With many companies having to go remote over the past couple of years, or at least having to speed up existing plans to work more flexibly, there have been plenty of advantages discovered. In general, employees are just as productive at home, if not more so. However, the employers and managers in the team also have less ability to steer and organize that work towards certain goals, or so it would seem. You can still make sure that your team remains organized and efficient in meeting the right goals. You simply need the right tools and methods.
Make sure that your expectations are known
While remote workers tend not to have a problem with overall productivity, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be working on the same page as you. If you have any expectations as to how they are supposed to do their work, report to their superiors, or meet their objectives, then you need to make sure that you are setting out those expectations. Make them clear early and remind them of them, often. This can include not just how they do their work, but also any policies around workplace communications, such as out-of-hours emails or texts. However, you need to be careful that you don’t overstep your bounds with any of these rules.
Staying in communication
One of the real big disadvantages of being out of the workplace is not being able to pop by for a quick chat anymore. As such, the process of checking on work progress, making small changes, providing feedback, or even just asking how it is going can feel a lot more formal. Especially if it is done in an email or over the phone. As such, many companies have found a need for a new digital “water cooler,” somewhere that they get used to communicating throughout the day. Remote communication software like Slack is making it a lot easier to maintain this frequent contact throughout the day. You don’t need to mandate that your team uses it regularly, but basic daily updates and keeping it open so you can establish a quick chat can be vital.
The face-to-face is important, too
Remote communication tools like those mentioned can help you make sure that you’re able to reach your employees. However, it’s about more than just being able to check in. The work environment creates an expectation of professionalism and ongoing productivity that can be very much lacking from remote working. Furthermore, people are feeling more isolated as a result of remote working and have more trouble collaborating with colleagues, even if there are tools to easily keep in touch. Having regular video chats with Panopto and similar tools for meetings, brainstorming, and work reviews can help you keep the face-to-face active in your business, which is going to benefit both the business and the team.
Understand the workflow
Before you can begin to manage the inner workings of how your team gets their work done, you have to understand what their workflow is, to begin with. The workflow is the basic step-by-step of how processes get completed. It takes into account what resources and what labor is required, then each step, using the necessary resources, to reach the outcome. There is workflow mapping software like Lucidchart that you can use to get a better understanding of how your team does their work. This software can also be used to systematize their work, meaning that any new team member who has to take on that responsibilty has a framework that they can follow to get to grips with it quickly and do it more productively.
Keep an easy trackable schedule of the work that needs to be done
Aside from ensuring that they are productive in the first place, you can better direct your team’s efforts by keeping a schedule of what objectives each team or worker should be hitting throughout the day. For instance, you can make use of resource scheduling software from Visual Planning that can allow you to organize across the entire team, planning out company jobs, tasks, and even entire projects. You can track more than just employee activity, you can also track resources, as well as the time and costs associated with different types of tasks to make sure that you’re fully aware of how much of your operational capacity needs to go towards certain objectives.
Keep track of what work they are doing
Laying out specific plans of what work your team should be doing, and what resources they need to do it, is only one step. You need to make sure that they’re actually getting it done, and one of the ways to do that is to keep track of their work with work-from-home employee software. This can allow you to check in on the work that they’re doing, as well as give them a convenient platform to submit proof of completed tasks. You can cross-reference this with your scheduled goals to make sure that the workday is going ahead as planned, especially when there are time-sensitive goals to hit.
Give them the tools to prioritize their own work
If you don’t have large projects that need to be managed across multiple teams, then you can instead give employees the tools to be more productive by giving them the tools that allow for better self-organization. For instance, there are tools like the Priority Matrix that allow individuals to split up the tasks on their to-do list and arrange them, putting the highest priority and most urgent tasks to the front, while putting off the work that can be left to another day. Many employees who do not have experience in organizing themselves can use these tools to make sure that they’re hitting necessary goals.
Focus more on the outcome than the play-by-play
One of the big risks of paying more attention to how your employees are working is that you can get close to micro-managing them. This is bad for everyone’s morale, including yours. While you may need to keep an eye on certain specific goals, you should make sure that you’re taking the right approach to how you manage them. For instance, instead of keeping too close an eye on the methods that they are using to complete their work, you can instead make sure that you’re only keeping an eye on the outcomes. You can use key performance indicators as outcomes to track while you’re waiting for the final objective of the work that they’re doing, so you can check and see that they’re on track without interrupting or micro-managing them.
Help them manage their own distractions
One of the real disadvantages of remote work is the ease with which employees can let distractions get in the way of their work. Some of these can be managed by helping them find an appropriate working space and time of day to be productive. However, internal sources of distraction are just as important to manage as external sources. This can include, for instance, spending too much time going through their email inbox, which can be managed by ensuring they have set periods of the day to check and organize their inbox. Another risk is that of browsing websites that aren’t relevant to their work, which can be managed with website blockers.
Give them the option for feedback
There are plenty of employers and managers that have gone too far when it comes to imposing their authority over remote workers. Too much surveillance, too many demands without realistically taking into account worker needs, and general adversity to employees having more control over their own working lives have brought out the worst in some of the bad actors out there. To make sure that you are not going down this route, you should make sure that you are opening channels through which your team can provide feedback. Take seriously what they have to say. Even giving them the chance to be heard can help them be more motivated and feel like their needs are being taken seriously.
Understand the need for flexibility and openness
The shift to remote work affects your employees just as much as it affects your business. You are relying on them to be able to provide the time necessary as well as the appropriate work environment to be able to hit their productivity targets throughout the day. As such, you have to understand that your team members are each going to have their own circumstances to deal with. Try to keep your workplace a little more open and flexible in order to help them reduce stress so that if they need to change their work hours that they are able to do so. Otherwise, you can be forcing demands that are very difficult to meet for those with families or other at-home circumstances to work around.
While there are very few hard disadvantages to working with a remote team, there’s no denying that it requires some effort to make sure that your team is doing the work as you want it. Keep the tips above in mind to fix that.