Remote Work 101: Productivity Hacks for Remote Teams
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With the rising trend of remote working, teams across the world have begun exploring the benefits of distributed collaboration.
Zero commutes, a better chance at work-life balance, an improved focus on mental health, and of course, the opportunity to do far more with less.
With the time and cost savings working remotely produces, it’s expected that remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts.
In reality, it’s not always smooth sailing.
From work-life mix-ups, consistent distractions, all the way to that tendency to get back in bed for ‘just 30 minutes and no more’, productivity can actually take a hit when remote working isn’t planned and executed smartly.
This isn’t a failure of remote working as a philosophy, but rather a result of remote working not done well.
When executed smartly, remote working can boost productivity and help teams from small startups to Fortune 500 companies drive more results with less overhead.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on productivity killers when your team is working remotely and all the hacks you can employ to get yourself back on track.
Productivity killers when working remotely
Without the safety of an established in-office culture where working systems and processes have been long established, there are several things out to get you distracted when working from home or collaborating remotely. These include:
We all know what silos are—and we hate them.
Thanks to the huge mashup of collaboration tools we use, modern teams have their work scattered across numerous spaces where it’s hard to get out from. From Slack to Trello, there are countless apps where one functionality or another is locked up.
With all these apps each having different functionalities, how do teams coordinate all their work in one place? How can you do your best work when you have to stay fragmented across a handful of tools?
This is why work siloing is such a productivity killer for remote working.
Instead of passing knowledge across seamlessly, team members have to manually take the information generated in one platform to another—wasting the time that’d have served for doing more productive work in the process.
Simply put, when the apps you do all your work from don’t even agree, it’s only expected for productivity to take a hit since now the remote team has to:
- Spend time moving information from one platform to another
- Spend even more time updating team members on any changes,
- Waste time manually building consensus on the points scattered across all the tools you work from.
Digital divide—loss of the human touch
Remote work separates team members and gets everyone working from home, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or wherever you think would be a great workspace—as long as you get your work done.
And while that offers remote workers more time for work-life balance, an interesting problem eventually pops up.
How do you maintain the team spirit that’s critical for doing your best work as a team?
Of course, it’s already been established: people work better around those they love, trust, and respect. So, for a team—remote included—to do their best work, there must be a strong team bond between individual coworkers and the team as a whole.
Now, here’s where remote work might miss it. In the race to tackle other issues that may come up with remote working, teams may disregard the place of the human touch. This results in a fundamental disconnect where the remote team struggles to understand, appreciate, and help one another.
The result? Remote work then stops working.
Overwork and burnout
In an in-office environment, it’s natural to want to do more so your team can know you’re capable and dependable no matter what comes up. In a remote environment, more so.
Driven by the desire to stay hyper-productive and not be the weak link, remote team members could feel pressured to overwork and even surpass in-office targets. Over time, this leads to physical burnout and eventually drives the productivity of the individuals and the team as a whole precariously close to zero.
Once remote team members begin to think that they’re resting while everyone else is pushing the company ahead, it’s easy to disregard work timetables and exceed your working hours drastically. In the long run, the team’s work draws to a halt when anyone’s health fails, and this defeats the very idea of remote working.
Put all these factors we mentioned above together and remote working simply stops to work.
In an environment where remote working isn’t smartly leveraged to get team members on the same page, it’s only a matter of time before productivity drops.
How to boost productivity when working remotely
Now, we know that things like:
- trying to be Spiderman for your team,
- focusing more on the processes and not the people working with you, and
- using a thousand and one tools to manage your work,
can only serve to drop productivity when working remotely. Here’s a list of what to do instead to build a culture of productivity on a remote team.
Create a people-first culture
Managers, this is for you.
People are the sauce of remote work. After all, remote work is simply a number or people collaborating together from wherever they work best.
So, for remote work to work, you must deliberately build a culture that focuses more on your team and the human-human connection vs. just geeking out over your tools and processes. People, not just processes.
To achieve this, every remote team must prioritize:
- Team-building activities, get-togethers, etc. Create avenues for team members to get to know each other.
- Leveraging remote for team-building. If you’re using Zoom to talk about work issues, then you might as well schedule a weekly chat where team members can get together to discuss any (non-intrusive) personal matters they might want others to share in. It helps reveal vulnerability, and above all, brings out the human part of you. Do it.
Here at Kissflow, the human-human connection is a huge part of it for us. Everyone gets their birthdays, work anniversaries, and work highlights shared on our digital workplace.
It helps us bond and builds a family culture that makes us who we are. The result? A glowing remote team experience that we don’t ever get tired of.
That could be your team as well.
Prioritize your work
As the saying goes, if you’ve got a frog to swallow, start with the biggest first.
As funny as that sounds, intelligent task management can serve as a huge productivity booster, especially when working remotely.
Prioritizing your to-do list helps you get down to the critical tasks that require more deep work earlier so before you plateau each day, you’ll be able to get these most significant tasks out the door.
One huge hack that really helps when working remotely is to start working very early in the morning, just after you wake. Before you take a break 3 – 4 hours later, you’d have churned out the key points on your to-do list first. After that, you can settle into a slower cadence and begin ticking off your smaller tasks gradually.
For improved productivity when working remotely, you should definitely:
- Start working early,
- Start with the biggest tasks, and,
- Don’t stop until these biggies are ticked off.
Disclaimer: Our ‘swallow a frog’ illustration was purely metaphorical, please don’t go about squeezing reptiles down your throat.
Reduce meetings to the barest minimum — essentials only & quickly
Meetings are notorious time wasters across organizations of all sizes.
The stats? Not flattering.
Team members report spending up to 23 hours in meetings every week. A stunning 57.5% of productive working time, or 30 weeks back-to-back in a 52-week year.
Now, imagine how bad it gets when you have to keep having mini-meetings over Zoom at least once daily.
But not to worry. The main productivity tip for meetings is to curtail them and make sure they’re laser-focused. This way, you’ll have less meetings that should have been emails and thereby, spend more time getting work done.
To hack remote productivity with better meeting management, you can also:
- Schedule a time bracket for each meeting, and stick to it,
- Create a clear agenda for every meeting,
- Have a member responsible for piloting the meeting, avoiding distractions, etc., and
- Send out brief memos ahead of time so team members can brainstorm lightly before any strategy-type meeting.
Meetings are great, except when they start off bad. Guard against bad meetings.
Work-life balance matters — practice self-care
While it can be tempting to get heads down and work nonstop for hours on end, it’s also nice to take a break often. After all, you can only do your best work when your mental and emotional health is top-notch.
As a member of a remote team, you must take time to maintain your personal life, grow excellent connections with family and friends, and build a robust social support structure.
As a manager, you must encourage teammates to do their very best work, work their hardest, but nothing beyond that.
Some ideas you can implement include:
- Challenging team members to get out there and have fun, maybe a Work-Life Challenge or something,
- Encouraging team members to speak up if their workload is tougher than they can handle,
Be firm with distractions
Your work family and your family family love you. But that might not always play out distraction-wise.
Whether it’s your cat sneaking around the room, or Doug from marketing sending you random Star Wars memes, it’s 10X easier getting distracted when you’re working remotely.
For home-based distractions, you can:
- Set clear boundaries
- Find a workspace where you won’t be disturbed,
- Resolve issues before they come up—preferably, the night before.
For team-based distractions, you can also:
- Set clear boundaries. Update your status accordingly to let everyone know when you’re heads down.
- Check Slack, email, etc., only once in a couple of hours. Checking Slack often eventually gets you to Facebook, and on, and on, until the day runs out.
P.S: And Doug, if you’re reading this, try not to send memes during working hours. Not exactly a life-changing offer, you know.
Simplify communication with a digital workplace
Like we mentioned earlier, scattered work offers a significant hurdle for remote working.
A digital workplace which gives you one place to manage all your work, simplify tech overload, and makes it easier for everyone on a remote team to easily access the knowledge they need.
Everyone on your team gets to spend more time doing work vs. searching through a bunch of apps for the information they need.
Remote teams are unique in the sense that they’re basically asynchronous & knowledge-driven. Everyone doesn’t have to be on the same page at the same time.
On the other hand, information availability is critical so that members of a remote team can have the knowledge they need to deliver results all in one place and at their fingertips.
So, if you constantly find members of your remote team jumping through Slack, Google Docs, Asana, Trello, and several other tools to find the information they need to work, you need a digital workplace solution.
Kissflow offers remote teams a simple, easy-to-use platform where you can:
- Organize all your work,
- Collaborate with zero friction, and,
- Drive consensus with less time.
Put all that together, and you have one place to put all your work vs. 17+ apps and counting.
Kissflow reduces the time-to-knowledge for your remote team so every team member can get informed faster and focus more on doing. As a result, you can cut down significantly on distractions and boost productivity significantly.
Take Kissflow Digital Workplace for a spin right away.