Remote work is not a fad. and, yes, productive remote work exists. An increasing number of professionals are choosing to telecommute. In fact, according to research by Owl Labs,1 in 3 workers say that if they couldn’t work remotely after the pandemic, they would quit.
However, the biggest concern for companies still hesitant with remote work policies is the fear of a drop in productivity. So, how to avoid this from happening? Here are 14 practical tips for building a productive remote work environment.
How to Improve Team Productivity? Follow These Tips Perfect for Remote Teams
1. Be Clear About Expectations
The first step to cultivating a productive remote workplace is setting clear guidelines and expectations for everyone. Your team must understand what you expect from them.
These expectations typically include your company culture and values, operation procedures, communication protocols, processes, and responsibilities.
One effective way to set goals and expectations for your team is by adopting the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) approach.
This traditional goal-setting framework can help your remote team understand your expectations better and identify ways to achieve them.
Here’s a brief overview of SMART goal setting:
- Specific: The goals you set for your remote team must be precise and purposeful. So, identify your objectives and outline the particular steps to achieve them.
- Measurable: If you want to achieve successful results, your team must work toward quantifiable goals that you can track and evaluate daily or weekly.
- Achievable: The goals you set for your remote team must be realistic and attainable.
- Relevant: Your team can only achieve its goals if they feel it aligns with the company’s goals and values.
- Time-bound: It is vital to bind goals to a specific timeline. A timeline with deadlines and milestones will motivate your employees to reach set goals.
Your team members can focus on their tasks more effectively when everyone is aligned.
2. Equip Your Team
As you set up your remote team, ensure they have the tech support and resources they need to succeed. Your group can only give as much as they get. If they lack the tools to do their job, you are far from achieving a productive remote workplace.
Invest in a high-quality video conferencing system, a reliable internet provider, and cloud computing technology.
You can also allocate a home workspace budget for your team to get the necessary equipment to work from home.
As a result, they are not only motivated to work hard but highly committed. Plus, it provides a sense of belonging that can boost morale.
3. Establish Reliable Lines of Communication
The success and failure of a remote work environment hinge on the quality of communication. Your team must communicate effectively to reach its objectives.
Remote team communication strategies include establishing a solid line of communication. So, identify communication channels that work for your remote team and adopt them to foster better working relationships.
Examples of communication channels include emails for tracking issues, Slack or Skype for instant messages, meetings, and quarterly calls to discuss ongoing projects. You can also have engaging conversations on Zoom or similar apps to discuss business goals and strategies.
4. Keep Track of Your Team’s Progress
To foster a productive remote work environment, you must regularly check in with your team. This involves asking the right questions to determine how they are progressing and identifying obstacles.
You also need to understand how they are doing as an individual so you can provide them with the support they need.
Regularly check in with your team by scheduling one-on-one calls or sending them concise feedback in writing.
These regular checkups let you identify and resolve challenges early before they snowball into more complex issues.
Also, keep records of your team’s progress to measure their success at a glance. To simplify this process, you can use a project management tool like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp.
5. Trust Your Team
Productive remote work is also about building trust.
Monitoring your remote team and micromanaging are two different things. Micromanaging implies not trusting your team enough to work the right way. It can also lead to losing confidence, morale, and feeling powerless.
And this is backed by a study that reveals approximately 69% of employees considered leaving their job due to micromanagement.
Micromanagement can be harmful to productivity and corporate culture too. So, don’t go overboard with constant surveillance and monitoring.
Trust them to do their job or use your project management tool to assign tasks.
6. Maintain a Flexible Schedule
Maintaining a flexible schedule can be tricky for some jobs.
For instance, if your customer support team must be available at certain times, it might not be possible to be flexible.
However, if the job permits it, give your staff some leeway. You can let individuals choose the time that works best for them as long as they meet targets.
Flexibility will help them manage their other responsibilities effectively since working from home means having other commitments.
7. Take Breaks
Because of the nature of remote work, some employees tend to work overtime. This is not a healthy practice. It is also not the way to cultivate a productive virtual workplace long-term.
Employees may feel they are showing commitment and defending the cause when they work long hours. But this can have adverse effects in the long run, like stress, burnout, poor work-life balance, and other health risks.
Long work hours will eventually lead to a drop in productivity. So, insist on taking regular breaks to refresh and recharge.
You must set a positive example by taking breaks yourself as a leader. Also, ensure that there are no notifications or messages during timeouts.
8. Show Empathy and Take Mental Health Serious
Working from home has its perks. But there are also potential downsides, like social isolation, reduced motivation, and a lack of boundaries between work and personal life.
To nip these challenges in the bud, be understanding of your team’s needs and be empathetic.
Remember, your team members are people too. So, show them that you recognize their human side and encourage them to seek professional help when necessary.
Pay attention to their behavior as well. If you are aware of a problem, act proactively to address it before it becomes a widespread issue affecting the entire company negatively.
Your remote staff deserves a workplace that supports their mental health equally to their productivity.
9. Recognize Hard Work and Achievements
Another way to cultivate productive remote work is through showing gratitude. Recognizing your team’s hard work empowers them to do more.
One way to show appreciation to your remote team is to send them support packages. Employees can receive care packages that include swag, coupons, treats, or other fun items.
You can also create an internal reward program where you can give badges or prizes to boost morale and recognize outstanding contributions and achievements.
In turn, they will know you are paying attention to their efforts. Motivating your team in this way can make a world of difference to their morale and performance.
10. Implement an Open-door Policy
You need to connect with your employees if you want a productive remote workplace.
Your team members should be able to communicate with you anytime without feeling nervous or scared.
Your remote employees will feel more comfortable expressing their opinions without fear of punishment if you provide clear communication channels. You need to put them at ease to build trust and encourage productivity.
11. Organize Virtual Team Building Activities
Keeping your team socialized remotely has numerous benefits. Communicating frequently and openly keeps teammates on the same page, which leads to more successful outcomes and smoother work processes.
Workers feel a part of the organization, and the team can interact more casually without feeling restrained by work obligations.
You can use virtual team-building activities like ice breakers, two truths, and a lie, time traveler, donuts for Slack, and so on to create a productive remote workplace.
Get inspiration for more virtual team-building games here.
12. Provide Relevant Benefits
What do you do when you cannot offer staff in-office perks like free food, office beer pong tables, and free massages? Offer perks that fit the remote culture instead.
Investing in virtual employee benefits can help motivate your employees to work harder and give them a sense of appreciation.
Consider the following benefits you could offer your team:
- Subsidized insurance plans
- Childcare benefits
- Health and wellness programs
- Access to homecare services
- Learning and development opportunities
- Workstation support, and much more.
13. Share Feedback
Whether in-office or remote, feedback is crucial to building organizational success.
Occasionally, you should let your team know how they are doing. It can boost a team’s morale and improve performance.
So, give your staff regular feedback through actionable tools like the 360 feedback form, which is well-received by most employees and leadership professionals.
14. Organize Monthly Company-wide Meetings
Finally, you must take stock of everything that has happened each month in your bid to develop a productive remote workplace. A monthly company-wide meeting will help you do just that.
You can gather the leadership team and encourage healthy discussions to help maximize everyone’s performance.
Conduct a check-in on important milestones each month, and provide constructive suggestions to improve efficacy.
You can also address any issues hindering productivity from stacking up over time.
Don’t forget to plan for ongoing challenges or roadblocks too. Find a solution and nurture the corporate culture of collaboration to succeed as an organization.
Remote work is not a new concept. But it has gathered pace in the last couple of years and will continue to accelerate.
Developing a productive remote work environment requires proper planning. You must set clear goals, strategies, and processes to ensure your staff successfully achieves them. This is crucial to ensure sustainable growth and success in the long term.
You can build a productive remote workplace culture for your organization with the right tools and approach. But you must take the first step – offering a remote work option.