Working Remotely:

Top Tips for Keeping Your Team Productive and Positive

March 2020

If there’s a silver lining to how the global pandemic has affected, it’s been the opportunity to reimagine the way we work. While it’s early to know the extent, many are expecting one of the enduring effects of our “social distancing” to be the mainstream uptake of working remotely.

From an employer’s standpoint, benefits of remote workforces include greater productivity, less overhead, access to a broader talent pool, less turnover, and greater employee satisfaction.

From a worker’s standpoint, flexibility remains the biggest draw, while working from home or “anywhere”, and spending time with family round out the major benefits.

In my case, freedom and flexibility were two of the biggest reasons I chose my path. I joined the remote workforce as a solopreneur when I realized that my workplace wouldn’t support the flexible schedule needed to balance a rewarding career with a rewarding family life.

Fast forward 7 years and I am part of a humble team who specializes in building teams. We’ve discovered that there are a number of tools from project management to video conferencing that make remote work easier.

We’ve also learned that all of that jazzy technology still requires people-power to achieve the desired outcomes, and technology can’t replace the need for human contact and connections.

Here are the 3 R’s for managing your remote teams positively and productively:

Routine – One of the most common pieces of advice for the individual remote worker is to create a daily routine - from choosing work clothes over pajamas, to exercising and fresh air breaks. For teams, routine is also important, but in different, collaborative ways. Here are some simple examples:

1) Schedule daily small team or 1:1 check-ins - many teams kickstart remote working days with a video or telephone conference meeting, or even text chat conversation, to rally the crew.

2) Commit to weekly full team check-ins. Some do this on a Monday morning to game plan the week, others on Friday to end the week and celebrate wins. One isn’t necessarily better than the other – the important thing is the ongoing commitment.

3) Scheduling regular virtual coffee breaks or lunches gives colleagues “a chance to vent, renew, and get excited for the day,” said one commenter on a social media post about this topic.

Relationships – Isolation is the number one complaint of remote workers. Now is a great time to practice cultural traditions and build new team rituals.

1) View relationship building as a productive use of time - in order to build and maintain trust, we need to communicate. And when we communicate and it feels good, we want to do more communicating and collaborating.

2) Start a bonding rituals – one team started a new habit that began with an accidental unfinished sentence in a message thread. Team members started using the text predictor in their phones to finish the sentence. Hilarity ensued and they now have a weekly moment of levity together.

3) Leave space for small talk - whether one-on-one, or larger groups, don’t take human connection for granted.

Results – We have a tendency to measure productivity in time instead of results, but it’s really the results that matter. I’d personally rather have an engaged employee functioning on all cylinders for 3 - 4 days/week, than someone with no gas in their tank for 5 or 6 days/week.

1) Measure outputs not inputs - be clear about expectations (what/why) and timelines (when). Ask your team to determine the process (how) and ask questions that will help them consider options and consequences.

2) Build in accountability – many people working in isolation struggle to stay motivated. If a task is important, schedule a show and tell with relevant team members to give project updates, solicit feedback, and maintain momentum.

3) Identify and celebrate – ultimately we want to repeat the positive outcomes that align with organizational values and identified goals. This lets us achieve target goals again and again more intentionally and consistently.

While “social distancing” may be a reality for the foreseeable future, these simple tips will keep your team aligned, engaged, and productive regardless of where their work is being done.

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