Upwork’s Future Workforce Report states:
By 2025, 36.2 million Americans alone will be remote, an increase of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates.
This data signifies that remote work will continue to be a popular trend in the coming years and beyond. It provides advantages like better work-life balance, flexible work hours, and no commuting hassles for employees. At the same time, organizations benefit from access to a diverse talent pool across geographies and lower overhead and admin costs.
Being physically distant, however, can also hinder collaboration and innovation at times. If not checked at the right time, it can later turn into a significant productivity issue for remote teams.
Therefore, it is vital to manage your remote employees efficiently to keep productivity challenges at bay.
This blog talks about a few strategies that can help raise remote teams’ productivity effectively.
1. Effective Ways to Improve Performance of the Remote Workforce
Productivity is a huge concern when it comes to working remotely. As managers can no longer walk over to the employees’ desks and keep a check on them. With the right tools, processes, and guidelines in place, managers can ensure the productivity of their remote workforce.
Here are a few standard practices that can bolster your remote teams’ performance effectively.
I. Establish clear rules and means for remote communication
Since the global pandemic ushered in the trend of remote work, communication has moved online. So, defining new communication rules clearly is the need of the hour. First, you need to decide on the communication channels to use across your organization. For instance, synchronous channels like Zoom, Google Meet, MS teams, etc., can be used for meetings, training, and more for real-time communication. On the contrary, asynchronous channels like emails, Slack, etc., can be used for instant messaging, document sharing, casual communication, etc.
You can also set protocols for away messages, email alerts and have one-on-one check-ins with teammates. Thus, defining clear rules helps avoid confusion and conflicts among team members. It also saves time from unnecessary calls or long-winded email chains and improves employees’ efficiency.
II. Look for any signs of distress or depression in employees
According to a survey conducted by Aetna International, a leading global health benefits provider:
74% of the remote workforce admitted that poor mental health has impacted their productivity.
Therefore, it’s crucial to get clear visibility into remote employees’ mental health. Consider sending out anonymous employee satisfaction surveys to your resources to let them share their concerns without any inhibitions. These surveys can be enterprise-wide where you can ask for remote employees’ opinions about the work culture, whether they feel motivated, etc. You can ask more specific questions about a particular project, the experience of members involved, and roadblocks through project-specific surveys.
Compiling and analyzing all this data helps you know your resources’ general opinion. Further, you can observe their behavior and appearance to detect signs of stress during video calls. If you notice any distress symptoms, you can use an empathetic approach to interact with the resource(s). For example, to keep remote employees de-stressed and productive, management can facilitate one-on-one meetings, team encouragement sessions, paid day-offs, etc.
III. Establish a balance between discipline and autonomy
Remote work management can’t be the same as in-office management. It’s because replicating the exact office settings in every aspect is also practically challenging. Therefore, consider providing your resources with more flexibility and latitude in their remote working conditions. Make sure that you don’t resort to micromanagement at any rate and at any point in time. It’s because it does far more harm than good.
A recent survey by Trinity Solutions, Inc, Peachtree City, Georgia, finds:
79% of respondents said that they experienced micromanagement, and it interfered severely with their job performance.
With more control over what your resources do instead of frequent check-ins, instructions, and interruptions, their focus and engagement go high. It, in turn, helps them perform at their best and enhance their efficiency. However, it’s equally essential to reinforce organizational discipline to prevent misuse of the autonomy granted in any way.
IV. Convey objectives and goals clearly
Defining clear goals is a crucial practice that becomes even more important for remote work. When working remotely, video calls, phone calls, or messages aren’t always feasible to convey expectations and objectives. They take up a significant chunk of an employee’s working hours and impact their productivity. So, lay down key responsibility areas (KRAs) for each resource right at the outset. Besides, enumerate project-specific key performance indicators (KPIs), including timeline KPIs like cycle time, on-time completion percentage, or budget KPIs like budget variance, return-on-investment (ROI), etc.
Setting a clear set of goals, expectations, and milestones eliminates conflicts and confusion in remote employees.
Additionally, it provides them clear visibility of objectives and milestones to reach. Moreover, knowing how their role is pivotal to the company’s growth boosts their engagement and commitment to work towards common goals. It, thus, enables them to synchronize their efforts better with the organization’s vision and increase their productivity.
V. Empower resources to take up projects of their interests
Often, managers resort to saving costs by allocating employees to various projects without knowing their interests. As a result, it results in a dip in their work engagement, productivity and causes unplanned attrition if continued for long. A resource management tool can help you avoid this predicament. While fulfilling project resource requirements, managers can publish open positions using specific details like skill, competency, experience, and cost. These positions are notified to all relevant resources across the enterprise.
Managers can then assign the positions to the best-available best-fit resources who express their interest in filling those open positions and allocates them. Giving remote teams the work suiting their competency and interest engages them and helps them stay productive. It also boosts task ownership and reduces the need to check in on the resources’ performance too frequently, saving time. This way, it benefits both the manager and the resources and boosts overall productivity.
VI. Engage resources with virtual team building activities
Remote work deprives an employee of regular lunch-time talks, short strolls, stress-buster chats during work, etc. In the prolonged absence of these off-the-topic light-hearted conversions, stress at work starts building up.
According to Eagle Hill Consultant’s report on the US employees published last year:
58% of Americans reported burnout. With 47% of them reporting workload as the reason, it turned out to be the most significant factor behind burnout.
So, it’s recommendable to consider virtual team-building activities to engage your remote teams better. These activities can be in the form of group discussions, online meetings, brainstorming sessions, casual meet-ups, online games, and more. They help the remote employees to unplug from their monotonous schedule and regain energy to work ahead. They further help boost their morale, eliminate internal friction, conflicts, and miscommunication issues. Remote teams, thus, start working more cohesively towards the end goals, enhancing overall productivity.
VII. Reward good work to inspire your team to perform better
Acknowledgment and appreciation of good work are essential to motivate resources. It becomes even more critical when they are working remotely as the chances of good work going unnoticed are higher. Therefore, the onus lies on you as the manager to appreciate remote teams’ members who outperform others. For instance, you can send a “Thank You” email or card to good performers. Besides, you can consider social media shout-outs to admire your remote workforce’s efforts and contributions publicly.
Moreover, timely virtual appreciation meet-ups, surprise meal deliveries, free technology upgrades, bonuses, paid vacation, etc., also form good recognition ideas.
Rewarding high performance makes resources feel valued and inspires them to perform even better.
At the same time, public recognition inspires not only high-performers but also the rest. It sets and raises benchmarks for everyone to cross in the organization. This way, with every individual aspiring to perform better get rewarded, remote teams’ overall efficiency soars.
VIII. Use tools to track and evaluate real-time performance
Real-time performance tracking keeps managers informed of both individual and project-wise progress. Using a resource management tool, they can analyze billable, non-billable, and strategic utilization levels. If they encounter cases of underutilization, they can reallocate resources from non-billable work to high-priority billable tasks. To improve billability, they can also implement on-the-job or “shadowing” opportunities to allocate fresh recruits to a project under a senior’s supervision.
In cases of over-utilization, they can redistribute workload among team members or deploy extra resources to achieve uniformity. Furthermore, forecasted vs. actual reports can help compare the actual time spent on the tasks against the forecasted time. These reports let them find gaps between forecasted and actual time and identify reasons behind them. Accordingly, they can implement appropriate resource optimization techniques, bridge the gaps, and enhance remote employees’ output.
Remote work culture is there to stay for long across the globe. So, it’s high time that organizations revamped their resourcing strategies to adapt to the evolving hybrid working culture. Some challenges may get in the way and hamper remote resources’ productivity. One can always combine the general practices mentioned above with a resource management tool and streamline the process to upkeep remote teams’ efficiency.
What productivity challenges do you encounter with your remote teams?
3. The Glossary
4. The SAVIOM Solution
SAVIOM has over 20 years of experience helping multinational clients manage their resources efficiently and effectively. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence across 50 countries and has helped 100+ clients meet their specific business goals. SAVIOM also provides tools for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software. So, SAVIOM can help your business to establish an efficient system geared towards your specific business challenges.