6 Ways to Improve Remote Team Workflow
Remote work means a lot of autonomy and freedom in how you work. You’re often free to choose what hours you work, sometimes where you work, and how you get your work done. But remote work doesn’t necessarily mean you work alone. You’re most likely part of a team, which means you contribute to the company’s overall goals.
And if you’re a manager, it’s up to you to make sure that each team member does the part to achieve these goals. When someone isn’t accomplishing their tasks on time, your team’s workflow will slow down—maybe even stop. And it’s up to you to help get things “unstuck.”
So on a remote team, what can people do to improve team workflow and remove bottlenecks?
6 Ways to Improve Remote Team Workflow
1. Identify Bottlenecks
A bottleneck can broadly be defined as anything that slows down a task or process, diverts time and resources into less-than-useful pursuits, or holds up a task or project from moving forward or being completed.
There are some common bottlenecks whether you work in an office or are 100% remote. These include:
- Having inadequate, out-of-date, or less-than-useful tools or software
- Temporary, unexpected technology issues, such as a power outage, slow or down internet service, broken or wonky web conferencing software, etc.
- Miscommunicating expectations or not being clear on the goal of a project or task
- Not having access to needed information
- Having one person be responsible for too much
- Too many meetings where the goal isn’t to help move along tasks and projects
2. Figure Out What’s Blocking Your Team
The best way to figure out the disruption(s) in your remote team’s workflow is to ask them!
On a given day, what throws them off course? Where do they get hung up? What are their biggest questions about how things “work” around the “office”? What information do they wish they had access to? What technology do they use that is outdated or unreliable? What tools do they constantly wish they had?
When do they feel like the bottleneck holding something up? What do they see as the biggest blockers to their productivity?
There are a lot of ways to phrase these questions, and some questions that are even more pointed or specific to your team may help you pinpoint the root causes of your workflow bottlenecks.
3. Clear the Blocks
Start with a brainstorming session to ask team members to discuss what’s stopping them (or the whole team) from finishing a task or project. Giving people a safe space to discuss their challenges can help them bond with the team and invite other team members to offer solutions that have worked for them.
Some coworkers may have experienced the same challenges and can share how they overcame them. Others have a random bit of knowledge that they didn’t know would be helpful to share. That piece of information could save the blocked person countless hours and frustration.
And sometimes, it helps us pinpoint when a person is actually the bottleneck, which lets you examine their responsibilities and either shift things around to free up their time or hire new talent to help lessen responsibilities.
If technology is to blame for some of your blockers, start investigating other options for software, apps, or programs to replace those that aren’t working well for your team. Consider testing several options before deciding which ones work best for your team.
4. Prevent New Bottlenecks From Forming
With the old bottlenecks cleared, your next task is to ensure new ones don’t form.
Start by establishing clear expectations about staff performance. How will you measure productivity or effectiveness? Stating what, when, and how you’re measuring performance will help staff improve their processes to make sure they aren’t causing a workflow bottleneck. And it helps you identify when the workflow is off and gives you a chance to find solutions.
Then, create a centralized location to communicate processes and procedures. This helps people get the information they need to solve problems on their own and keep the work flowing. Likewise, invest in a project management and collaboration tool so the team knows where every project stands and who is working on what.
5. Embrace Asynchronous Communication
One of the hallmarks of working on a remote team is that communications often aren’t instantaneous. Staff can’t just pop into your office to ask a question, and random encounters in the break room never happen.
Communications often take place over email and instant messaging, which requires planning, and it can take “a while” to have a conversation. But that’s OK—even expected—in a remote work setting, and embracing asynchronous communications can actually speed workflow up.
When staff know it will take some time to get an answer, they know they are free to work on a different task. This stops bottlenecks from forming on other projects. And it empowers the message recipient not to drop everything to answer one email, giving them the time they need to do deep work and continue being productive.
6. Schedule Live Check-Ins
Though asynchronous communications are essential in a remote work setting, another way to improve workflow is through synchronous check-ins with staff. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, face-to-face (or live but cameras off) meetings can keep things running smoothly. Furthermore, check-ins give employees a chance to ask questions and get clarification. It also gives you an opportunity to ask how things are going, ensure they aren’t facing any challenges, and implement any changes if they are.
Also, schedule a regular meeting with your entire team so everyone has a chance to check in, ask questions, and update each other on where things stand. This can help prevent bottlenecks before they form. For example, if someone is going on vacation, alerting the team lets coworkers adjust their process so tasks are not held up for a week or more.
Keep Things Flowing
While an individual’s performance can cause bottlenecks for your team, often it’s the processes, procedures, or technology that slow things down. Taking the time to poll your team about their challenges and giving them the tools to overcome them will help ensure your team keeps producing their best work and doesn’t fall behind.
To learn more about leading a remote team, check out our Q and A’s.
By Brie Weiler Reynolds | Categories: Remote Management