9 Tips to Keep Your Remote Team On Task
If you are not in the same office as the team you manage, how do you know if they are productive and on task every day? You know that checking every decision before they make it and tracking their every move isn’t the way to go, so how do you ensure your remote team is getting things done?
One of the best ways to keep your team productive and on task is to empower them to feel confident about their decisions and to know when to ask for help. Here are some tips to get you started.
9 Tips to Help Your Remote Team Be Productive
1. Get to Know the Team Beyond Their Roles
When the whole team is remote, it can be tricky getting to know everyone on a personal level. Random chats about random topics are less likely to occur, making it harder for people to connect.
To help the team bond, try initiating fun, casual conversations with the team. You can learn more about someone in 15 minutes of play than you can in an entire week of work, so try opening every meeting with an ice breaker. Or, share a personal (and work-friendly!) story about yourself, so others feel more comfortable sharing more information about their personal lives.
2. Get To Know Their Work Style
Getting to know your team on a personal level is only the first step. It’s equally important to understand how each person solves work-related problems.
Ask your staff how they tackle problems and how they solve them. This can be about a current or recent project. The answers will help you better understand how each team member approaches their tasks.
Once you know individuals’ work and personality types, you will have a much easier time communicating what you want and defining tasks that are in line with their particular skill set.
3. Set Communication Expectations
Tapping someone on the shoulder in an office for a quick question is crucial for course-correcting, avoiding bottlenecks, and increasing collaboration. But how do you recreate this in a virtual office?
First, consider the two types of communications that often happen in a distributed workplace:
- Synchronous communication: information is exchanged in real time (phone calls and instant messages)
- Asynchronous communication: information is not exchanged in real time (making a note in a project collaboration tool or adding a document to a shared drive)
While your company likely uses several of these tools to communicate, how you use them can have a tremendous impact on productivity.
Set up a culture where people know when it is appropriate to use a tool. For instance, you can set expectations in the following ways:
- If you need a quick answer to something, send an instant message.
- If you need to discuss a question or idea, send an instant message to set up a video call.
- If something is an FYI or not urgent, but you would like a response, send an email.
- If you want to show your progress on a collaborative project, update that project in your project management tool.
Setting these expectations helps everyone communicate and collaborate the same way. This, in turn, helps them manage their expectations and keeps them productive. For example, if someone has a question that can wait, they know they can send an email to you, then work on something else while they wait for your response.
4. Use If/Then Statements
Scoping out a project with a remote team requires precise instructions. If something isn’t clear and it takes too long to get an answer, bottlenecks can develop, reducing overall productivity. But if you anticipate roadblocks that people might face during a project, including if/then statements in the instructions will help increase productivity.
Let’s say you instruct a designer to duplicate a landing page design, but with different copy. What happens if the copy is too long and does not fit the design? Let the designer know in the scope of work that if they run into this problem, then they should either shrink the copy font to fit or adjust the design to fit the copy—whichever looks better.
This way, the designer doesn’t get stuck on the fact that something does not fit the original scope, and they don’t need your guidance to get them past it. Viola! You just helped empower them to make a decision on their own, saved time, and you both feel good about it.
5. Ask for Questions
Having a firm understanding of the direction of a project comes from having solid directions, but sometimes instructions aren’t as straightforward as you’d hoped.
So, how do you avoid having people feel insecure about the direction of their work? Encourage them to ask questions. Create an environment where people feel safe asking the simplest of questions, and you will save countless hours of pointless work headed in the wrong direction.
6. Daily Check-Ins
Regardless of the tool you use, checking in daily will help keep everyone working in the same direction. It allows people to get to know each other personally, ask any questions they might have, correct the direction of any projects, and build team cohesion. This does not have to be structured or formal. In fact, it is probably better if it isn’t. Just make sure there is some sort of communication between you and your team every day.
7. Individual Check-Ins
In addition to daily check-ins with the team, individual check-ins with staff can also help build a better relationship with your staff members that helps boost productivity.
Weekly or even biweekly meetings give you and individual team members a chance to talk through any challenges that team member may face. It’s also an opportunity for you to provide thoughtful, meaningful feedback about their work.
Over time, these meetings can help you better understand how your staff work and give them the chance to better understand how you manage. This mutual understanding helps build trust, which helps improve productivity.
8. Flexible Schedules
Tying into how employees work, allowing them to work flexible hours can help improve productivity in more ways than you imagine.
For starters, flexible scheduling lets people work whenever they are most productive. Beyond that, though, flexible hours allow people to find work-life balance, and that harmony helps them be productive.
For example, if they have to attend to a personal matter in the middle of the day, flexible hours let them do so without feeling that they are skipping out on work or letting the team down. They can finish the work later, or perhaps finish it earlier that day!
9. Start With Trust
Finally, one of the best ways to help your team be productive and stay on task is to trust that they are getting the work done.
Of course, this doesn’t mean taking their word for it. Establishing clear metrics and a way to measure team members’ output gives you a clear and distinct way to see if the work is or is not getting done. If they aren’t meeting those goals, then it’s time to reevaluate the goals and help the employee figure out where they are getting stuck.
By following these tips, you can help your team be confident that you trust them to get the work done and can help them be confident they are making the right decision for the project.
For more advice on how to manage a remote team, check out our Q and As from other remote companies.
By Rachel Pelta | Categories: Remote Management