Remote Team Productivity: Five Ways to Improve It

Technology has innovated our way of living and working. Long and tedious paperwork and documents for doing business are slowly being replaced by databases and different digital platforms. Employment is now simpler via different platforms that let us connect with freelancers and employees. Our clients and employees can now be a text or email away. Even customers can now reach us easily through live chat.

Technology has enabled cost-efficient methods of conducting business. Different trends break the barrier of traditional business management, giving even small businesses and startups a chance to grow without spending too much. One of these trends includes hiring remote employees.

However, managing a remote team’s productivity isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Productivity wise, there may be hurdles that you and your employees will face. Some businesses worry that employees might not be doing their work efficiently, or at all, due to limited monitoring and time differences. There can also be a sense of detachment between the manager and remote reports due to the geographical distance between them. But with proper management, these risks can be resolved and be turned into advantages. 

What is a Remote Team?

A remote team is a team of employees working outside a traditional office environment. These employees may be working in their homes, at a coworking space, anywhere they may find convenient, such as a coffee shop, or from a different country. A remote team and a virtual one may work the same, only, remote teams are made in a ‘solid line’ group to accomplish different objectives. These teams are managed by a specific leader, whereas virtual teams may have multiple managers. 

A popular method of hiring remote employees is through business process outsourcing. A third party company hires and manages the remote employees, including their training, salary and benefits, and other employment aspects. However, they’re still considered employees since they handle the remote tasks you assigned to them and value your company’s core objectives.

Businesses, especially small and medium ones, tend to invest more in hiring remote teams in an effort to stay lean on-site. This saves them time, effort, and money that would have otherwise been spent setting up a traditional office space, buying equipment for the team, and gathering them in one location. They can even access a wider range of talent from different countries. It’s also an advantage for employees since what they only need is a laptop or desktop with adequate software for work and an internet connection. There’s no need for them to leave their homes to travel to work.

Monitoring remote employees’ efficiency and productivity may be difficult at first. It’s natural that new problems may arise along with the convenience of working with a team. There are the hassles of setting up different software for different tasks, monitoring each team member’s workload, and building consensus on the tasks to be delivered. 

Five Best Ways to Manage Productivity

The following are popular  best practices to manage and monitor remote teams’ productivity:

Organize team via a work collaboration platform

One of the biggest hassles when it comes to a remote team is team communication.  You communicate with them via messaging apps, send them an email with a link to the document to work on, then assign tasks to them through another app. Sometimes this may also get out of hand, especially near a task’s deadlines with a high volume of messages and email exchange between everyone. What if the task is imminent like an urgent support ticket? In such a case, why not use a single collaboration platform?

Get a collaboration software that works for you – no matter what the use-case. Whether it’s contextual collaboration or team messages using groups, channels or rooms or video standups, try every collaboration tool until you find one that works for you. Best of all, most of these apps enable you to work from your smartphone, even if you’re away from a desktop or laptop.

Regularly monitor your employees’ progress

Regularly keeping up with your employees’ progress is important for teams in the same physical location and even more so, for remote teams. You need to check on them to see if they have questions, concerns, or difficulty in finishing their assigned tasks. Open your communication lines regularly so they may also reach out to you. Do time tracking while also giving them the flexibility to do their work within their preferred hours, especially for employees with different time zones. Time monitoring applications can help you track their time spent working, take screenshots of their progress, monitor chats, and generate reports on their work performance. It can also be integrated with supported work collaboration apps and be accessible through your smartphone when you’re away. Generating and presenting weekly and monthly progress reports to your remote employees also help them keep track of what needs to be accomplished and what have they done over the course of their project.

Providing feedback can help them improve their work and lessen the chance of them giving low-quality ones. Give constructive criticisms about their work, they will appreciate it best. Help them think of ways they can effectively finish their assigned tasks. 

Determine and resolve undermining problems

Miscommunication and conflicts between you and your remote employees are inevitable. They may arise because of tasks, miscommunications, or even connection problems on either part, be it the employee or the employer. These problems may cause a delay or hindrance in achieving the team’s objective. 

It doesn’t just end with determining the problem itself. You need the root cause of it as well to be able to solve the problem. One of the most effective ways of doing this is the Five Whys technique, which can be done collaboratively within 10 minutes. Given the earlier instance, there was a delay in delivering the documents to the client. Why? A section is missing and has not submitted yet. So you check what section and who was assigned to it. Why has this not been submitted yet? So on and so forth. 

Diagnosing the problem makes it easy for the team to resolve it right away and take action to prevent further repercussions and to maintain the efficient delivery of tasks.

Embrace changes and try new strategies

Sometimes what we routinely do doesn’t always work. Even the platforms that we use may be outdated for the tasks we need to deliver. Especially in modern times, everything may go out of date in an instant and there’s always new things and discoveries to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Be open to suggestions from your employees. Use quality assurance platforms to measure these new techniques that your employees tried and see a drastic change to their work efficiency. Try to bend the usual routines and let your remote team think of a better way to achieve a project goal. Give them online training and seminars to help them keep up with the work trend. Don’t be afraid to embrace innovation, especially with your business, because change can help your team and company grow.

When remote tasks go out of hand and you think a few remote teams are not enough, try hiring more remote employees that can focus on specific tasks, such as customer service. The best way to do this is to hire a call center that can set up a team for you. No need to worry if a call center or a BPO company is right for your business because a lot of these companies cater to the needs of small and medium businesses as well. You may generate savings, too, in the long run, because overseas outsourcing companies offer cheap prices and low labor costs while delivering high-quality performance for your business. 

Reward and recognize your employees

Remote employees may also feel disconnected from their employers and the whole team, one of the repercussions of having remote workers. Connect with your remote teams just as you do with your in-house ones. Engage them in virtual activities that may interest and inspire them. Have virtual team-building exercises where they can collaborate and develop their problem-solving abilities and establish interactions. Recognize special occasions like birthdays and send them a little birthday gift or a thoughtful greeting. Let your remote employees establish friendships. This can help make a good environment within your remote team. Just make sure to establish limitations and boundaries within the team.

Final Thoughts

One of the most important ways to effectively manage a remote employee is finding new and better ways to operate. An article from Harvard Business Review highlights the three kinds of distance in remote teams: physical, operational, and affinity. Of these three, it is the affinity distance that managers should focus most on lessening by continually looking for better ways to reach out to and staying connected with their remote employees. This will ensure that your remote team doesn’t feel isolated and remains productive.


Main illustration credits: Swetha Kanithi.