Many businesses have discovered the benefits of remote and hybrid teams over the last year. With the potential to boost productivity, motivation, and collaboration, it is clear that they are both here to stay. Even after a return to normalcy.
For example, Microsoft announced its plans for the future of its hybrid work model last year. And enabled all staff to work up to 50% of their time from home without needing approval. And permanent remote working to any employee with their manager’s approval.
This makes Microsoft one of the 82% of businesses planning to enable partial remote working. And 47% allowing employees to work full-time from home in the near future.
These benefits are not automatic, however. Getting a remote or hybrid team working smoothly can involve a change in approach from managing a team in-person.
So how do you maximize their potential for enhanced productivity and collaboration?
Expand Communication Options
When you are managing team members across multiple locations, time zones, and work patterns, your ability to communicate effectively has a huge impact on productivity and your team’s ability to collaborate. While an in-office team can get away with relying on basic email and instant messaging, remote and hybrid teams will benefit from an expanded range of communication options for every situation:
Urgent Messages and Alerts
It is a good idea to have separate communication channels that you only use for emergencies and urgent situations. Phone calls and internal SMS can be the best way to quickly get hold of someone. Keeping these channels for urgent alerts only ensures that important messages never blend into the background of more everyday messages. And provide a reliable way to reach people out of hours. Invest in an employee time clock system with messaging features to streamline communication during working hours.
For messages and notifications that don’t need an immediate response, scheduling time for email lets your team check for updates and replies between more important tasks instead of as a distracting interruption.
Collaboration and Group Projects
When your team needs to work together on a task and rely on each other to meet their tasks and deadlines, the ability to message each other quickly and informally can be indispensable. There is a wide range of instant messaging apps intended for remote teamwork. So look for the one that provides the features to support your project. Besides messaging, they can offer features to create and assign tasks and sub-tasks. Or visualize timelines and dependencies within the project tasks. And otherwise help your team members be more proactive and accountable for project progress.
Meetings and Important Project Discussions
Instant messaging is great for intermittent communication throughout the day to work on a group project. But it’s not ideal for focused discussion. It can enable miscommunication and crosstalk when everyone is trying to give their input at once. Video and voice calls are more appropriate for these kinds of meetings. These make your meetings more productive. They ensure everyone is giving their full attention, rather than responding to messages as they carry on with work. This is why it’s essential to remove background noise, provide engaging time for your team, and be productive overall.
Protect Your Offline Time
When you add more communication tools to your team, the temptation is to use them as much as possible. But just because these tools enable an ‘always online’ approach, does not make this the most productive way to use those tools.
Even in a group project, a lot of the time each member of the team can benefit from some uninterrupted solo work in their schedule. Enabling a team to work offline for a couple of hours every day can be daunting if you are used to staying in close contact throughout the day, but the lack of distraction enables people to give 100% of their focus to the most important tasks. Being distracted by a call or email can effectively lower someone’s IQ by as much as 10 points.
Make use of status and availability indicators in your team apps so that everyone knows when they can expect a response from other teammates. With the right scheduling and communication, this offline time can improve productivity without getting in the way of collaboration. For example, Quora recently switched to a remote-first work model. To ensure easy collaboration, Quora has implemented ‘coordination hours’ for every time zone to get team members online at the same time for impromptu discussion.
If boosting a remote or hybrid team’s productivity means enabling team members to work more independently, then you need to provide them with the tools to manage their own time. Time tracking tools are not about monitoring your team’s time throughout the day, or at least not when used correctly. Instead, they enable better self-management by making people more aware and more accountable for how they use their time. Dropbox’s remote-first approach places a major focus on giving employees the tools to schedule their own days to preserve their focus for individual tasks.
Having full control over this and the ability to track their own productivity helps team members develop the motivation for self-improvement. More importantly, it allows them to see the results of changes they make to their overall productivity.
Break Down Silos
Project management apps can be used to foster better communication and collaboration between teams, as well as within them. Assigning ownership of each task and a clear responsibility structure within a team, displayed in your project app, makes it much easier for people outside of that team to get in touch with the right person at the right time.
This can greatly reduce the amount of back and forth as people work out who they need to talk to from another team about a particular issue, as well as when and how to get hold of them. Setting up automated responses using an email automation tool to reply to out-of-hours messages with availability and response times lets teams fire off quick messages without being left in the dark about when a reply will happen.
Don’t Misuse Video and Voice
Video and voice are great ways to hold a concise meeting or focused discussion, but they can also be a big distraction. Keeping your team on the voice at all times will mean that part of their attention will always be focused on the voice in their ear and how they are appearing on camera. Switching to instant messaging for the more everyday discussion that keeps tasks on track lets team members give work their full focus when they are not replying to messages.
Find A Hybrid Approach That Works for Your Teams
Hybrid and remote working have the potential to enable a huge boost in productivity. This takes the right tools and approach, however. Focus on eliminating the need for micromanagement by setting up your team to work independently, collaborate proactively, and develop their time management skills.
There is no single correct answer to creating productive remote and hybrid teams. The right approach is very dependent on the balance of group and solo work in each team, as well as that team’s need to work with other teams. As a result, you should expect to make a lot of changes as you introduce hybrid working as you discover what works and what doesn’t for your business.
Remote and Hybrid Team Productivity Hacks
- Expand communication options
Remote and hybrid teams will benefit from an expanded range of communication options for every situation
- Protect your offline time
With the right scheduling and communication, this offline time can improve productivity without getting in the way of collaboration.
- Enable self-management
If boosting a remote or hybrid team’s productivity means enabling team members to work more independently, then you need to provide them with the tools to manage their own time.
- Break down silos
Assigning ownership of each task and a clear responsibility structure within a team, displayed in your project app, makes it much easier for people outside of that team to get in touch with the right person at the right time.
- Don’t misuse video and voice
Video and voice are great ways to hold a concise meeting or focused discussion, but they can also be a big distraction.