To help your remote team do their best work, you need to have the right tools and practices in place. Here’s how to lay the groundwork for remote productivity.
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The first steam-powered train in 1825* connected the English towns of Stockton and Darlington. At a breathtaking 15 miles per hour, this new form of transportation made it easier to move people as well as coal. Connecting the two towns also opened up new opportunities and meant people could work together like never before.
Of course, that wasn’t the beginning of this story—it took a lot of teamwork to lay the rails before that train could run.
Remote team productivity is the engine powering your business. And, just like the first steam-powered train, it doesn’t just happen on its own—you need to lay the tracks to help your teams reach their goals.
Without the right foundation or understanding of what productivity and efficiency mean for remote teams, you might as well be driving a horse-drawn carriage down a modern freeway.
For example, remote team productivity might mean giving your team the right tools to make it easier for everyone to collaborate and stay focused rather than obsessing over how many hours they put in each day, or establishing a company culture where everyone feels empowered to do their best instead of worrying about making mistakes.
On the other hand, efficiency might mean making sure they can always access the information they need, so they can get on with work async instead of waiting for others to come online or wasting time trying to figure out the status of projects or tasks.
Regardless of how you define efficiency, to empower your remote or hybrid teams, you need to create a positive virtual culture and lay the groundwork that influences behavior and supports productivity. We’ll look at some best practices and show you how to do that.
Ready to lay the tracks for remote team productivity?
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9 best practices for great remote team productivity
To lay the right groundwork for full-throttle remote team productivity, it’s important to keep a few best practices in mind.
Remember: use these best practices to help you create an environment where people feel comfortable asking for help and feedback. Then, your team can solve problems together and no one feels like they have to work–or walk–alone.
By doing so, you get more diverse thoughts and ideas, stronger workplace friendships, and a productive environment that encourages real collaboration.
Let’s dive in.
1. Create a remote team culture of conscious productivity
When you’re managing a remote team, you need to make sure people have time to lead a full life in and out of work.
By creating a culture of curiosity around why people work the way they do, you can start to pinpoint the remote workflows that work for your team, including any gaps. Then, you can provide a roadmap to greater remote team productivity.
To create a remote culture of conscious productivity:
- Survey employees about how they work remotely, and what works for them. Use your results to make sure everyone feels supported in their workflows and spot any gaps or opportunities.
- Encourage employees to schedule deep focus time so that they can get their work done and be able to enjoy their lives. When someone has scheduled a focus block on their calendar, be sure everyone knows not to interfere with them at that time.
One place to start is to help your employees to recognize their most productive hours of the day.
For example, if they have flexible schedules, show them how to get the most out of their working hours and why efficiency and productivity benefits them. If they’re efficient and focused on their work, they’ll get it done in less time. If, however, they’re getting distracted throughout the day and not using their time well, then they’ll actually spend more time at work. That means it’ll take longer and they’ll end up logging off later.
Some questions you can ask yourself and your team are:
- Why do I work the way I do?
- Would I be happier and more productive if I worked differently?
- What are my blind spots?
- How can I be more engaged and produce my best work?
2.Create the conditions for collaboration
When you create the right conditions for collaboration, you can create a positive virtual culture and lay the foundations for remote team productivity—kind of like keeping a train running on track—and on time.
For example, one obstacle to productivity for remote and hybrid teams is overwhelm caused by too many apps, browser tabs, and notifications.
In fact, a recent Harvard study found that employees toggle between apps and windows more than 3,600 times a day. So there’s a “toggle tax” we pay every time we switch between applications. That includes the time it takes to adjust to the application, what you need to do, and why. At 2 seconds per toggle, that adds up to over an hour a day.
That’s a lot of time that could be better spent pushing forward with your team.
To create the right conditions for collaboration and limit your team’s toggle tax:
- Use a team collaboration tool that reduces the number of apps and browsers you need to switch between. For example, Switchboard lets you collaborate with your team on all your projects, files, and documents in your permanent meeting room so you never need to toggle between apps while you’re working together.
- Do a tech audit of your communication channels and the tools you use daily. Ask your team what they use most and what’s slowing them down so you know exactly what tools to keep to serve their specific needs. Perhaps there are a few apps you can take out—saving your team time and money.
3. Streamline your communications channels
To avoid information overload and silos, use the insights from your tech audit to figure out which communication channels your team uses most and how.
For example, let’s say you use Slack for quick, daily communication and check-ins, and Asana for task-related project management communication. Knowing that lets you ditch any unnecessary tools and focus on just those two. That way, you get more streamlined communication across the company and everyone will also know where to go to find specific information, so less gets lost.
Pro tip: Unify all your communication channels in Switchboard rooms for easy access to important Slack conversations, email threads, and tasks during team meetings. Get caught up quickly and always know where to go to find what you’re looking for.
4. Run more productive meetings
Team meetings are a regular snapshot of how well your team is doing and how well they’re managing their tasks and time. They’re also a great place to help set your remote team up for more productive, collaborative working. You can also make the most of team ‘together’ time to reduce stress and lighten their load by redirecting work away from people who are overwhelmed and towards people with more time on their hands.
Here’s how to run productive meetings and better support your team:
- Set a clear meeting agenda and share before. Make sure you’re going into each meeting with a clear understanding of your goals, why you’re holding the meeting, and what you want to discuss.
- Establish meeting ground rules. Set communication guidelines to create a psychologically safe environment where people can feel vulnerable and give and receive feedback during group collaboration or problem-solving sessions. For example, make sure everyone has time to speak and that no one gets interrupted.
- Set up your meeting room in advance: Having everything in place will save time on the call so you can get more done. Tools like Switchboard let you access your meeting room whenever you want so you can populate it with relevant meeting content and documents in advance.
Add action items and recordings to your virtual meeting room: Switchboard also lets you take notes, record meetings, and add action items directly to your permanent meeting room. Everything you add remains in place so you can pick up where you left off next time, which saves a ton of time.
5. Use the right tools
Traditional video conferencing software is great for talking but not so much for doing. One-way screen sharing makes it harder to work together in a meeting and collectively chase a train of thought.
For example, let’s say your marketing team wants to collaborate on a new social media campaign. Using a traditional video conferencing tool, one person presents and shares their screen while the other participants wait their turn to contribute or, worse, zone out.
Meetings like this don’t feed into a collaborative and positive working culture.
But only 38% of remote companies have implemented better video conferencing tech designed for collaboration and communication. To get your team on the right track, and form the right behaviors and practices, you need to find the right tools for your needs and collaboration styles. This helps get work done and creates a sense of fulfillment and connection with others, which drives motivation, a rocket fuel for productivity.
Pro tip: Switchboard goes beyond traditional video conferencing with permanent meeting rooms built for remote collaboration. Easily access your room without a meeting link, save key documents, collaborate on files in real time, and go full steam ahead to productive teamwork.
6. Automate wherever possible
Just as the steam engine made it easier to do manual tasks like transporting people and goods, automation frees you up to do what you do best—and makes your team more productive.
For example, your marketing people can automate repetitive manual tasks like email sequences and scheduling social media posts, which means they can focus on high-value tasks like digging deep into customer pains and goals to create better campaigns.
Here are some tools that can help you automate repetitive manual tasks:
- Zapier for connecting all your work apps and automatically ‘zapping’ information across a range of digital tools. For example, sending notifications about a finished project from Asana to Slack.
- HubSpot for automating emails, mapping customer journey touch points, and adaptable sales funnel templates or employee workflows, etc.
- Hootsuite for scheduling social media campaigns, posts, and responses, and for tracking and measuring engagement.
- Airtable for automating project management workflows and tasks, from updating records to sending group emails.
7. Know when to work synchronously and asynchronously
Working across different time zones can make it challenging for remote and hybrid teams to strike the right balance between real-time and async work. And while both types of work are necessary to move things forward, you need to know when it’s the right time to work together and when to let people move ahead on their own.
By giving everyone the chance to work async or in real time together, you reduce the frustration and lack of progress that come from trying to collaborate in the wrong way at the wrong time.
So, what are some examples of when you should collaborate in real time with your team?
- When it’s a complex project. Working side by side with your team can help speed up the flow of information].
- Lots of back and forth needed. Real-time collaboration lets you save time because you can get answers immediately rather than searching email threads and Google Docs comments.
- You’re trying to teach someone. It’s a good idea to hop on a call when you’re onboarding or training people to answer their questions immediately and explain things in more detail.
- If you’re up against a deadline. If you need to get something done quickly, it’s helpful to jump into a meeting and hash out details right then and there. It’s also motivating to know your teammates are there, along for the ride.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard Rooms for real-time collaboration and brainstorming that goes the extra mile. Store files, documents, and materials in the same room you meet in, so you can access your work when it suits you or work side by side during collaborative video calls.
8. Know your employees’ working and communication styles
Everyone has different ways of working and should be able to work in ways that make sense for them, so understanding how each member of your team works best will improve your workflows and productivity.
For example, some team members might prefer to collaborate async and work mostly at night. Others might do better working on projects in real-time with their team, or prefer to work earlier in the day.
This means you’ll need to provide the tools and create the right environment for different working styles. In fact, when you give remote workers the right tools and resources to work from home, their engagement doubles.
You’ll also need to ensure you give them the time they need for focus work. For example, don’t schedule meetings around times blocked for deep focus.
To better know how your employees work and communicate, just ask them using surveys or during 1:1s. You can also use simple Net Promoter Score surveys so they can rate your communication tools, style, etc. Encourage honesty (which may mean making it anonymous) so you can improve processes and communications based on their needs. By putting employees first, you can improve employee and company productivity.
9. Prioritize relationship building
Remote and hybrid teams need to feel connected to be productive and do well at work. But like a train needs to be guided by a conductor, they also need to feel connected to leadership.
The more transparent you are, the more inspiring it is for employees to find purpose in their work, and develop a proactive mindset.
Prioritize building relationships with your team and giving them the tools to build their own. Here’s how:
- Host team-building exercises. Host regular, company-wide team-building events. For example, a company happy hour, virtual escape room, or competition.
- Spotlight employees in monthly newsletters. Ask your team if they’d like to submit a story about themselves or an experience they’ve had to inspire future conversations and help everyone get to know each other.
- Use Slack channels like #virtualcoffee and apps like Donut to connect spontaneously with your team.
- Use a virtual workspace designed for remote connectivity. For example, Switchboard lets you easily connect for spontaneous 1:1s, see when your team is active or collaborating in a shared room, and brainstorm without a single host sharing their screen.
Remote team productivity: Get your team on the right track
Remote teams can be more productive than in-person ones. But to make the most of the freedom and flexibility remote offers, you need to safeguard work-life balance and create an environment that sets your team up for increased productivity and personal success.
To reach real remote team productivity milestones and help your employees do their best work, you need to support productive behavior and lay the groundwork for a positive virtual culture.
This might include best practices like ensuring psychological safety when giving and receiving feedback, understanding how your team works best, and providing the right collaboration and communication tools for remote teams.
For example, when you pick Switchboard as your virtual workspace, you get the same feeling of brainstorming face-to-face with your team. And with permanent, hostless meeting rooms that store all your content, you can keep coming back to your collaborative sessions and run productive meetings and group working sessions without ever getting derailed.
Frequently asked questions about remote team productivity
Are remote teams more productive?
While it depends on the company, team, and sector, there’s plenty of data to show remote teams are more productive than in-office teams. For example, a recent Fortune article claims remote teams are more productive because individuals are less likely to leave their jobs, and that they enjoy the perks of working from home, setting their own work hours, and getting more time to focus on their well-being.
How do you keep a remote team productive?
To keep a remote team productive, you need to set the foundation for their success by offering the right working environment and processes. For example, investing in tools that increase employee engagement and collaboration and help them reach their KPIs. Establishing ground rules that make remote team members feel psychologically safe when contributing to a project or brainstorming session.
What are some things that can make remote teams less productive?
Some things that can make remote teams less productive include:
- Using traditional video conferencing software like Zoom or Google Meet that isn’t built for remote team meetings or collaborating with your entire team.
- Not laying the groundwork for collaboration. For example, not defining best practices and ground rules when it comes to communicating with your team.
- Micromanaging your team and leading from a place of distrust.
- Treating employees as a company resource, not complex individuals.