How to keep your team productive while working remotely

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way we do business. Most companies have had to face the challenge of shifting to a flexible working structure. And it’s a challenge being experienced all over the world.

There is pressure for both employees and managers to adjust to new ways of working. However, it doesn’t change the simple fact, we still have critical and time-sensitive tasks that need to be completed. And to achieve this, you must keep your team focused.

Maintaining your team’s focus on the job can be difficult, especially when dealing with multiple distractions within their home, having fewer ways to engage with colleagues, and social isolation. These factors lead to reduced productivity.

The truth is, there are many ways you can support your employees to stay productive. Ensuring they finish the critical tasks while working remotely.

Give them the right tools

To keep your team focused, leaders and managers need to ensure individuals have the right tools to stay connected and be productive. These include apps that assist with project management tracking, instant chat and messaging, and video conferencing.

Equipping teams with cutting edge technologies allow everyone to stay in touch and focused on the priorities. Knowing where everyone is on a project is easy in the office. But when your team members are isolated, it takes energy and time to achieve the same goal. Making it easy and having the right tools takes you one step closer to achieving your end goal, even if you are all physically separated by distance.

Establish and prioritise daily check-ins

It’s easy to get your daily check-in while working in a traditional office – being able to effortlessly chat while getting your morning coffee or walking to the elevator. It’s a way leaders and managers instinctively set priorities and foster connections with their team.

This daily face time is not always possible when people are working remotely. Creating a regular check-in routine is essential to develop a sense of normalcy and keep on top of priorities and issues. Set up a morning video chat, phone call, or instant message either one to one or within small groups. The general aim is to adapt specifically to the remote workers’ usual way of communicating to maintain productivity.

Encourage dedicated workspaces

As a manager or team leader, you should encourage your team members to create a home office space separate from a communal area. The average person does not usually have a designated workspace, so that they may need some direction.

Some companies have offered large stipends to help workers create appropriate and productive spaces for remote work. You can also use furniture and supplies from the traditional office if it is not being used.

Dedicated workspaces help free employees from the everyday distractions of home life. Many of your staff may be home-schooling or sharing spaces with people who have very different working hours. Any office away from housemates or family can allow them to maintain focus. It also helps people to prepare for work mentally.

Provide emotional support

For many people, work is their social salve. Going to work allows them to communicate with like-minded people, build relationships, develop meaningful connections and conversations that aren’t levelled at a three-year-old.

Working remotely is a large contributor to loneliness and social isolation. You, as the employer or team leader, can provide emotional support to help alleviate these issues. Set the mood for their virtual offices with a calm and positive presence. This helps create a remote workspace where people feel as though they are trusted and valued to complete their job.

Managers should be more accessible than usual for check-ins and other questions that come up during this time. It’s a great idea to set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging throughout the day to help your employees when they have questions.

Another essential factor for emotional support is encouraging self-care. Living and working in one space can impact negatively on an individual. The boundaries often blur, and work can often be a distracting issue for your team member late into the night – when they would usually leave the traditional office at 5 pm sharp. Not to mention the stress of the new working environment and sensationalist media stories that are happening daily. Encourage your team members to exercise consistently, get quality sleep, take showers, and continue to live their lives as naturally as possible.

Dress for work

Psychologically, this is a game-changer. Slouching around in underwear or pyjamas while trying to be productive is hard. Encourage your team to dress up like they are going to work. This will help them feel mentally prepared for the day. They will also be more comfortable and confidant when jumping on an impromptu video call with clients or co-workers if they aren’t looking like they just got out of bed.

Facilitate non-work interactions

This may seem like it is out of your sphere of influence as a manager, but establishing time and room for workers to talk about news, hobbies, and other topics – just as they would in the office – relieves stress and helps facilitate connection. A great way to achieve this is to have a virtual happy hour or lunch hour once a week. Everyone can get together and talk about what has been happening in their life. Maybe meet their pets and have a virtual walk around their house.

As team leaders and managers, it’s our responsibility to help our employees and teams transition to different working conditions. This helps with maintaining the individual team member’s focus and enhancing their work experience. A happy employee is always going to give you more than one who is resentful and distracted.

Learn more about supporting your employees while working remotely: How to Support the Wellbeing of Your Remote Workers