In a decade marked by enormous change, the way teams work, collaborate, and connect has shifted dramatically. Here are key strategies to boost the performance of your remote team.
Spurred by the epidemic and an almost overnight shift to working from home, it is becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to not only keep their remote teams productive, but also engaged.
In a study of 70 virtual teams, nearly 82% failed to meet their objectives, and 33% rated themselves as mostly unsuccessful. This demonstrates that today’s leaders are at odds over how to balance team morale alongside efficiency.
However, remote work also brings its own benefits. Eliminating long commutes and reducing office distractions leads to improved productivity. Stanford University researchers found that remote workers experienced a productivity boost equal to a full day’s work.
It is clear that supporting your remote team in reaching their optimal levels of productivity can be as simple as implementing some quality remote work practices. These remote work practices can mean the difference between a demotivated, underperforming team and an energised, high-performing one.
Continue reading for strategies to transform your remote team’s performance and the way they collaborate to maximise their productivity.
1. Reevaluate Your Communication Channels
Without coming from previous remote working experience, it is easy to underestimate the value of communication in overall team productivity. The smooth operations of a team is often dependent on simple actions such as being able to meet ad hoc to discuss an urgent matter or even offer constructive advice in passing. These minor but significant differences can be critical differentiators in determining the performance of your remote team.
This is why it is critical to move beyond using emails as your primary means of communication. Workflows are not the only thing that will be disrupted; a sense of camaraderie, morale, and peer relationships are severely hampered by email-only communication. Thus, embracing an agile communication toolset will empower your remote team to form genuine connections with one another.
From Slack for daily communications, to an employee appreciation platform where peers can recognise one another’s achievements, just make sure that the tool you choose is one that your employees will actually use. An expensive, albeit ineffective, communication tool is a bad investment, both for you and your people.
2. Invest in Quality Collaboration Tools
The foundation of any great remote team’s performance is based on the quality of the tools they use to work together. While we all know how important collaboration is, managers frequently underestimate how impactful it can be in a remote setting.
Research shows that tasks requiring a high level of teamwork are more difficult to perform in a remote setting, as employees cannot share knowledge or ask questions informally. This makes it vital for remote managers to investigate, identify, and deploy a set of collaborative technologies that can assist your distributed team’s functions without disruption.
Every remote team requires high-quality collaboration tools to bridge the gap between their performance goals and geographical location. Project management, time management, and even file-sharing apps can help a team function more efficiently by providing transparency and accountability.
3. Support Autonomy
The pre-pandemic perception of remote workers was often that they are lazy and prone to slacking off. As a result, several organisations and leaders resort to one of the most ineffective measures: micromanagement.
Micromanagement is detrimental in any situation, but is almost more harmful for remote teams. If we look at the collective remote work experience today, we can see that the majority of employees, particularly those with families or compromised finances, may be facing dire circumstances. Understandably, this could cause undue stress which may in turn impact performance.
When a leader micromanages, it conveys the message that they do not trust their team members, and as a result, even the highest-performing employees are less motivated to give their all, further reducing productivity.
4. Devise a Strong Goal-Setting System
While it may appear tempting to micromanage your employees in order to ensure that they are giving their all, doing so can have disastrous long-term consequences for employee engagement levels. A good manager is aware of or seeks to learn more sustainable methods of evaluating productivity, such as effective goal setting via OKRs and KPIs.
OKR, stands for Objectives and Key Results, has been a part of Google’s robust and effective goal-setting process since its inception. OKRs are a goal-tracking system that is used to evaluate levels of priority so that employees and teams know where to spend their maximum time or resources. OKRs employ a rating system in which the entire team determines how complex the task should be. The greater the score, the more difficult the task.
OKRs, on the other hand, can be a very black-and-white approach unless combined with relevant KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators- targets that are frequently linked to each OKR goal. If your OKR is to “Improve social media engagement,” your KPIs could range from “Improving video engagement by 20%” to “ensuring that the number of unfollows is less than the number of follows.”
5. Lead with Empathy
If there is one non-negotiable change you must make in your company right now, it is to become more empathetic. A 2019 report by The Institute of Leadership & Management found that building close relationships with colleagues was the most important factor in determining job satisfaction by 77% of respondents.
However, today’s hybrid work culture has created a significant barrier to what makes a workplace wonderful in the first place- the personal connection.
Remote team members will feel isolated and alienated from the rest of the team when there is a noticeable lack of empathy. This has the potential to discourage employees from speaking up, stifling their creativity and limiting their confidence in sharing valuable ideas.
Meaningful peer-to-peer connections have declined as genuine moments of human interaction have become more difficult to duplicate in a remote or hybrid work situation. Its effects can be felt throughout the company culture, including efforts to promote workplace diversity.
An empathetic culture, on the other hand, begins with an empathetic leader; a lack of empathy only invites future business losses.
Displaying empathy is equivalent to telling your employees— “I care about your satisfaction and well-being.” Employees become more committed to the company when they believe they are more than a cog in the machine.
6. Maximise Your Team’s Potential
The construal-level theory essentially states that the further you are from something in time, space, or social context, the more abstractly you think about it. When applied to the remote work scenario, this concept explains why your remote team members are unable to assess the scope of a problem or relate to its severity. This is not to say that they do not understand workplace concerns, but simply that remote workers are more likely to feel disconnected from these issues, as well as from their coworkers.
That is why it is vital to develop a means for your team members to tap into their creative side. Holding frequent brainstorming meetings is a key method to enable this because it is one of those team-bonding times where people can bounce ideas off each other, express their thoughts, and reignite that feeling of working together on something meaningful.
When remote team members can be more proactive and excited about addressing new problems, it provides a strong sense of fulfilment. On the plus side, brainstorming sessions also let your remote team members think outside the box and come up with ideas that they have not thought of before.
7. Celebrate All Achievements
In most cases, appreciation is offered only when a remote team member achieves something great. But the ultimate goal of any remote manager should be to gradually but steadily increase productivity levels.
Your remote employees should be able to see that their effort, hard work, and dedication are recognised in the same way as their triumphs are. This is how you demonstrate to them that you care about them beyond the bottom line, and this is what will drive them to go above and beyond.
8. Construct a Meaningful Feedback System
The almost overnight shift to remote work was staggering. While industry leaders were focused on getting their employees through the tough transition, the actuality of how employees were dealing with the “new normal” was swept under the rug.
While it may appear to be a cakewalk from the outside, the reality of remote work is significantly tougher. Remote teams rely on technology for even the most basic forms of communication, and tight deadlines mean that work spills over into their personal lives. There is a significant risk of going overlooked, undervalued, and misunderstood in a remote work environment. This can lead to eventual burnout, decreased productivity, and a negative impact on the team’s overall performance.
Every opportunity for feedback gives remote workers the feeling that they are not only valued members of the team, but also that they can approach their manager in the event of a personal or work-life crisis. This instils a strong sense of positivity in your remote employees, making them feel seen as well as psychologically supported.
This is why, as a remote leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team members have a proactive feedback platform to voice their concerns.
While you can use manual feedback strategies such as one-on-ones or performance reviews, it is also important to pair such strategies with an anonymous employee engagement survey tool. Anonymous survey tools allow your employees to express their true feelings rather than the sugar-coated version. This, more than any one-on-one conversation, may help you better understand your company’s strengths and flaws.
In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, more than 66% of CEOs said they expect their companies to change their business model in the next three years, with 62% stating they have management initiatives or transformation programs underway to make their business more digital.
Whether you are ready or not the change to a remote-first workplace has begun and will continue. It is no longer a question of “if” but rather of “when.” 2022 has revealed how remote work does not necessarily imply lower productivity, but only if the manager is sensitive and subtle enough to handle the complexities of a remote workforce.
When it comes to remote work, it is more vital to consider how it will impact employees than how it will affect the company, as once your remote staff gets into the swing of things, your company’s profitability will almost certainly meet your expectations.
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