By 2020, more than 50% of employees will work remotely.
The mantra “work is something you do, not a place you go to” rings truer today and even more in the coming years. A physical office is no longer a prerequisite to running a successful business, which is especially beneficial for startups and small businesses unable to afford an office lease.
However, there are issues about working remotely that are characteristic of going this route. One of the biggest challenges distributed teams need to address is productivity. Many companies have retracted their telecommuting benefit due to this reason.
One of the most infamous — Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo!, recalled it’s work from home benefit. A memo sent to employees stated: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.” It added: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
The reality is this: Productivity is a challenge faced by all businesses, whether its employees are co-located in a single office or scattered worldwide. It is not necessarily a function of being physically together. If it is, how can you explain the success of 100% remote companies such as WordPress, Zapier, and Buffer?
The common denominator among productive remote companies is their strategic and well thought out use of technology. It bridges the physical distance between remote team members. Apps and tools make it possible for remote companies to achieve a high level of productivity notwithstanding location differences and time zone.
If you have a remote team and they are experiencing a productivity slump, here’s how you can use technology to improve it:
1. Create a Virtual HQ
Even though you’re not co-located, distributed teams need a place to come together, a virtual headquarters of sorts. “Virtual corridors” and “virtual water coolers” can be created in order for employees to brainstorm ideas and even have non-work-related discussions.
These avenues are important in fostering camaraderie, strengthening employee engagement, and building a remote team culture — intangible things that significantly contribute to productivity.
Technology provides an easy way to do this via group chat platforms. There are several options to choose from — from free to premium — depending on the size of your team and unique communication needs.
2. Improve Project Management and Collaboration
When working with a remote team, it is difficult to trust they will remember all their tasks. Likewise, as a remote team manager, you should not assume that you will remember all the tasks and projects that you assign to virtual employees.
All successful remote teams use project management tools to maintain productivity, if not improve it. It is also useful to track project status, and collaborate. Many remote teams take these project management tools seriously. If a project is not on their project management board, it’s not getting done.
Additionally, establish a strict policy that no file should be saved in the local storage of your employees’ devices. Provide cloud file storage that you own and control. This provides better collaboration for your team, as well as safeguarding your files.
3. Understand How Team Members Are Spending Their Time
Remote work experts often say that working remotely is all about productivity, not availability. With team members working in different time zones, being available all the time and at the same time should not be the focus. Rather, it’s having an agreed time every day to get together and being able to meet deadlines.
That said, remote team leaders should know how their team members are spending their time. This is especially important for businesses in the client servicing industry. You should be able to assess the number of hours your employees are putting into meeting your clients’ requirements and properly factor this into your service charges.
Time tracking also allows you to provide coaching to remote employees. If they are spending too much time on non-core tasks, you can coach them on how to better spend their time. Additionally, if they are spending too much time on a specific core task, review your processes and look for ways to do things more efficiently.
Technology Brings Remote Workers Together
The advantages of building a remote business are well documented, from reduced operating costs to happier employees. 100% remote companies that are successful and profitable are living proof that running a successful business powered by a remote workforce is possible.
That said, using technology and implementing the right tools to increase productivity should be a core pillar in your company. This ensures your team is on the same page, even though you’re not in the same place.
Looking at successful remote companies, each one has its own processes and systems, but the strategic and appropriate use of technology is a common denominator. Technology determines the quality of communication and collaboration, and the level of productivity that your team will achieve.
To some extent, your remote team is only as good as the tools that you use.
Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an online employee time tracking app that helps over 8,000 companies all around the world track time.
Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many peoples lives are touched and changed for the better.
When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can find Dean on LinkedIn.
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Author of several books including the 2018 Coaching Business Builder Workbook and Planner & Effective Virtual Conversations (2017)