These days, more teams are starting to work remotely. Rather than being confined to a single office, or even a single geographic area, individual team members can work from home (or a place of their choosing) and collaborate virtually.
There are a number of advantages to using this approach. For starters, you’ll have access to a far larger number of potential employees and teammates, since you can work with people all over the world. You’ll also give your employees more autonomy, which can lead to higher productivity and higher morale at the same time.
However, you’ll also experience some drawbacks; notably, in the realms of communication and collaboration. If you’re concerned about productivity loss due to these challenges, there are several strategies that can help you stay productive in a remote environment.
Set Clear Goals and Milestones
When you shift to remote work, your focus drifts away from managing time and toward managing goal achievement. In other words, it’s not important whether a person is working 9 to 5, and it’s not important how many hours they’re spending on a project; what’s important is that they’re getting their work done by a specific deadline. Your workforce will be far more focused, efficient, and productive if they know what’s expected of them.
To achieve this, you’ll need to set clear goals and milestones. What do you expect from your team members? When do you expect it by?
Establish Communication Protocols
Communication can be a challenge in remote teams. There are no more opportunities to drop by someone’s office or desk to ask them a question, and you won’t have the benefits of body language or tone if you’re relying on purely digital means of communication.
There’s going to be a learning curve when communicating remotely, no matter what, but you can ease the transition and keep people more productive by establishing new communication protocols proactively. Consider things like:
· Meetings. How often are you going to meet to set new goals, monitor progress, and discuss issues? Your everyday morning huddle meeting may not be as relevant in a remote environment. For many teams, going remote is a good chance to trim the fat.
· Mediums. Think carefully about which mediums you use, and for which purposes. There are dozens of channels to choose from, including email, instant messages, video chats, and project management platforms. Each of these conveys a different level of formality, urgency, and flexibility. Try to be consistent in how you use each platform; that way you don’t end up frantically searching your inbox for a message that was conveyed to you in a project management platform.
· Updates. How and when should employees update you? Should they send you an end-of-day report on what they worked on? When should they notify you if they anticipate missing a deadline?
· Formatting and clarity. Communication is more important than ever in remote teams. Make sure you have standards in place for clarity and formatting; if someone is not familiar with how best to use email, this is the time to teach them.
Set formal standards in these areas, and hold your teammates accountable to them.
Work With the Right People
Certain people are more adept at working remotely than others. If you’re hiring individuals for your in-house team, take your time and choose people who are best suited to this environment. For example, self-motivated and disciplined people tend to be better at working remotely, since they can hold themselves accountable for their own productivity. Introverts oftentimes handle remote environments better than extroverts, because they don’t thrive off in-person interactions in the same ways.
If you’re outsourcing one or more departments and are working with a third party remotely, you’ll want to do your due diligence and choose the most appropriate partner. Choose a firm that has extensive experience working remotely; they’ll be much more capable of managing your work efficiently. You’ll also want to optimize your choice for effective communication; for example, nearshoring a remote team instead of offshoring can reduce the burden of time zone differences, and mitigate language barriers.
Many people genuinely enjoy working remotely, in part because they can choose their own environment and skip the stressful commute, but there are still morale problems that can arise over time. For example, team members may feel isolated and lonely, or may gradually become unmotivated due to their home environments.
You’ll need to work proactively to keep morale high. Virtual outings, like having lunch together, can be a great way to maintain team bonds and make you feel like you’re true teammates. And of course, periodic awards and recognitions can go a long way to make your team feel appreciated.
Monitor and Measure
Arguably the most important strategy to keep a remote team productive is monitoring and measuring their performance. You should have running calculations on how your individual team members (and your team overall) have performed over time. The exact metrics you track will depend on your business; some businesses may want to prioritize something like task completion, while others may prefer to keep a log of hours spent, broken down by task category.
In any case, objective data is the best way to ensure your remote team members are remaining productive. If you find someone struggling, you’ll be able to analyze their personal data to determine how they can improve.
One caveat here: be careful not to micromanage your employees. One of the best advantages of working remotely is that it empowers individuals with more autonomy, giving them the freedom and the potential to make their own decisions. If you monitor their work too closely, or mandate that they work in a specific way, you’ll strip that from them.
Remote teams can introduce some challenges, but these are simple to overcome—and the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. If you’re interested in working with a remote team of developers for your next project, contact us for a free quote today!