Some business experts say it’s good for your company’s productivity to let your employees work remotely. Others say it’s bad for business. Who’s right?
Way back in 2006, Best Buy made a radical decision to initiate a flexible work program. Employee productivity jumped by a whopping 35 percent. Some time after that, a ConnectSolutions study revealed that 77 percent of remote employees get more done in less time—mostly because of fewer distractions that are common in office environments.
So remote teams are more productive teams, right? Not necessarily. The Association for Psychological Science dug deeper. They discovered that greater productivity from remote employees isn’t guaranteed. It depends on several factors, including the needs of the company, the employee and the circumstances.
Some roles just don’t adapt to a work-from-home setup, such as IT Director or receptionist (or bank teller!). Other times, you need to meet in person to do your work. And some people just aren’t a good fit for managing the lack of structure that you get with remote work.
So remote teams can be more productive, if you’ve got the right people in the right circumstances—and if you lay a foundation for greater productivity. But how do you lay that foundation? Let’s explore five truths to help you get the most productivity out of your remote employees.
1) Clarify Tasks and Processes
Congrats! Your team is bubbling over with talent. They understand the project goals and they’ve bought into the company’s Core Values. Each person’s role is clearly defined. You’ve got all the ingredients you need for a highly productive team, right? Maybe.
When it comes to collaborating remotely, coordination is trickier than you might expect. Don’t simply trust that the right people with the right roles will equal success. Remote teams need much greater clarity when it comes to the task-level details.
On remote teams, even the slightest hiccups are more noticeable, and they can lead to greater frustration. You can avoid that by taking the stance of over-clarifying everything. For example:
- Be sure task design and processes are crystal clear.
- Simplify work requirements and streamline your processes as much as possible.
- Be specific about who does what, when, and how handoffs occur.
- Do after-action reviews on a regular basis to evaluate how things are going and find opportunities to make improvements.
Do everything you can to overkill on clarity. When your remote workers start telling you “We get it, we get it,” then you’ve hit the sweet spot.
2) Make Organization a Priority
With an off-site team, it’s critical to keep on top of what everyone is doing and what their status is. You can’t always have a quick team check-in, so it’s easy to lose track of all the moving parts.
At Traction® Tools, we’re big on using simple collaborative tools that get the job done, like Trello. Find project management applications that are easy to use, quick to learn, and flexible enough for your needs. Don’t get sucked in by fancy bells and whistles—sometimes simplest is best!
3) Hire Smart
When you’re assembling your team, make sure you have the right players. Not everyone is cut out to work from home. Fewer still can work effectively as part of a remote team.
You may need to be even more intentional when hiring remote workers than on-site employees, because you won’t be able to manage them on a daily basis. The adage is more true than ever: hire slow, fire fast.
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? If you can’t get ahold of them, you could be done working for the day, too.
But 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.
You won’t eliminate every slowdown, but you can reduce a lot of bottlenecking.
5) Make Your Remote Workers Happy Workers
Remote employees can actually boost the productivity of your company. So don’t be afraid to encourage working from home—if it makes sense. But be sure to implement best practices so that your remote workers have the support they need to be successful.