A common concern regarding remote work is the potential drop in productivity. Many managers are still skeptical that employees will possibly lose the sense of accountability, get distracted more easily, or even not commit to their responsibilities at all. Apparently, Elon Must is one of those managers, according to his latest “kind reminder” to his employees.
Remote work productivity according to science
In the opposite direction of those managers’ fears, studies have shown that remote work can, in fact, increase team productivity.
A 2014 Standford study monitored 16,000 workers over nine months, and the researchers observed that the productivity increased by 13% for those who worked remotely. Supporting the study’s claim, a survey by ConnectSolutions revealed that 77% of individuals who work remotely at least a few times each month report greater productivity. Among those, 30% said to work more in less time and 24% work more in the same amount of time compared to on-site work shifts.
Such data prove that remote work itself isn’t a threat to productivity. But the environment and experience an organization offers its remote workers play a central part in their performance. So, what can indeed influence a remote team’s productivity is its management.
This article will discuss nine of the most valuable productivity principles for remote teams. If you already manage a remote or hybrid team or are thinking of testing this model with your employees, the following tips can help you create a smarter management strategy for greater productivity.
1. Transparent company culture and work preferences.
When starting in a new office, an employee usually has the support of their new colleagues to learn more about the company and its dynamics. In a fully remote company, that kind of support must be reshaped.
From our product development roadmap to scripts for a future meetup, we make sure to specify and give everyone solid knowledge about our methodologies and goals.
Sharing individual work preferences
One of the perks of remote work is flexibility over working hours and spaces. So, in addition to understanding the team as a whole, it is a must that everyone knows each team member’s work preferences.
A few things every team member should share:
- Standard time zone;
- Working hours;
- Off hours;
- Focus time (when they’re working but won’t answer non-urgent demands).
- Any other information that might seem essential to your team’s context.
Shared calendars are the most practical route to sharing such information. However, if you wish to know more, you can request employees to draft a “How To Work With Me” guide, where they can briefly describe their availability and any other reasonable work preferences.
It is also a common practice to send short overviews through messengers like Slack, summarizing what will be executed that day. Corroborating with this habit, we’ve made it even more practical with the Copy and Share feature in Akiflow. You can quickly copy your tasks and events to send via message.
2. Comprehensible roles, responsibilities, and KPIs.
Knowing the purpose of our actions is a powerful productivity booster. Not only that, but understanding what your role is and what is expected of you as an employee and team member makes it easier to design an execution plan for all your tasks.
Using KPIs can be a great way to measure and keep everyone aware of their progress and performance towards their individual and collective goals. In fact, KPIs can work as guidelines and milestones that encourage accountability, create a learning environment, and even helps the manager to give positive and constructive feedback more often.
So, everyone in your team must have a clear understanding of the meaning and impact of what they are working on.
To keep my team aligned with their collective and individual contributions, we hold weekly company meetings and daily standups. In those meetings, everyone presents their assignments and achievements and learns what the whole team is working on as well.
3. Easily accessible information and tools.
One of the manager’s main responsibilities is facilitating their subordinates’ work. An effective way to enhance your team’s productivity is by facilitating access to relevant information and frequently used tools.
At Akiflow, we’ve created a workspace in Notion to document everything. Each section has the permissions already managed to share its content with everyone automatically. We also use 1password as our password manager, so everyone has easy and secure access to our tools’ accounts.
4. Open and asynchronous communication.
Efficient communication is essential to any successful team dynamic. In fact, most of the topics I’ve explained previously are about different forms of communication.
But direct communication can be even more critical and trickier for remote teams. To cope with that, you’ll have to create and state some communication rules.
If your team is scattered through different time zones or has different work hours for any reason, asynchronous communication usually works best. This communication model improves flexibility and the team’s overall health and relationship, as no one will feel pressured to answer messages and emails in their off hours.
Another essential communication rule is that it must be open and clear. If an important unscheduled conversation arises, whoever is in the talk must warn the other team members, so no one is left out.
Keeping an organized communication flow
With so many people talking about several different things, the company’s communication tool can quickly become too crowded, and important things might get lost along the way.
At Akiflow, we avoid that by using specific channels on Slack to talk about different things. Instead of talking about everything in one general channel, we have one to talk about the product, other for marketing, other for ideas, etc.
We also integrate every tool we use with Slack to have it as a central hub for discussions. For example, we have connected Canny to be alerted about new feature requests, Chargebee to warn about new subscriptions, and many more. By doing so, anyone in our workspace can easily comment on such events.
5. Clear priorities.
Just as every team member must know about their roles and responsibilities, they must also know the collective priorities.
Knowing the priorities and goals of the team makes it easier for each employee to determine their individual priorities. They’ll also make better decisions about allocating their time and efforts, becoming more productive, proactive, and efficient.
A great method to decide and communicate goals is through OKRs. Shortly, OKRs set a final expected result and the milestones required to get there. Creating a roadmap with OKRs makes priorities much clear to the whole team.
6. Valuing autonomy and accountability.
Successfully managing a remote team requires a lot of trust in your team members. But to trust your employees, you must give them enough autonomy so they can give back accountability.
When employees feel like they are in control of their job, they are more likely to feel responsible for it and do their best to achieve the requested or desired results. Being in control means many things, such as helping build processes, feeling that their opinion is valuable, or making some decisions independently.
Loosening the grip on the employees can also be good for the manager themself. You’ll be able to delegate more assignments to them and will spend less time double-checking their work, saving more time for strategy and management tasks.
7. Encouraging individual productivity.
Being productive as a team is not only about the dynamics used, it is also the outcome of each team member’s individual productivity. As a manager, one of your duties is to teach your team about productivity and encourage them to find their own strategies and tools.
For those who are already immersed in the productivity world, it may seem like everyone else knows the drills, but it isn’t so simple. Productivity is often very particular, as it is about personal goals, preferences, habits, and even culture.
Because of that, teaching the team about different ways to approach productivity can be much more effective than enforcing a standard method or tool.
How to teach productivity to your team
There isn’t right or wrong when it comes to productivity; there is what works and what doesn’t. So, the best advice you can give to beginners is to try and error.
There are several methodologies to explore, such as the Pomodoro Technique, the Eisenhower Matrix, Motion vs. Action, the Four-Hour Rule, etc. There are also many different tools, such as Akiflow itself.
Introduce them to the world of productivity and show them what benefits they can get from it, and they’ll surely find their way through it.
8. Respect for work-life balance.
Flexibility and balance are among remote work’s most valued benefits, but they’re not as straightforward to achieve as they seem. On the contrary, it’s easier to overwork and harder to draw a boundary between work and personal life, often leading to burnout.
For your team to achieve a steady productivity flow, as their manager, you must respect and encourage work-life balance, including respecting their everyday time off and facilitating extended time off and holidays. A few things you can do:
- Teach your staff what is work-life balance and how to approach it;
- State wellness policies to limit the number of work hours;
- Encourage people to plan days off;
- Public holiday calendar, so no one contacts those on a day off.
At Akiflow, we have an unlimited holiday policy. Although it might seem like everyone would be asking for days off all the time, our team uses this policy wisely. With more opportunities to rest and enjoy some free time, we observe that they come back to work with renewed energies and peaking productivity.
Instead of striving for counterproductive long work shifts, we also aim to achieve more with less effort by training our team on how to deep focus.
9. Actions have more value than words.
I’ve called these productivity tips principles for a reason: they are the base of a productive and healthy team culture. And culture is all about actions; it’s about the daily experience a company offers its employees.
Therefore, this list’s last and most important principle is that actions must have more value than words. While it does how to create a written productivity guideline or policy for your team, what really matters at the end of the day is your actions as a manager to facilitate and improve their individual and collective productivity.
You don’t have to do all of this at once. Design a strategic implementation plan and take notes on your team’s productivity growth.
You may want to start enhancing the communication, or maybe plan a talk about wellness and work-life balance with the team. There is no formula for approaching productivity, but it must definitely be a priority on your management to-do list.
Managing a remote team is, in fact, a challenging task. You’ll be guiding people from distinct cultures and backgrounds, working in different places and time zones, and many more particularities.
But with the right productivity strategy, the benefits and deliverables that come from a remote team’s work will prove to be greater than the challenge.
If you’re still unsure where to start your team’s productivity journey, check out Akiflow.
Our task and time management app integrates with your most used professional tools to collect all your assignments in one place and help you plan your days smartly. You can start a free trial here.
1. Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment, by Nicholas A. BloomJames LiangJohn RobertsZhichun Jenny Ying
2. Teleworkers More Productive—Even When Sick, by Aliah D. Wright