As remote working is continuing to become more popular, more businesses—and employees—are discovering all kinds of unexpected benefits to telecommuting. For example, remote working is cheaper for employees and employers. Virtual employees enjoy their jobs more, absenteeism drops, and there’s less turnover. Productivity often increases, too—but not always.
If you’re starting to use a remote team, you’re likely to discover that it can be a bit of a bumpy road at times. Productivity can come in fits and starts, and you’ll probably feel frustrated by the lack of immediacy that remote teams experience.
But working with a virtual team can pay off, if you adopt some best practices. At Traction® Tools, we’ve been collaborating with virtual teams since our earliest days—and we’ve learned a thing or two about how to get the most productivity from your remote employees. Here’s our top five tips for boosting your virtual workforce’s production.Working with a virtual team can pay off, if you adopt some best practices. #remotework Click To Tweet
1) Dial Up Your Communication
The biggest communication issue among remote teams is a lack of communication. You’d be surprised how much important information is informally shared around the office. Your offsite team doesn’t have the privilege of picking up that information, so it’s easy for critical details to slip through the cracks.
Be sure to communicate everything. Go overboard—don’t make any assumptions. Tell backstories, connect the dots, fill in all the details. And don’t be afraid to reiterate the same information more than once.
If you’re afraid you’re overdoing it, you probably aren’t. Your virtual team is constantly out of context, so they benefit by being reoriented—even multiple times. In fact, studies have shown that we often need to hear a message seven times before it sinks in. This is no truer than when you’re working with a team of people who are continually removed from the daily routine and context of your company’s operations.
For example, your remote employees may never meet key personnel. That alone makes it more difficult to connect relationships, understand information flow, and assimilate your cultural norms of communication. Simply remembering which names fill which roles can take a lot longer than you might expect.Your #remoteemployees may never meet key personnel. That alone makes it more difficult to connect relationships. #virtualteams Click To Tweet
But if you’re still worried about overcommunicating, just ask!
Handpicked related content: 10 Collaboration Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Team
2) Streamline Your Workflow
If you’re working on your own, you can do your own thing. But when you’re working on a team, you need to work together as a team. For remote workers, they’re both working on their own and working as a team. That can create some bumpy workflows and inefficient processes.
Take the time to establish a streamlined workflow that addresses questions like these:
- Who reports to whom?
- What agreements need to be made for how work gets done?
- How will handoffs work?
- What kind of information needs to be cascaded to the team, and when?
Having a streamlined way of working together eliminates inefficiencies and helps prevent things from falling between the cracks.
3) Clarify Tasks and Accountability
In the office, it’s easy to check in with people to get clarification on tasks, or to keep them accountable to complete their tasks. But with remote teams, it’s not always a piece of cake, because you can’t observe engagement and productivity.
But you can overcome this challenge by carefully defining tasks and keeping people accountable for them on a weekly basis. Consider what information needs to be communicated. For example:
- What needs to be done?
- When is the task due?
- Who needs to be involved?
- What are the deliverables?
- What is the handoff procedure?
- How does this task fit into the big picture?
Keep track of each task and hold your team accountable each week.Keep track of each task and hold your virtual team accountable each week. #remotework Click To Tweet
4) Establish Core Work Hours
What do you do when an emergency pops up and the key person is three time zones away and done working for the day? Without a plan in place, you could be done working for the day, too.
On the other hand, if everyone on your team has a common set of work hours, you can increase the productivity of your remote workers. During this window of time, everyone is expected to be available, no matter what time zone they’re in. That doesn’t mean they have to be working during that time—they just need to be on-call.
What if you’ve got people on the other side of the globe? At Traction Tools, we set up regular huddles that are as convenient as possible. Usually that means that someone is staying up late in the U.S. and someone is getting up early in Australia. (We happily do this for clients meetings, too! 🙂
If working at the same time is simply impossible, we also use video to capture quick status updates, especially where more detail is needed. In these cases we can record the screen (if necessary), put a face with the notes, and send context-rich updates even to team members in distant time zones.
While it can be difficult to eliminate every slowdown that happens with remote work, these practices help our team work as one streamlined unit regardless of time-zone.
5) Use the Right Tools
One of the reasons that the remote work trend has caught on in recent years is that technology has finally made it easy! Make it easy for your remote employees by investing in tools that will help them work together from anywhere. Here’s a few to get you started.
- Organization—Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards—kind of like a kanban board. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s doing what, and where something is in a process. You can easily reorganize your boards, add notes, change a status, and add team members to tasks.
- File storage—There are tons of great options, from Dropbox to Box to Google Drive. We love Google Drive because it makes collaboration so easy. But the brand you choose isn’t as important as actually having centralized cloud-based file storage that your team can easily access.
- Scheduling—Did you know that Google Calendar lets you give permission to share your calendar with the rest of your team? You can also create a team calendar and share it with your people. This makes it really simple to find ideal meeting times, without a bunch of back-and-forth through email. Another helpful scheduling tool is Doodle, which polls your team for their preferred meeting times.
- Video conferencing—We’ve found Zoom to be the easiest and most dependable video conferencing tool around. Reliable conferencing software really is a non-negotiable for virtual teams. A glitchy meeting slows your team down, frustrates everyone, and makes your work more difficult to enjoy. Don’t settle for second-best when it comes to this.
- Chat software—We use Slack to chat with each other in real-time. Chat conversations happen quicker than email—especially if a lot of back-and-forth is needed—and it’s often less disruptive to your work flow than a phone call. Slack also lets you customize your notification settings and your status so that you won’t be interrupted during an important meeting.
- EOS®—If your company is running EOS, Traction Tools is a great option for virtual teams. We’ve built the software to help remote teams get the most out of EOS. And our customers agree: Lisa Manning Earley, Owner of Earley Information Science, said, “Our leadership team is virtual across North America….When we heard about Traction Tools we became early adopters and were immediately thrilled by how it improved our meetings—completely transformational!”
Get More Productivity from Virtual Teams
Still figuring out how to get the most productivity out of your remote teams? These five best practices are sure to take your teams to the next level. At Traction Tools, we’re all about helping companies become more efficient and more successful.
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