This guest post was written by Onilab's Alex Husar. Scroll to the bottom of this article to find out more about Alex.
As lockdowns and other huge restrictions remain in place, the matter of managing remote work remains acutely relevant. Several issues therefore need close consideration: human interaction, tools to facilitate the workflow, and work efficiency tracking/measurement. In this article, we’ll review these aspects, give some advice, and suggest some useful services to aid remote working.
For some branches of the economy, remote work is an integral part of business processes. For instance, many owners of online stores prefer not to have a large development department but to tweak and improve their websites by hiring outsourced developers.
However, while the IT sphere feels free and convenient in the paradigm of remote work, most companies are accustomed to working in offices with close offline interconnections between employees. During the pandemic, business owners and managers have been forced to tackle a number of issues.
a) Insufficient supervision
Managers may have problems with tracking staff productivity without face-to-face interactions. In turn, employees often express a lack of communication, help and advice from supervisors. The productivity of both the former and the latter then suffers due to the loss of habitual connections.
b) Slow interaction
Remote workers frequently encounter a situation in which it’s much harder and slower to receive a response from colleagues with whom they formerly shared office space. The tone of messages can also be misunderstood, which can lead to friction between team members.
Due to the imperfections of the technical side of remote business processes, data access and exchange can be far more difficult too. However, modern cloud solutions and CRMs can successfully resolve the issue.
c) Social isolation
Seventy per cent of workers in a recent survey pointed out a rise in work-related stress in March to December 2020. The pandemic revealed how vital social interactions are for people and how adversely loneliness affects mental health. Another side effect of remote work turned out to be the weakening of the sense of belonging to their company. As loyalty decreases, so does worker retention.
d) Constant distractions and interruptions
Total lockdown meant that people were forced to be with all members of their family 24/7, including young children who require constant supervision. This can significantly deteriorate the productivity of the staff and should be taken into account.
Organisational tips and tricks
Despite these remote working drawbacks, there are some quite simple and widely applicable measures that you as a manager can take to improve the workflow, efficiency and mood of your team members.
1. Schedule regular meetings
Thoroughly plan the time, length, aims and structure of these calls, then share and discuss these aspects with your colleagues. Control the direction of the dialogue in order to cover all major points and prevent digressions. Try to avoid overwhelming your team with meetings - you may need to hold daily calls, but base this on the size of your business and the volume of tasks.
2. Set rules
Determine the frequency of meetings and try to stick to the schedule so that meetings are predictable and everybody can prepare appropriately. Encourage everyone to use Google Calendar or similar tools that can help all members to remember upcoming events and set new ones. In addition, tell your team when and how they can reach you when it’s nothing urgent.
It’s also a good idea to set down some rules of etiquette to make the working process easier for the team. For instance, in order to cut off distracting noises, ask participants to mute their microphones during the presentation of reports or other group calls.
3. Support social interactions online
Bearing in mind everything stated above, do not overdo it with time management and discipline. People are overwhelmed by current circumstances and restrictions, so they desperately need some informal communication.
A good practice is to include some news or off-topic discussions at the beginning of every meeting. You could also try offering colleagues some virtual theme parties to encourage some team-building.
4. Care for and encourage your team
Get into the habit of regularly asking your employees how remote work is going, what concerns and challenges they have, and how you and the company can help. You should look out for signs of burnout and other psychological symptoms. Constant communication and support are the keys to success here.
In addition, praise your team for their achievements. People under lockdown may feel tired or that their efforts are not being recognised. You should emphasise the success of employees to motivate them as well as the whole team. Rewards could come in the form of verbal praise or material prizes.
There are plenty of programs and apps that can be useful for ensuring effective and easy communication and all of them include video call functionality which is suitable for businesses of all sizes:
- Slack (up to 15 participants)
- Skype (up to 100 participants)
- Zoom (free for up to 100 participants; paid for up to 1,000)
- TeamViewer (up to 300 participants)
- Microsoft Teams (up to 300 participants; up to 10,000 listen-only participants)
Remember to think about your information security when choosing a message provider. Look out for protection such as end-to-end encryption to ensure your calls remain private.
Task management tools
Due to their clear structure, such solutions can help you to get a clear view of your team’s workflow, enabling you to track progress. Below are some of the most popular ones:
- Microsoft Project
- Zoho Projects
- Dropbox Paper
Explore a few different options and choose the most suitable one for your tasks. For instance, Kickstarter chose Trello, Amazon went with Roadmunk and Netflix picked Confluence.
You may also like to think about time trackers to help you understand how much time workers spend on their tasks Here are some examples:
- Toggl Track
- QuickBooks Time