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5 Ways to Boost Remote Team Productivity with Tips for Working from Home

Remote work has been gaining acceptance over the years, but as teams were thrust headfirst into a remote-first world this past year, without much preparation, the world of remote work has drastically needed to evolve just as much as those who have needed to adapt to it. With these shifts, many teams have found themselves faced with several challenges, those of which have directly and indirectly affected their productivity levels. With the tips for working from home that we'll share with you here, your team will be better prepared in managing productivity of remote workers in your team.

Regardless of whether you've started working remotely only during the pandemic or were already accustomed to working from home before, finding ways to improve your team's productivity while working remotely, was likely already something that was on your radar, but may not have necessarily been something you had fully mastered. Don't worry though, we're all in the same boat learning as well go along, and that's completely fine. What's most important is that we learn from the challenges that are presented to us, and take actionable steps towards improvement.

The pandemic has created a huge amount of fear and uncertainty among many of us, and it's about time we started identifying practical solutions to work through our productivity blocks. The practical steps we'll share will act as valuable tools to help you support your teams in moving forward more productively.

Some of the main difficulties teams are facing lately, and which have resulted in decreased productivity are the following:

  • Asynchronous working schedules creating communication challenges
  • Trouble keeping teams motivated and engaged
  • Team members finding it challenging to manage at-home distractions and taking appropriate time-off from work

The challenges we've mentioned above not only worsen team productivity but contribute to many side effects which often result in long term damage to a person's ability to maintain a high level of productivity.  Some of these side effects include burnout, lack of engagement, and poor job satisfaction. To avoid these, or at least lessen the severity, there are a few practical steps you can implement now that will make a huge difference down the line.

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Connected, Engaged & Productive: Tips for Working from Home

  1. Create accountability with regular check-ins
  2. Set long term goals that are connected to your daily tasks
  3. Define the main communication channel and stick to it
  4. Increase the quality of your meetings (perhaps decreasing their frequency)
  5. Make space for those 'water cooler' conversations.

1. Create accountability with regular Check-ins

One of the downsides of working from home is that work often goes unnoticed. What you type away on your keyboard all day is not typically seen by your team or manager. This feeling that no-one is aware of what you're doing, makes it easy to hide, become complacent, or disengage with your work.

Instead, it's important to find ways to improve visibility so that members of your team can see what you're working on without needing to ask. Take it to the next level by getting everyone to state what they hope to achieve on a daily and weekly basis. Setting intentions and updating your progress on them leads to better transparency within the team. Not only that, a positive social pressure to achieve goals is created, and together with positive reinforcement when progress is achieved, often boosts productivity.

Implementing a daily check-in

Typically daily stand-ups follow the format of, 'here's what I've done, and here's what I'm working on'. This daily call can often turn into a monotonous status update when poorly conducted. An easy way to create accountability is to set up a dedicated channel on Slack or Teams and get your team to post a daily check-in. The idea of having your team state their aim for the day and give an update on their progress are actions that serve to provide accountability and promote transparency. A daily check-in tool allows you to get more out of your daily check-ins and ensures the intentions you set, are followed up with.

Accountability is a huge game player when it comes to boosting productivity. And, accountability often comes along with a factor of recognition. It's simple, but we often forget to reward our team for a job well done; even the little wins deserve to be celebrated. It's these acts of recognition that contribute to a boost of confidence, morale, and productivity.

So, how can you improve recognition for your team's effort? These are a few easy, yet highly effective ways:

  • Make time on your team Zoom calls to give kudos to those who deserve a shout out.
  • Display your team check-ins to your chat so others can actively comment and react to celebrate small achievements.
  • Use a tool like Bonus.ly to encourage even more public recognition via gamification

2. Connect daily tasks to larger goals

Startups and tech teams have adopted OKR's (Objectives and Key Results) to define measurable goals for their team. When clearly defined, these OKR's are effective tools towards achieving larger goals, but what often happens is they get lost in spreadsheets, and become disconnected from the tracking tools your team uses to manage their daily work. This problem is exaggerated in a remote work scenario, where it's not always possible to keep objectives at the forefront of your mind.

Look for ways to ensure that your team can keep their goals/objectives in clear view each day, and make sure they have a clear understanding of how their daily tasks connect to these objectives.

3. Define your main communication channel

While for team communication you can use any type of messenger tool that aligns with your team's communication style, what's key is consistency. Define one core channel of communication that will help your whole team stay in touch. Having a main channel of communication allows you to store messaging history and search for important conversations that are crucial for solving tasks quickly.

Our preferred tool of choice is Slack - in terms of usability, it's super simple to play around with and you can integrate almost any external tool you need for work - from Jira to Mailchimp and most importantly, the integration to Where.

4. Make space for those 'water cooler' conversations

Although it may be thought that those coffee chats and water cooler conversations are a waste of time, they are quite the opposite. There definitely needs to be a balance between work and casual conversations, but then again, workplace conversations shouldn't be all work and no play.

A connected team is one that is more happy, trusting of each other, and cohesive. The importance of casual non-work-related conversations is vitally important to productivity. For this reason, leaders should intentionally create time and space for the non-work banter. Casual chats are absolutely necessary for remote teams to get to know each other, build trust, unity and also provide a much needed physical and mental break. A few ways to initiate this non-work banter include:

  • Try spotlighting team members in team discussions with 'get-to-know-you questions or team trivia. Getting everyone to reveal a little of their personalities/ home life and hobbies, goes a long way to building social capital in your remote team.
  • Highlight birthdays and celebrate non-work-related wins. Make space in chats or meetings to get your team to reveal their personal milestones, challenges, or life-wins.
  • Share the challenges of remote work. With distractions a-plenty, it can be tough to get in the groove of working from home. Encourage your team to share their challenges and the tricks they each use to overcome the isolation or distractions of WFH. Remember, we're all in this together, and sharing the challenges your team may be facing, is hugely beneficial in supporting others through the struggles.

5. Working from home tips for success - Reconsider your meetings

Remote collaboration meetings, especially the daily status update, can turn from a status update to a full report meeting. We've chatted to a number of people who have expressed frustration over the number of meetings they have to attend. The main feeling was like they were simply going through the motions on the daily call, attending because it was required, but feeling incredibly disengaged with these meetings as they provided no real value to them. One of the main working from home tips for success is redefining these meetings altogether.

Pro tip - Consider eliminating the status update component of your team meetings, and instead spend your time focusing on blockers, or higher-level topics like goals, and business or product challenges. Many teams are finding that this means they're replacing daily status calls with longer bi-weekly meetings for more in-depth discussions. Try aiming for longer, higher value discussions over frequent status updates.

Boosting productivity for remote teams may seem like an uphill struggle, given the circumstances. But establishing accountability on an intrinsic level in teams, helping employees prioritize their work, and creating an environment that encourages employees to interact with each other informally is undoubtedly a good start. These suggestions can help teams improve their engagement with their work and, in turn, boost productivity.

Finally, here are few lesser-known tools for remote teams to help you on your way to boosting remote team productivity:

  1. Bonus.ly - To encourage and gamify recognition of great work
  2. Where - The more social way for hybrid teams to schedule their days in the office and see where everyone's working from.... right inside Slack!
  3. GTMHub.com - A dedicated tool for teams who use OKR's
  4. Slack.com - A single point of communication

Following the above tips for working from home within a remote team will allow you to boost your team's productivity and thus, set them on the path to achieving all the goals and objectives they've set. For more remote team support, check out the Where blog.