Remote working is not a new trend among businesses. Many companies have been employing remote teams from every corner of the globe to fulfill tasks which cannot be accomplished by workers who are tied down to desk jobs in the office. Thanks to upgrades to remote working tools and apps, remote working has been on the upsurge, a welcome change for workers who want the option to work from home.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the economy and everyone’s work need not be impeded by their inability to go to offices because of quarantines and lockdowns. There was also no need to jeopardize everyone’s health and safety by having them report to the office, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. What was needed was to make the switch to remote working.
Even before the pandemic started, full remote working environments have been established in notable companies such as Automattic, Zapier Buffer and Toptal. Because of the pandemic, more and more companies have joined the remote working bandwagon, incorporating the necessary technologies to enable their employees to work from home. Already, remote working is being considered as a key sign of the changing times, of the “new normal”. In fact, in a recent article on Business Insider, Atlassian – the Australian software company – made this bold declaration to their employees: “Yes, you can work from home permanently!”
The Pros and Cons of Remote Working
While it may seem that remote working is on its way to become a mainstay in business, many companies still have a lingering question in mind:
Is making the switch to remote working the right decision for our organization?
In order to answer this question, a thorough evaluation of the present working situation in your organization needs to be done. Here are the questions that you need to ask so that you can make an informed decision on the necessity (or not) of remote working in your company:
- Do my employees have to physically be in the office to get the work done?
- If we do make the switch to remote working, what are our potential gains and losses
- Is it necessary for a full remote working scenario in our company? Or would it be better to have a hybrid approach?
These questions can be answered by looking at the pros and cons of remote working. Let’s start with the pros:
- Your organization will be open to a diversity of talent from all around the world. You are not limited to talent in your office or in your local area.
- It is more convenient now to hire skilled individuals because more and more people are looking for remote jobs online.
- You save money that is reserved for payments of office leases and equipment.
- Workers don’t have to waste valuable time and money commuting or paying for gas in their treks to and from the office.
- Many workers have cited autonomy, increased productivity, and zero office environment stress when they started working from home.
Now, let’s take a look at the cons of remote working. These cons, if not addressed, may impact productivity:
- Companies must overcome a steep learning curve, which includes gaining proficiency in remote working technologies and remote worker management, a challenging endeavor for companies that have no or very little experience with a remote working scenario.
- The steep learning curve also applies to the workers as well, who also need to learn how to use these same technologies.
- A possibility of demotivation in the absence of regular face-to-face supervision
- Potential distractions at home
- Limited access to updates or information from the company
In my personal experience as Business Director of the digital content marketing agency IMPACT, I have seen the impact of these pros and cons with a hybrid approach and after we shifted to a full remote working environment during this pandemic. However, we have dealt with these challenges by maintaining regular meetings with our team, the purpose of which is not only work, but also to develop personal rapport with each team member and forge stronger and dependable working relationships.
If we at IMPACT were able to make a successful shift to remote working, I am absolutely certain that ALL organizations can also do the same.
7 Ways to Boost Productivity in Your Remote Team
Let’s say that your company has made a careful evaluation of your current office conditions. You have made the big decision to switch to remote working. The next thing to consider is how to boost and maintain productivity in your remote team. This would not only mean making them more than capable of meeting any and all challenges with remote working, but also keeping them fulfilled and satisfied in this new working scenario.
If, after careful evaluation, your organization has made the decision to shift to a remote working environment, you need to know the ways by which you can increase productivity in your remote team. Not only will these ways ensure that your team can face any potential challenges; it will also keep them feeling happy and fulfilled at their work.
Let’s take a look at the 7 ways by which you can boost remote team productivity.
1) Get the Right Remote Working Tools
If you don’t have the right remote working tools in your company at the moment, now is the time to buy and invest in them. Digital workplace solutions, such as Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) and Office 365, are vital in remote working. With these technologies, your remote team will still have access to the same tools that they used in the office and more. These tools include file storage, document and data processing, email, chat, and video calls/conferencing.
Capabilities for chat and video conferencing are very important if you want to keep in constant contact with your remote team members. Great chat tools include Slack and Microsoft Teams. For project management, the best tools to use include Trello, Asana and Basecamp, but you should also consider looking into newer apps, like Notion, Infinity and Plutio in order to keep up with other remote working companies.
To be able to stay in contact with your remote teams, you need chat and project management capabilities. The best chat tools at present are Noted project management tools include established apps like and rising technologies such as Notion, Infinity and Plutio. Digital marketing agencies have benefitted from the addition of screenshot and annotation tools, like Markup Hero, to our remote teams’ work arsenal.
Let me remind you though that it is not enough to have the right software and tools for your company. For your remote team to function efficiently, you need to teach the team members on the proper use of these technologies.
2) Always Maintain Open Communication Lines
Maintaining open, regular communications lines with remote teams helps keep motivation high, resulting in better quality of work and work output. Nothing can be more motivating to a hard worker than to have their bosses available at all times for further supervision and in an advisory capacity.
Make sure that you have a variety of communication platforms available since remote team members may have specific preferences (for example, due to poor internet connection, etc.). Some team members may prefer virtual “face-to-face” meetings via Zoom or Skype. Others prefer to receive text instructions via email or chat platforms, like Slack or Teams.
Once these communications are in place, always over-communicate with your remote teams to keep their motivation high. It can be disheartening for a team member if they feel that they are being ignored or left out, especially if they don’t receive work, updates, or information as teams in the office and other remote members. Over-communication means maintaining contact with your remote teams on a regular and consistent basis to supervise and give assistance to ensure quality work output. Over-communication is especially important when starting new projects, because your remote teams need to know their respective roles, the details of the project, and your expectations from the finished product.
However, don’t forget that over-communication entails effective communication. It’s not just about barking orders to your remote teams and expecting them to comply to your whims without question. You should also be open to constructive feedback if this means faster and more efficient project completion.
3) Make Preparations for Employee Onboarding
In the wake of the pandemic and with the sudden shift in remote working, many companies have discovered that employees who have worked in their offices for years are not ready for the switch to work-from-home. This became evident in their complaints about how difficult it was to use remote working tools.
For your workers to make a successful transition to remote working, you need to perform employee onboarding on the remote work scenario. It is not only vital that you give them an orientation on the remote working tools and applications that they will be using. In most cases, tutorials may be necessary so that they can learn how to use these tools/apps at home. You should also inform them where your company files are stored and where they can get information. Make sure that you have an online employee FAQ manual and/or a chatroom to be able to answer their questions.
If you are hiring new employees with remote work experience, your HR and finance departments will also need online e-signature tools to help them keep up with the large volume of documents that require signing. And you'll want to give new hires opportunities for career advancement – nobody likes a glass ceiling.
4) Build a culture of accountability, transparency, and trust in your organization
The work of your remote teams as well as those physically present in your offices should be aligned toward the achievement of your company’s vision and goals. Simply put, everyone should be moving and working in the same direction.
To achieve this, you should make your expectations clear to each team member, and should be included in all the instructions that you provide them. These expectations include the tasks that need to be accomplished, the deadline, and the standards that the finished work must meet.
There should also be a culture of transparency and accountability among your local and remote teams in order to build up trust, responsibility, and camaraderie.
5) Establish and encourage collaboration between local and remote teams
All companies should have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), guidelines, and frameworks in place that promote and encourage collaboration between local and remote teams. With these high standards, greater efficiency and higher quality work outputs can be expected.
The best practices that can create and promote an environment of collaboration include the following:
- Clarifying organizational goals
- Maintenance of open communication lines and over-communication
- Keeping both local and remote team members updated on the information and file flow and storage
- Provision of the necessary tools for work and collaboration
6) Perform regular, scheduled check-ins
Many remote teams value the need for regular, scheduled check-ins by their employers. They need the guidance and reassurance that any work that they produce is not veering away from the company’s goals. If so, adjustments can be made for realignment. Remote teams can also report if they are having problems or challenges with the work. They can also be kept updated on any changes or important events that are taking place within the company.
These check-ins can be done by using the earlier mentioned chat platforms. Make sure that these platforms have scheduling capabilities so you can set specific dates and times for chats or video calls.
7) Strengthen company culture
A strong company culture can be created when you demonstrate how much you value your local and remote team members contributions and work efforts. Offer feedback, suggestions, and advice on how they can produce better quality work. You should also be open to receiving feedback from them. Also, make it a point to encourage workers to report any acts of misconduct to the proper individuals within the company. Doing so will help in the building of a safe, harmonious, and trustworthy company culture.
Remote Teams Are Here to Stay
If there is anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught companies and organizations all over the world, it is that business can continue as usual outside of the physical confines of an office. With a more relaxed remote working environment, not only do your employees experience less workplace stress. They also have more time to work (even if it’s in the comfort of their homes), are more efficient, and produce higher quality work outputs. You also open your company to a diverse range of talents not just locally, but worldwide.
By implementing the tips that we have given you above, your company is guaranteed to have a productive and efficient remote working team.
Guest post written by Donald Chan, Founder of MarTech Wise, an online community for digital marketers, agency professionals, and startup founders.