management solutions, and file-sharing capabilities, Dropbox Business could be a right choice.
Click here to learn more about it.