Productivity can be a challenge for teams that have suddenly become remote due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Workers are wondering how to structure the day and how to facilitate remote team communication to maintain working efficiency.
These problems may seem insurmountable at first, but there are a few hacks that newly remote workers can adopt to achieve more within their changed schedule.
13 Productivity Hacks for New Remote Working Teams
1. Set up Security Systems
Within the confines of a workplace server, the IT team has control over how the network is used. They can also detect and stop any unexpected breaches.
However, when the team relocates to their homes, security becomes more tricky—people are working off their own connections, which could make them vulnerable to outside attacks.
Security needs to be of paramount importance when suddenly relocating a company from the office space to another location.
There are a few steps that remote working teams can follow to ensure their work stays safe:
- Businesses should invest in a company-wide VPN that will keep servers secure
- Employees should install antivirus software and run them regularly—at least once a week
- Avoid visiting any links or websites that look suspicious
- Keep operating systems and work-related programs updated regularly
- Home Wi-Fi systems should be encrypted with a strong password—these can be generated using password managers
- Avoid using personal mailing and chat services for business purposes
Not having to concern yourself with whether your system and information is safe will make working remotely much more productive.
2. Don’t Stick to the Same Revenue Methods
Trying new things doesn’t only have to apply to individuals—companies as a whole can explore new avenues to improve revenue generation.
Look at where your audience is now—almost entirely online. If your sales models aren’t focused on online activities, now is the time to make a change.
Relying on old methods of revenue generation won’t work right now—and the failure to see any discernible increase in revenue can bring down productivity across all levels of a company.
Instead, explore new avenues to bring in customers and to spread awareness.
For instance, consider creating a podcast to reach your audience—the podcast can discuss topics focused on your industry or niche, or be more light-hearted and fun.
Most brick and mortar companies have found ways to sell products online to bring in revenue and stay open during the pandemic—this shows ingenuity and flexibility that companies and remote workers need to adopt.
Set up a system where you can continue to produce items and have them delivered to your customers.
Brainstorm new ideas with your teams so that nobody feels that their jobs might be under threat because revenues have dropped.
3. Engage With Your Team
Office spaces are bustling with activity and communication—colleagues stop by each other’s desks for follow-ups or a quick chat all the time.
The sudden shift to remote working has made engagement within teams very difficult—communication is the first aspect of workplaces that suffers.
There are a number of ways to stay engaged with one’s team—checking up on each other every day, participating in virtual team building activities, and being understanding will all make engagement possible no matter the distance between colleagues.
Ensuring that communication lines are open and that nobody feels abandoned is crucial to making remote work a success—and it helps teams work more productively.
For most companies, this new way of working is not going to last forever—acknowledging that this is a short term strategy for keeping the company alive will also help to ensure that workers stay positive throughout this period.
4. Invest in the Right Software
One of the ways to improve engagement and productivity is by investing in the right software.
This includes project management tools like Monday or Trello. These tools help teams remain on the same page when trying to complete projects.
They can create lists and cards for aspects of the project that need to be completed first—they can also tag relevant team members, and add due dates to streamline the process.
There are a number of chat tools that will make communication easier for all team members—Slack and Microsoft Teams have made remote communication more immediate.
Though nothing can simulate the intimacy of the workplace, the right communication tools and apps will ensure that remote teams get the replies they need as quickly as possible to progress their work.
And most of the tools available online are free or inexpensive, which puts less pressure on small businesses to dip into financial resources that are being depleted.
5. Adjust to New Schedules
Productivity at home is different from productivity in the workplace. Offices have very specific routines—most jobs start at 9 am and end at 5 pm.
The same cannot be said for remote working—the homeplace, particularly in the current situation, doesn’t allow for such a structure.
With children at home, the responsibilities of working parents have changed dramatically—they now need to homeschool their children as well as keep them entertained and engaged.
Expecting parents to work according to regular schedules when their children are studying at the same time is unreasonable.
To boost productivity in such a situation, remote workers should be allowed to first create a new schedule that suits them and given time to adjust to it.
6. Be Patient with Your Team
The pandemic has had a profound effect on people’s mental health—there are people who have lost loved ones to the virus, and others who are struggling to cope due to anxiety.
Right now is the time for empathy—it should be a part of all workplaces in any case, but at this moment, empathy is extremely important.
Being patient with colleagues and managers who aren’t handling the situation as well as you are is necessary for improving productivity.
But patience shouldn’t only be directed outwards—workers need to be patient with themselves.
If someone isn’t able to focus because of anxiety or the distractions at home, there is no need to get upset with yourself—this is an unprecedented situation and you need time to get used to it.
Reaching out to colleagues and friends when everything around you becomes too much is essential—don’t try to deal with this situation on your own.
7. Track Your Progress
The distance that comes with being a remote worker can make it difficult for colleagues and managers to keep track of each other’s progress.
To ensure that everyone knows what has been accomplished and what still remains to be achieved, remote teams can use checklists, project management plans, and internal newsletters.
Tracking one’s progress and sharing it with concerned parties needs to be done more regularly and diligently than one would within a workplace.
Don’t wait for managers or clients to follow up with you—let them know on a regular basis so that everyone is on the same page and knows that the task is in hand.
8. Get Used to Meetings
Meetings are a part of working life—but when teams are working remotely, meetings become a crucial lifeline for maintaining communication and progressing work.
But while meetings do help teams hash out what needs to be done, they can take up an inordinate amount of time that could be spent actually doing the work.
Teams need to understand that not every issue requires a meeting—some discussions can take place over chat tools or even on email.
Video meetings should be restricted to team-wide debriefings, pre-launch discussions, and weekly staff meetings.
This will help people be more productive, instead of spending time listening to others.
And at these meetings, all employees should be encouraged to turn on their videos—seeing each other and being seen will help workers stay connected so they can feel a bit more like they are still in the workplace.
Video calls are also crucial for showing the intent behind one’s words—technology keeps people connected but the written word often fails to convey emotions, even with emojis.
Seeing the gestures, expressions, and intention of the speaker gives people a better idea of what is behind a piece of criticism or praise.
This leads to less misunderstanding and resentment, which impacts the productivity of a team’s work.
9. Practice Designing Presentations
The increasing number of meetings will also warrant an increase in the number of presentations you will be making.
Presentations are a great way to bring your team up to speed, without having to rely entirely on oral communication, which has a tendency to be misheard, especially over technology.
When you want to share new concepts, brainstorm ideas, share statistics, and set goals, presentations will be the best way to convey what you are trying to say.
Making presentations for a group of people who are in your physical presence, is different from creating them for people who are viewing it through technological barriers.
Look at how creatively presentation ideas have been shared in the below slide deck:
Here are some pointers you can take away from the example above:
- The slides are uniform and thus easy to follow
- The text is kept to a minimum—important data is made bold to draw the eye
- Bullet points are used to enhance readability
- The colours of the text, charts, and background contrast so they can be ease seen easily on any screen
- Data is visualized to share information clearly and concisely
Create 1 to 3 presentation templates that you can re-use whenever the need to share ideas arises. This will improve productivity and help you connect better with your colleagues.
10. Learn to Repurpose Content
Templates aren’t the only thing you can re-use to make your work easier. You can repurpose the slides you create for internal presentations for external audiences.
You can turn slides and infographics into webinars or a LinkedIn presentation—this will help to place you as a thought leader in the industry. Repurpose blog posts or vlogs as infographics, or social media posts.
When you find new ways to use one piece of content, you save time on creating new content—and you can spend that time being more productive in other areas.
Plus, by repurposing content, you give yourself the opportunity to send your messages to new audiences.
11. Create Separate Workspaces
Newly remote teams will struggle with one particular aspect of this change in their way of life—dedicating a space just for work.
In the office, everyone has their own desks—an oasis that is theirs and theirs alone where whatever they need is within reach.
But the home is nothing like this because it hasn’t been set up specifically for work. So, how can you be productive in a space that isn’t conducive to work?
You need to measure out an area that will be a good fit for your needs—a room, your home desk, or a spot at the dining table. This will help you get into work mode and be productive.
12. Move Around
Having a dedicated workspace does not mean that you stay rooted to the spot for hours on end—this is bad for your posture and body.
Instead, move around the space, leave your room to walk around the apartment or house. If you have a balcony or garden, take a short walk around it.
If your space is very limited, try and stand up and stretch at least every half hour, if not more—this will get your blood pumping to stop you from getting injured.
13. Try New Things
Just because you can’t go anywhere doesn’t mean you have to stop living your life.
There are a number of fun work-from-home ideas that you can try as a hobby, or to improve your working skills.
Trying new things can help make you more productive because they engage your mind in new ways—you can unlock untapped potential within yourself, improving your work ethic.
What you take up during this period doesn’t have to be directly related to work—it’s the experience of undertaking something new that will bring you benefits.
Remote teams can struggle with productivity but this becomes even more acute when teams who are used to working in the office have to work from home.
Coupled with the anxiety of the current situation and you have a recipe for decreased productivity.
But the above methods have outlined how workers can continue to work smart and produce results despite the change in circumstances.
These methods will take some time to adjust to but before companies know it they will once again have a smooth working system.
Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic and design platform. Ronita regularly writes about digital marketing, business development, growth strategies, pop culture, and inclusivity.
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