With remote work on the rise, businesses and employees alike are discovering the awesome, unexpected benefits of telecommuting: It’s cheaper for employees and employers, absenteeism drops and there’s less turnover overall. Productivity often increases, too — but not always.
If you’re just getting started as a remote team, you’re likely to discover that it can be a bit of a bumpy road. Productivity can come in waves, and you’ll might feel frustrated by the lack of immediacy.
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 out of your remote setup. Here’s our top five tips for boosting your virtual workforce’s productivity.
Handpicked related content: 10 Collaboration Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Team
1. Dial up your communication
Lack of communication is a huge issue for remote teams. When you’re in the office, it’s easy to volley information back and forth—but remote teams don’t have those in-person exchanges, meaning it’s easy for details to slip through the cracks.
Be sure to communicate everything. Go overboard. 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.
Virtual teams lack context, so they benefit by being reoriented (multiple times, if need be). 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. Simply remembering which names fill which roles can take a lot longer than you might expect.
2. Streamline and document 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. This seems like a simple concept, but remote worker are both on their own and working as a team. That can create some turbulent workflows and inefficient processes as a result.
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, documented way of working together eliminates inefficiencies and helps prevent things being forgotten or mishandled (not to mention the serious time-savings).
3. Clarify tasks and accountability
In the office, it’s easy to check in with people to clarify tasks or encourage accountability. But with remote teams, you can’t observe engagement and productivity, making it that much harder to get things done.
To overcome this, carefully define tasks to keep people accountable. 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.
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 your team has shared work hours, you can eliminate roadblocks related to scheduling, resulting in boosted productivity. 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.
If working at the same time is impossible, using recorded videos to capture quick status updates is insanely helpful, especially where more detail is needed. With this, you can put a face to the notes, and send context-rich updates to team members in distant time zones.
5. Use the right tools
Technology has finally made it possible to work from home…as long as you can find the right tools for it. 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 Google Drive. We love Google Drive because it makes collaboration so incredibly 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 share your calendar with the rest of your team? You can also create a team calendar! This makes it super easy to find ideal meeting times without all the back-and-forth.
- 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. Take it from us: You don’t settle for second-best when it comes to this.
- Chat software: We use Ryver to chat with each other in real-time. Chat conversations happen quicker than email, and it’s often less disruptive to your work flow than a phone call.
- EOS®: If your company is running on EOS, Traction Tools has your back. We’ve built the software specifically to help remote teams get the most out of EOS.
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.