After years of coming to the office, with little notice, employees this year across the world were told to work from home. All the tried and true office routines of in-person weekly meetings, brainstorming sessions, and water cooler conversations were thrown out the window.
With no preparation or planning, we entered into a grand experiment of how companies can work effectively at home. Managers and employees had to learn on the spot how to translate their office activities to virtual work. Most of us still continue to figure this out.
When your team is virtual, and you no longer have the ability to walk over to their desk to check in on them, how do you ensure they continue to stay productive? Fortunately there are a number of strategies to consider to make sure your team stays productive while working from home.
1. Give you team greater autonomy
Many managers succeed in an office environment because they are physically around people. They can walk over to an employee’s desk, check on them, and ask them questions. If there is a problem, they can quickly huddle up the team and discuss it.
With a remote team, these same dynamics don’t work. With employees being out of sight, you might be tempted to constantly Slack message your team on how their work is progressing along. This is the last thing you want to do. Not only are you taking their time to time as they type up updates, the context switching can impact their focus.
Instead, you need to evolve your management style by building stronger trust in your employees, and giving them greater autonomy. In fact, workplaces that give their employees greater freedom to complete their work experience greater job satisfaction. Millennials in particular seek workplaces with more autonomy, and it’s linked to greater productivity.
Instead of regularly checking in on your employees, define clear goals, deadlines, and updates. Start trusting that your employees can do their work successfully while remote without constant oversight.
2. Help create a great work from environment
Many companies invest considerably in their offices to create a welcoming place where employees are excited to go and can work effectively. You might have invested in amenities like a standing desk or additional computer screens. Studies show that well-designed office spaces improve employee well-being and productivity.
This should be no different for home offices. You want your employees to have a place and equipment where they can switch into a work mindset and maximize their productivity. You don’t want them in a dark basement, for example.
Give your employees tips on how to create a good home office environment, from finding a room with good sunlight to putting plants in the office. Encourage them to remove distractions and be organized, which will improve their ability to deliver projects on time.
More importantly, invest and subsidize in your employee home office. Make it a no brainer for them. Buy them a standing desk converter or a second monitor. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish. Not only will this enable your employees to be more productive, but you’re showing you care for them and will garner loyalty.
3. Try timing tracking tools
Depending on what type of company you run, you might want to consider time tracking tools like Time Doctor, which help you manage and track your remote team.
These tools can give you a holistic view on how our employees spend their time. You can get reports on what apps and websites they’re using, and how often they take breaks. The reports allow you to compare employees, so it’s easy to find outliers and how it might relate to their actual work.
You can understand why certain employees aren’t performing up to expectations and can start course correcting. You might learn an individual is spending too much time on social media sites. Understanding what successful time management looks like can raise the bar for everyone, pushing your team to bring their best everyday.
4. Invest in remote communication tools, and teach best practices
Chances are you already used Zoom, Slack, or Google Meetings. Many companies assume that the digital tools they already use will make the transition to a fully remote team seamless.
While they help, you can’t assume they are a silver bullet for successful remote work.
First, you need to teach your team best practices on how to use existing software in a fully remote work setup. For example, create guidelines that facilitate discussions in Zoom so no one person takes too much airtime. You can also train people to always go on mute when not speaking. For Slack, explain how to use and respect the do not disturb functionality.
Outside of the usual suspects, you should also consider other tools that can help your team work remotely. Lattice, for example, is an HR tool that can help with goal setting and personal development. It enables quick and transparent feedback processes. Loom is a communication tool that allows you to easily take screen recordings while adding commentary. Tools like these can further improve a team’s remote communication.
5. Reduce video conferences
With the switch to working from home, Zoom meetings are now part of everyone’s day to day. At some point in the day, you’re likely hopping on at least one video call to connect with your team.
With this comes Zoom fatigue. Being on video call forces you to be always present. If you look away from the camera, your team will notice this. You end up concentrating and paying more attention that you would in a regular in person meeting.
This is mentally taxing. Add numerous video calls throughout the day, and you’ll end up being exhausted and lose productivity.
Instead, try limiting the number of meetings your team has. For example, if the goal of the meeting is just to share information, consider emailing a presentation. Or if you do stand ups over video, try doing them over Slack.
Not only will this prevent Zoom exhaustion, you’ll save your team valuable time, and improve their productivity.
Always learn and experiment
Every team is unique, and what works for one company to improve productivity might not work for another. Always try to improve your remote setup. Attend remote work events to get new ideas. The more you experiment, the more you’ll learn what works for your team.