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Remote work has been thrust upon us, but are business leaders ready for it?
More than half of U.S. companies now plan on making working from home a permanent option. However, most of us still don’t know what an optimal business machine with remote operations looks like simply because reaching that point requires years of trying, testing and adapting.
One major thing we haven’t all realized yet is that, without the visibility of face-to-face contact, data is essential in tracking employee progress and well-being, as well as the company’s overall health.
And not just any data — granular (ideally automatic) data is needed to give us accurate insights and stop us from making burdensome mistakes, especially in tech companies where even more of the work effort is purely digital. Take productivity. If we were to focus on people’s work hours alone, we’d likely get the wrong picture. Half of software developers have been working more during quarantine. But what does this tell us about the toll this workload is taking on their mental health? Or the quality of their work, and how much extra time is going toward bringing their tasks up to scratch? Nothing at all.
Putting data at the core of project management is not about Big Brother; far from it. Data isn’t inherently good or bad; it just gives you the tools to implement intelligent strategies and reduce errors. If anything, it will minimize the number of times you have to interfere with employees to ask for updates and micromanage.
Embracing data to create your new remote-ready project management strategy will enhance you and your team’s work lives in the following ways.
Reduce wrong decisions
Managers don’t have accurate visibility into remote employees’ productivity. Radio “silence” from team members can be misinterpreted to mean they’re not working enough, especially independent workers like software engineers. You might think you wouldn’t notice if they spent half their work hours on a coffee break, and your mind can run away with you. (The opposite — for those who talk too much — is also true).
However, a digital lifestyle produces digital indicators. Data-driven project management tools such as Wrike can tell you about employee output, but also about iterations and quality indicators on the same task. Such as how many times a pull request went back to a developer, why (due to error or for minor improvements?), or how many other employees stepped in to help before the final product was achieved.
Remote work is anything but a new concept. Professionals in all kinds of niches have been doing it for a substantial period of time. However, with the ongoing state of the Coronavirus health emergency, the majority of organizations are required to let their entire workforce support business remotely. This is something the world hasn’t experienced before.
According to one recent finding, 88% of organizations have encouraged or required their employees to work from home amid the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, 71% of executives are concerned about the continuity of business and productivity of employees during the pandemic.
Once your employees are on their own, it is only natural for them to struggle a bit, while still trying to adjust to the new normal. Unfavourable work conditions and increased pressure of completing the task at hand can often leave a lasting impact on their productivity levels in the long term.
But then again, organizations can aid them in a number of ways and keep this from happening. Read on to know what you can do to boost employee productivity within your organization when teams are working remotely.
1. Leverage Technological Solutions
With so much time being spent on the administrative side, especially since your teams are working remotely amidst the Coronavirus crisis, there’s an evident need for the inclusion of automation tools. These tools will help your employees get rid of some of the repetitive, unproductive tasks so that they can concentrate on the more important ones.
Not only can tools provide you with a brief overview of all the tasks in progress within your team at a single glance, other important features such as client contacts and reminders are also automatically organized and embedded within them so that your team always knows what’s going on and what they should be doing next. Every member on your team has complete access to everything that is happening on the work front, even when working remotely, this further leads to better coordination and increased productivity. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an excellent example of such a tool.
Another technology that can help your organization in more ways than one is transcription. This is especially true if your company deals with huge troves of data on a regular basis. Transcription software can help you convert audio into text files and vice versa, which helps you better manage data. For instance, you can easily convert your client calls to written text and drive pointers from it to better comprehend client requirements.
Some other technological solutions that can help businesses boost employee productivity are time tracking tools, work schedulers, mobile applications, and communication tools.
2. Promote Flexibility
Known as the ability to work at any given time, and from anywhere, remote work was a complete global movement by itself even before the coronavirus pandemic forced professionals around the globe to work from their homes.
If one takes a brief look at remote-work policies, they usually cover factors such as working eligibility, expectations, legal considerations, and technology issues. However, during this highly uncommon situation, flexibility is paramount for any organization that wishes to emerge out of it with minimum losses.
At present, we’re experiencing one of the greatest changes in the history of remote work. Under these circumstances, the policies shouldn’t be thought of as managing productivity, but more a set of norms as well as guidelines for managing people and working in a brand-new way.
The best way to do just that is by taking a look at your current remote work policy and changing what doesn’t do justice to this scenario. If you still aren’t sure if those changes will work, try leaning toward a flexible work environment and trusting your employees as opposed to constantly monitoring and measuring results. If flexibility isn’t promoted, it will get difficult for them to manage everything at once and they might end up feeling burnt out.
Over the years, various experts have agreed that the assessment of a remote worker’s performance should be done on the basis of their work output and completion rates rather than on time-based factors. Therefore, companies should let their remote employees work during the hours they feel most productive so long as goals are achieved and deadlines are met.
An appropriate level of communication between managers and their teams should be spelled out, including expectations of responsiveness, availability, and what modes of communication work the best for both participants.
This gets us to our next important productivity hack.
3. Communicate Often
With the pandemic showing absolutely no signs of settling down anytime soon, fine-tuning your organization to this new scenario will require supplemental care to ensure business operations are carried out in an error-free manner and communication is not traded off.
For companies that solely depended on in-person interactions in the past to collaborate on projects and get their job done, comprehending how to keep your team engaged and continue working together constructively when you’re apart is going to be the biggest challenge right now.
Communication is truly the framework on which the foundation of a good remote work culture rests. It helps you remain on the same page as your employees. Also, with the added pressure of the unique situation, we find ourselves in right now, communication will help keep teams productive and cohesive constantly.
While adapting to the unanticipated work from home setting may feel tiring at first, there are several communication-related strategies you can implement into your work culture to make the shift as seamless as possible:
- Be proactive in communicating with your team,
- Schedule daily huddles,
- Set expectations from the start,
- Ask for communication preferences,
- Avoid the temptation to micromanage,
- Adopt new communication tools,
- Watch your tone,
- Prioritize more video or touch-based calls,
- Give more lead time on tasks,
- Keep the office culture alive, even remotely.
4. Conduct Team-Building Activities & Encourage Teamwork
You need to strengthen your remotely working sales team by investing in exciting and fun-filled activities to encourage camaraderie and friendly competition. You can easily do this in a number of ways, one being using a newsletter to ask weekly questions and assign quizzes.
Also, team-wide adventures, for example, an online storytelling workshop for remote teams, are sure-fire ways to strengthen all aspects of your sales team. Through these methods, your team will get to learn new techniques and tips for telling engaging stories that appeal to your target audience.
Leaderboards are one of the most efficient ways to keep your team members aligned with your goal at all times and keep them motivated. They encourage healthy competition and improve engagement.
Managers must at all times remember that their true strength lies within their team’s overall performance and to achieve maximum productivity out of each of your team members, you constantly need to innovate and create strategies that will keep them motivated and from killing time.
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