Love it or hate it, you can definitely no longer ignore it — remote working is here to stay. We’re now closing in on a year since the lockdowns forced companies to go remote almost overnight — and while some teams have adapted well and have shown more productivity while working remotely, others are still struggling to make the most of virtual Zoom meetings and the work-from-home life.
However, there are always ways to enable success while working as a virtual company. Working smarter – and not just harder – is more important today than ever before. If you want your entire team to make use of their time intelligently, finish their daily tasks, and consistently improve while working remotely, here are some tips that you can pass on to them.
1. Schedule everything
Having a schedule helps remote teams in several ways. For starters, it lets you ensure that you’ve accounted for every task, no matter how big or small, so that nothing slips through the cracks. Secondly, it gives your team a much larger overview of everything they need to accomplish during a given time period. Having such a clear picture of their daily, weekly and monthly tasks right upfront helps them plan their work better. For instance, some employees may find it useful to club similar tasks together and knock them off in one go — thereby working faster and more productively through the day. Others may find it easier to identify which of their tasks involve a dependency on other team members. They may then want to get those tasks out of the way first, so that the entire team ends up working more seamlessly. These are just a few reasons why scheduling every task is at the top of Verizon Connect’s guide to working smarter. And of course, listing every task through the day also means you get to enjoy that small thrill of accomplishment, every time you tick off something from your list! Such little (but frequent) wins go a long way in keeping up morale when everybody’s working remotely.
In order to make the most of this, it’s really important to create a schedule, stick to it, and communicate the importance of updating the lists to everyone on the team as well. It is also important to continuously develop your schedule, so that you can pivot to whatever new challenges your department or company faces. This is a great time to take a critical look at your scheduling system, if you haven’t done so already. An overly complicated, tedious scheduling protocol will only slow people down and is likely going to be difficult to implement universally through the organisation. TalentDesk.io’s collaborative freelancer management platform can help you there. The transparent, easy-to-use platform is designed to help managers keep tasks, projects, and the team’s daily workload organised, so that employees and freelancers can work more seamlessly and productively.
2. Let tech do the heavy lifting
Rapid developments in work-related software have given today’s remote teams all the digital tools they need to succeed. Finding and familiarising yourself with the right tools enables faster collaboration, shorter turnaround times, and potential leaps in overall team productivity.
Even simple and free tools like Google Drive and Dropbox can help keep entire teams on the same page when it comes to specific projects or tasks. Meanwhile, platforms like Slack and Zoom allow for immediate communication across sub-committees, teams, departments, or the entire company. But if not managed right, this throws up a new challenge. When your entire team is working from different locations, it becomes difficult for everyone to track and access information that is stored across different storage and cloud platforms. Managers too, find it difficult to keep track of conversations that happen across several inboxes, chat apps and communication tools. This highlights the importance of choosing a unified system. TalentDesk.io, for example, finds a way around this issue by consolidating several capabilities, and allowing integration of existing systems onto the platform. By getting more familiar with such essential remote working tools, teams can leverage technology in a way that enables them to harness their strengths and adapt to individual weaknesses.
3. Brief your team well
When people are working in close proximity, there is a lot of scope for impromptu collaboration. Employees can stop by each other’s desks to verify data points or get clarity on some new instruction that’s just come in. Managers can be more hands-on too, guiding and steering a project in the right direction, even as individual team members work on different components of the project. But when the entire team is working remotely, none of these things are quite so simple.
Many newly-minted remote teams experience increased workloads due to miscommunication, disorganisation and the need for multiple iterations — but these are all issues that can be solved with a good brief right at the start of the project. One way to make a brief clearer is by aligning it to SMART goals — goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. This gives every member of the team a fair idea of exactly what results you are looking to drive, how, and by when. There on, the manager can help individual freelancers and team members understand their specific responsibilities and targets — and figure out how they’ll collaborate to manage dependencies. Of course, newer members of your distributed team will also need to be provided with relevant insights, context and background into the project they’re working on. Having a common platform for freelancers, team members and stakeholders to collaborate and access the same information is also extremely helpful. Though putting together a detailed brief can initially seem quite time-consuming, it actually helps your team save an astounding amount of time and effort in the long run.
4. Infuse a culture of autonomy and independence
Micromanaging can be the quickest way to bring down a team’s motivation and morale — but sometimes (especially when every team member is working remotely), managers may not know how to ensure a seamless workflow without resorting to frequent follow ups and monitoring. However, Forbes’ guide to work habits in the remote era notes exactly why cultivating a culture of autonomy is so important — it allows teams to maximise individual working styles and balance them out to cater to individual needs.
This is yet another area in which a platform like TalentDesk.io can help make work smarter. Its transparent, comprehensive dashboard allows every member of the team to have access to the relevant information and work independently without having to rely on the manager at every step. On the other hand, clear scheduling and easy project tracking helps managers plan deadlines and track progress with minimal intervention or follow-ups.
5. Focus on empathy and camaraderie
These may not be the most tangible qualities to track and quantify — but nevertheless, they’re some of the most important things to ensure in a new-age, remote workplace. Social interactions and interpersonal bonds make the workplace fun and engaging. These need to be actively encouraged and cultivated within a virtual workspace too, if employees and freelancers are to enjoy a sense of fulfilment in their work.
The effects of forming such bonds go much beyond just personal fulfilment — it’s good for your team as a whole too. Getting to know one another and nurturing personal connections make your team members more likely to collaborate better and work flawlessly as a team. Moreover, such connections foster empathy, so that each person ends up being more considerate of how their actions affect others in the team. This is especially important if your team consists of several new employees and freelancers, who may not have met or known one another before, and thus have no pre-existing connections to fall back on.
Video calls, agenda-less conversations and virtual social hangouts are some great ways to enable such personal connections. However, do make sure that such interactions are fun, meaningful and engaging for everyone — too many stilted, obligatory interactions can end up feeling forced and result in ‘Zoom Fatigue’. But when done right, a more empathetic, well-connected team can naturally pave the way for smarter, better work. In fact, the right balance of autonomy and empathy gives you two of the strongest foundational characteristics for creating an intelligent, adaptive, and unbeatable team.
These are just some of the most effective ways to instill smart working habits within newly-minted remote teams. After all, remote working is an inevitability irrespective of the industry your company operates in — and it will continue to remain relevant long after the immediate threat of the pandemic is over.
And while the modern and remote workplace is much more tech-inclined compared to the pre-pandemic office, the principles of working smarter are essentially the same. Create and stick to your schedule, strive towards developing independent teams and team members, and use whatever technology actually helps in efficiently accomplishing regular tasks.