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Keeping Your Remote Team Productive + Focused, No Matter What’s Happening

Let’s be real. There’s a lot going on. Global lockdown for COVID-19, swirling agitation in the streets … 

And you, like many business leaders, probably scrambled to put things in place for employees sent home to work with zero planning. 

Your team may be out of sight—but not out of mind. 

Are you worried about how engaged, productive and accountable your people can be at home because you see how easy it is for YOU to get off track? 

In the workplace, it’s simple to monitor what people are doing. When they work from home, you lose that sense of control, and they, now surrounded by ever-increasing distractions, may lose focus.

You want to support them through the stress of what’s happening, and give space and grace for valid emotions and their individual navigation of the current state of affairs … AND you’ve still got a business to run. 

So I’ve gathered 6 of my favorite tools for regaining control and increasing your team’s productivity, even while they work from home. (No matter what’s happening.)

1. CONSIDER USING A TIME TRACKING APP

If you’re worried about how your team is spending their time, use a time tracking app. Time tracking apps can help you see what people are doing and easily determine whether they’re spending too long on a particular task, so you have an opportunity to course-correct. 

There are many time tracking apps available like myhours.com and clockify me. Our favorite though, is Hubstaff

With Hubstaff, you can track time, run payroll and invoice, all in one place. It integrates with a number of other apps and software. But here’s where this app goes above and beyond:

Hubstaff has a productivity tracking feature that allows you to see work in progress with optional screenshots. It tracks app and URL activity, and even GPS location if that’s relevant for your employees. 

So, beyond watching your team log their hours, you can see exactly how they’re spending those hours—which is great for coaching them remotely on how and what they are prioritizing.

2. USE A PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOL TO STAY CURRENT ON WHO’S DOING WHAT

Project management software is a great way to keep projects organized for your (now) virtual team. 

We draw a distinction between project management and task management software. True project management apps feature ways to look at the big picture; task management apps are more about ticking off to-dos within a project.

Project managers can create projects, tasks and deadlines, and assign them to team members. It’s easy to see who’s doing what and what’s due when, and your team can communicate about pieces of work and even upload files and supporting documents. 

If you have a larger organization and require a project management tool that includes GANTT charts and advanced features, you can look at Microsoft Project or Basecamp (with GANTT chart add-ons). 

For smaller companies, where you’re really tracking task completion within each project, tools like Asana, Trello or Teamwork give you the ability to see the progress on important projects. 

Compare softwares to see which fits your organization best. Asana and Trello offer free basic options, while Teamwork has a free trial.

We dig Asana here in our offices because it’s very list-y and we like lists. 

For more conceptual work, we rely of Trello to visualize tasks and workflow but our go-to is always Asana. Its structure really helps us get granular about the who, what, when and where of a task.

3. DECIDE WHERE YOU WILL STORE SHARED DOCUMENTS

Now that your employees can’t poke their head around the office door to deliver a file, it’s necessary to store shared documents onlinewhich, let’s be real, is more efficient, makes collaboration easier and cuts down on interruptions. 

So, if you weren’t doing it before, our new world gives you an opportunity to join the 21st century (the cloud is safe, my friends), share documents differently, and/or explore the full capabilities of the document sharing solution you’ve been using. 

So this is what I do with my team, and my recommendation: 

Use Google Drive and the Google suite of apps for real-time collaboration. (In fact, this blog post was written using Google docs.)

Then, we use Dropbox to share digital assets, like a file cabinet in the cloud. 

Whatever tool you use, you need a clearly defined naming convention that everyone follows across platforms, so you can actually find what you’ve stored.

Ninja tips:
1) Create a shared doc that codifies your internal naming conventions for files AND clearly maps out your folder hierarchy. Make sure everyone on the team knows where this doc is and conforms with the conventions.

2) Asana and Teamwork both integrate with Google Drive. Whatever tech tools you use, opt for the ones that play well together.

4. DECIDE ON THE BEST WAYS TO COMMUNICATE

“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” —Nat Turner Click To Tweet

Communication is key to getting great work done AND being efficient. And email is long gone as the internal communications vehicle of choice. 

Stated plainly, stop communicating with your team via email!

Slack is our preferred way of communicating internally as a team. We invite vendors and contractors to individual “channels” so they can participate, too and join us in our crusade to eliminate email between team members.

You can turn on and off notifications so no need to worry about constant pinging. 

It’s excellent for instant messaging, and keeps communication about a topic altogether in one thread, making it super easy to search for relevant files and info. It is a much quicker way to find conversations and refer back to points made (much easier than hunting through emails). 

Avoid Facebook Messenger; too many distractions.

Zoom is an excellent way to host online meetings, although we advise having a backup alternative—the extra demand on Zoom since lockdown has made it a little glitchy at times.

Never shy about exploiting an opportunity to dominate a market, Facebook has just launched Facebook Rooms to meet the need, and there are always GoToMeeting, Skype and Google Hangouts as fallbacks. 

Ninja tip:
Choose an online meeting app that will allow you to share screens AND remotely control participants’ computers. It’s helpful to “drive” on a colleague’s machine when trying to troubleshoot an issue their having rather than trying to figure it out based on screenshots and verbal descriptions.

5. CREATE SIMPLE “WORK FROM HOME” POLICIES

If you haven’t yet done this, draw up simple, concise “work from home” policies outlining expectations, if appropriate, for your organization. 

You can also create policies for how to communicate and collaborate, which may include details of the software and apps you’ve chosen to use to help your team stay organized. 

These policies can help people understand what’s expected of them and stay on track while working independently from home. 

The biggest challenge that your remote team faces is a lack of structure. 

So, institute a morning routine: log into the time tracker, open your task or project management app in a tab, and check in on Slack with a quick “Good morning” to the team to let everyone know you’re “in the (home) office.”

A simple predictable sequence like this connects your team first thing, and has a grounding effect, focusing them in for the tasks at hand.

There is an opportunity here, if you choose to use it, to return to the office with better policies,  procedures and tools than when you left. 

You may even find your team are working so well from home that you opt to cut costs and continue to have some (or all) of them work from home, even after the pandemic is over. (It’s happening all over.)

I’ve had several clients opt for this going forward. 

They’ve instantly reduced a major expense by cutting rent and that money is being redirected to hiring more qualified staff AND increasing training for everyone’s benefit.

6. ENCOURAGE EMPLOYEES TO SET A WORK ROUTINE AND ORGANIZE THEIR WORKSPACE

Speaking of training, set up a virtual training session with your team to discuss their work routines while they’re working from home, and coach them on the best ways to create an organized and dedicated working space in the home. 

Share this article about working better from home to help them each become more productive personally. 

Need more help? We provide customized strategy and virtual training to get your team to their productive and efficient best while working from home—no matter what’s going on.

Book a strategy call with us for more details

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