6 Strategies to Maximize Remote Workforce Productivity
Telecommuting has gained considerable ground in recent years due to the many benefits that are obvious to both employees and employers. For starters, studies have shown employees to, on average, be happier and more productive when working remotely. When given the choice to work from home, it’s no secret that many feel they have a better work-life balance. Although working remotely is becoming more commonplace, it wasn’t always a feasible option.
Technology is what makes it possible for companies to have a remote workforce. Organizations that are newer to this phenomenon often wonder how best to maximize productivity when they allow their workers to go remote. They wonder if and how things will get done when they set part or all of their team “free,” so to speak.
That’s why we’re here. Keep reading to get the top tips to ensure your remote workforce is as productive as can be—maybe even more so than a traditional office setup. You’ll also get insight into exactly what role technology plays in the day-to-day operations of a remote workforce.
1. Have Check-Ins and Stay Hyper-Organized
While you trust your remote employees to get the work done, it is imperative that you check up on your remote workforce. Instilling the idea that this isn’t to micromanage them, but rather to ensure everyone is on the same page and strengthen collaboration. It’s also useful to see to it that things are running smoothly and that everyone is operating at a healthy and fair capacity.
You have plenty of options available to you in order to make these check-ups happen, such as audio calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing. But how regularly should the check-ins take place?
Set up daily meetings so your remote workforce can “meet” on conference calls or video chats to discuss any issues they may be facing. Put processes in place where you instruct employees to share what they’re planning to work on that day. This keeps the lines of communication open. It also creates a virtual space for team members to be transparent with one another on whether their part is getting done so that others relying on them may meet their deadlines too.
These meetings are great because they help generate a similar feel to a traditional corporate culture—consider it the virtual equivalent to an employee walking across the hall to catch up with a coworker. The staff who make up your remote workforce should be encouraged to not just stay on the topic of work the entire time. They should be able to share things on a personal level, as people who are more familiar with one another tend to work best together as a unit.
Meetings help close up the distance that might be felt if your remote workforce is spread across the world.
This is part of guiding your team toward hyper-organization. It refers to the idea that with the right technology, remote workforces can virtually be made to feel almost as though they are physically in the office because they are in constant, solid communication with one another. When continually developing their organizational skills in a way that makes them in sync, employees’ work is bound to flow better.
When your team is required to plan out its entire week in advance, the process helps them recognize how their part contributes to the completion of each project so they can properly prioritize their schedule. This whittles down a potentially daunting workload into bite-sized pieces and makes sure they have exactly what they can handle. Everything will be sure to get done because it has its spot on their calendar and each calendar works in tandem with the rest of the team.
2. Tools and Technology for Remote Employees
The vast benefits of having a remote workforce are, of course, based on using the right tools. If your team doesn’t use the appropriate technology, they won’t be able to work as productively as possible. Here are some examples of applications that will help your employees become, and remain, efficient while working remotely.
With this mighty platform, you are always up-to-date, as a subscription gives you all the latest Office apps that you could want. Both the desktop and the online versions are ready with updates as soon as they become available, on the devices of your choice. That way, you can be sure your team has what it needs, from wherever they are working.
OneDrive has become a haven for collaboration and sharing by utilizing the power of the cloud. It also comes with help when necessary, as email, chat, or calls are made easy, and a real, live person is virtually ready in your corner to answer questions.
That level of support can be key when you have workers who are from earlier generations and are not quite as tech-savvy. Or, if you have people that are more used to other programs than Microsoft’s—which brings us to another platform that's fantastic for other users.
If you’re predominantly a Mac user, you might lean more in this direction of this suite. Google offers many powerful apps in one central hub. With these tools, there is more transparency and multiple people from multiple departments can work on the same files simultaneously. You can see how this works perfectly for collaboration. The brand essentially even has its own version of each of the three most popular Microsoft applications. Today, they offer Google Slides (similar to Powerpoint), Google Sheets (akin to Excel), and their own rendition of Word known as Google Docs.
Edit histories can be viewed in real time so every team member with access can see who last worked on which part, who may have made a change, and even revert back to an older version. Everyone has the ability to contribute. Because these apps all live online in the cloud, no one has to worry about emailing large files.
Your remote workforce can quickly share links with superiors and coworkers and refer back to a virtual document, as needed. Editors can leave feedback in a convenient panel so they know what needs updating, and the appropriate team member will get the notification right away.
This robust platform comes in handy for planning, tracking, and managing projects for a whole team, especially if you’re an agile company or if you focus on software development. You can custom-tailor the experience for your company’s unique needs and get everyone collaborating on assignments by having smaller pieces delegated across a pipeline. Jira includes helpful features prevalent in other programs, such as tagging people, commenting, setting notifications, and beyond. It keeps everyone on track, collectively.
This app has a segmented feature to sort your employees, departments, or topics into different “channels” so employees are getting only the most relevant information. Your remote workforce can also use it to call each other right through the application, as well as file-share, screen-share, and more. It’s essentially a virtual chat room but with much more than its predecessors offered. This will also be a fun one to motivate your employees to engage with the company and with one another. It can easily be used both for work and for photo sharing for personal announcements.
This tool can be used for solely internal work, or for communications back and forth between your remote workforce and your clients. Workers can comment, post links, tag one another, and use the all-popular emojis when mere words simply won’t get the point across. They can also mark off sub-tasks in a handy checklist format to make sure everything is clear and getting done within set deadlines. It also has a simple, user-friendly interface so you won’t have to spend too much time onboarding clients or staff.
GTM is an internal communication app that allows everyone to feel as though they are right there together, whether they are actually in different rooms of a building or even in different countries. Your remote workforce might be in several time zones, but you still want to have a close-knit feel for optimal teamwork and productivity. With this, workers can choose to chat with a coworker or hold a client conference over the phone, using audio call features, or with a video call.
Employees can do this from a computer or through the mobile app if they only have their phone with them. This helps to make sure everyone is seeing and hearing about the same things all at once when necessary. GTM eliminates the chance for any confusion about what needs to be done, who is working on what, and progress reports. Shrink the distance by using conference calls exactly how you would normally conduct a traditional meeting. Then, start thinking about timing.
3. Have Remote Employees Track Time
When encouraging time tracking, it’s good to keep in mind that you are not doing so to micromanage your remote workforce. If done correctly, this practice is beneficial to all parties. Not only can too much time spent signal that employees are dilly-dallying when they’re supposed to be working, it can also signal that they’re struggling. And if they’re struggling, part of your job is to make sure they have only what they can reasonably take on and that they are equipped with the tools and training necessary to get their work done.
Evaluate Time Being Spent on Projects
Tracking time will help ensure that each employee has a fair workload and is not getting overstressed. The workday should ideally only be taking place between specific hours they set, which is especially important when it comes to a remote workforce. When telecommuting, it’s easy for the line between someone’s home or personal life and work life to blur, which isn't healthy.
Although it might mean they're getting a lot done, you don’t really want your workers staying up for long hours or taking up their entire weekends with work. There has to be some separation, and both having an organized schedule and time tracking will help with that. After some monitoring of the time tracking, which you can do with the help of tools like Harvest, Toggl, and Hubstaff, both you and your workers will start seeing patterns in how long something should realistically take.
From there, you will get an accurate picture of the average time a certain type of task should take, which will help everyone plan accordingly.
4. Encourage Breaks and Self-Care
While some people might think that taking breaks during work makes them a lazy or unfocused, that’s actually the polar opposite of how they should be looking at daily schedules. While that’s not to say people shouldn’t be getting their work done, it’s critical that employees get the rest they need to prevent burnout.
Happier and Less-Stressed Employees Work Smarter
A person’s capacity relies heavily on their mental health. A big part of that is making sure they’re not plowing straight through an eight-hour day—or longer—without stepping away from their screen. Everyone needs time to recuperate in order to achieve their highest level of performance. Thinking clearly will also make it less likely your employees will be making simple mistakes.
Later on in this post, you’ll be introduced to some software applications that foster a strong sense of team and collaboration. These tools will help your employees feel more engaged—i.e., that they matter and are a part of something—which will help with culture and, consequently, workflow.
5. Make Training a Regular Practice
If you really want your remote employees to succeed, strongly consider providing training. And when we say training, we mean ongoing training that occurs after their new-hire onboarding. Set up one-on-one meetings with each individual to have sessions with them where you either share your screen or talk them through a process via audio.
You can also have them watch pre-recorded videos to help them improve certain skills. Sign them up with a program like HubSpot, where they can get certified for different skills if they are a marketer, let's say. Or, create your own tutorial of sorts about a process or the way your company likes to use a certain tool, then send it to them. Use their name in the voiceover to make it feel more individualized.
Taking just a few minutes to walk them through this virtual demo will show that personal touch. It will make them feel as though you care about their growth in the position and their success with your company as a whole. If there is a skillset that you want them to know but you aren't the most knowledgeable in the topic, you can point them toward another member of the team.
There might be someone else at your business it would be best for them to connect with. Or, you might even know a book you can assign as recommended reading or a how-to video on YouTube. Now let’s back up for a moment and look at who and what roles would be best for this type of environment, as there can be exceptions to anything.
6. Evaluate Whether the Job Can Be Done Remotely
Is This a Job That Should Be Done At An Office?
While this might all sound great, realistically, there are some types of roles that cannot or should not go remote. In those cases, you can build a partially remote workforce. Not every digitally-savvy company has plans to become fully distributed. For roles that need to remain more traditional and in a physical office setting, that needs to be thought about beforehand.
Figure out which roles will realistically be able to be performed virtually with the option to telecommute. And it's not just about the rolls, think about the people, too. Sometimes, it will depend on the individual.
Is This Employee Capable of Doing Well Remotely?
Evaluate which employees will be able to take on this newer concept that has only been starting to gain traction in the last handful of years—due, as discussed, to technological advances. These innovations is all that is needed for a lot of people, but some individuals will need the physical office space and the camaraderie that traditionally comes with the office environment. They might not feel that technology can replace that element.
Some people simply won't be able to operate productively while remote. Perhaps they cannot commit to less standard—or “flexible” hours—set aside an adequate workspace, or don’t have the right kind of self-discipline, and that’s fine. Some may have worked in a remote landscape before, and if you’re just bringing them on, you can ask their references what it was like working with them in that capacity. To some, if they have never worked remotely before, it can feel like a foreign concept.
For the vast majority, though, with the right equipment and applications, this feat should not be too difficult. Like any new thing, it might take a little bit to get used to, but over time you are likely to find that the pros outweigh the cons. Since it is still fairly novelty, the ability to telecommute is not expected with every company. You can still instill the feeling that being able to do this is a luxury and they should feel grateful for the opportunity to try it out.
If you give this a test run for a while and still have a physical office location to fall back on, you can see if it works by monitoring and measuring the employee output and goals. If it turns out that you have the same or even better numbers than when the majority of people were still at the office, then you will know that having a remote workforce is indeed the right move for your company.
Ensure You Have the Tools for a Productive Remote Workforce
Employers across the globe are quickly coming to the realization that there are many benefits to allowing staff to work remotely for at least some of the time. The option to telecommute helps with everything from employee productivity to work-life balance—and in this day and age, won’t hurt the feeling of being connected, if done right. As you can see, companies must have the right technology to power the remote workforce trend. That’s what makes it possible.
Behind any good company tech suite is an expert team that can help manage it all and make sure it’s being used safely and wisely. Reach out if you’d like help verifying that you’re set up to have a productive remote workforce.
With the increase of remote employees, companies are also now allowing their employees to use their own devices. Make sure your company is tracking who has access to what data and on which personal devices with this BYOD Tracking Spreadsheet.