“When remote teams communicate well and leverage their strengths, they can actually gain an advantage over co-located teams.” — Erica Dhawan and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Harvard Business Review
Remote and gig work is the new normal for many American companies looking to attract new talent. According to the International Data Corporation, approximately 72% of the American workforce will operate remotely by the year 2020. This new trend in the world of business is ideal in a lot of ways — employers save money on overhead for physical office spaces, and employees get more flexibility with their schedules and freedom from commuting.
However, if you are managing a remote team, it’s valuable to remember that it is still a new trend. That means there will be a learning curve, maybe even some missteps, but nothing that can’t be managed with just a few already established commandments of remote work.
It’s so easy to pick up your phone to check a text message in the middle of the day, only to look up half an hour later and realize you haven’t started on your to-do list. This one can be tricky to perfect in every aspect of our lives, but it seems especially true in the workplace when you don’t have a team physically nearby to keep you in check. Here are some ways to keep yourself accountable:
- Limit distractions. Set some restrictions for yourself to stay on task. Try checking email only at certain times of the day and turning off all social media alerts. There are even apps that track and limit your time spent on certain websites that can help you maintain your goals.
- Implement strategies. Even before remote work, people were trying to perfect the formula for efficient use of time. The Pomodoro technique, 52-17 technique and quadrant time management system are all popular for remote workers. Through trial and error, you can find the techniques that work best for you.
- Organize your days. Before you can hold yourself accountable, you have to know what you’re holding yourself accountable to. Structure your days by making a to-do list, or a list of tasks that are the most urgent or important to get done first. Starting your day off this way not only ensures productivity but makes the rest of the day breeze by.
- Keep your physical workspace organized. A decluttered workspace is proven to be a more productive one.
Because you aren’t connected by a shared space, one of the most important values of any functional team is made even more difficult: communication. Keep the following in mind when managing or being a part of a remote team:
- Honesty. Being transparent about expectations, priorities and schedules is necessary to set a productive time in any remote team. Try weekly or daily tag-ups so in everyone can check in and discuss what they’re working on and what they might need from the rest of the team.
- Availability. A remote team often operates in different time zones or on specific schedules that make working from home so ideal. In order to be sure all team members have access to anything they need from others in the group, coordinate meetings and collaborate. Being clear about everyone’s schedule and keeping track of each person’s regular hours is necessary.
- Team bonding. That same separation that makes scheduling tricky can also be hard on team spirit. It’s easy to feel disconnected when working remotely, so try scheduling in-person meetups, Skype calls, or even group texts where everyone has a chance to bond and build relationships that will make work communication even easier.
Because working remotely has become so pervasive, have digital and online tools developed to make it easier. There are apps and software programs designed to suit different needs. These include:
- File sharing services. Dropbox, Box and WeTransfer all offer easy and customizable ways to share documents, images and files with your team and clients. They can be customized depending on your needs, whether it’s simply a shareable link or an entire database of current projects and files.
- Messaging. Communication apps like Slack can often be integrated into the project management software mentioned above and allow for quick and efficient messaging that, again, doesn’t flood your inbox.
- Project management. Asana, Monday and Basecamp are just three of many project management sites available to remote teams. Within a project, you can assign tasks, track progress, tag coworkers in questions, create calendars and much more. This not only saves time in creating individual to-do lists, because you can populate your tasks from projects on these platforms, but it prevents your inbox from being flooded with miscellaneous updates.
Companies that allow team members to work remotely tend to have higher employee satisfaction, which leads to more productivity and less turnover. Telecommuting is not for everyone, but with the right people in the right places, it can be especially productive.
Originally published in i4 Business, November 2019