Whether you call it telecommuting, remote working, or simply working from home (WFH), most of us are doing it these days and will continue to do so for a while. While we have had the opportunity to settle into this way of working, many managers of remote teams still wonder how they can ensure productivity. Let’s focus on the opportunities.
Building Your Team
Having the best team for your project is key to successful outcomes. Providing flexible working arrangements offers the opportunity to build a strong, diverse team. When recruiting new staff, telecommuting allows you to focus on finding the best person for the job regardless of location. Telecommuting also allows you to scale up quickly with minimal infrastructural investment. When we recruit new team members, we welcome people who have a history of working remotely.
Trust and Relationship Building
Trust is a key component of any effective team, but even more important in a remote team. You need to set clear expectations from the start. If onsite training is not possible, video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom can be helpful for training and meetings. Resist the temptation to constantly check in with team members: It is not productive for you or the team. Frequency of communication will vary according to project demands and team size. Weekly one-to-one meetings may be possible if you have five one-to-one reports, but with larger teams the frequency may need to be less. During the COVID-19 crisis, TWi has started some other initiatives to try to replace in-office contact, such as virtual coffee corners and virtual lunch breaks, where people have a chance to talk about a variety of topics (except for work!) and get some necessary human interaction with their colleagues.
Your project requirements do not change with the location of your workforce. Plan out your project and make milestones and expected delivery dates clear to the team. Where team members are accustomed to working from home, they will be better able to schedule tasks and manage their time. Less experienced team members will need more detailed task breakdowns. Regular team meetings to keep track of project progress and discuss any blockers or issues are key to keeping your project running smoothly.
It is important to use a time management tool to keep track of productivity and budgets on any project. At TWi we use a tool called Harvest, but there are many others. We run weekly reports to track productivity levels across the team and the management team discusses any potential issues. This gives us a great oversight on how things are going from week to week. As managers, we can quickly see if budgets or timelines are slipping and address this with the team.
Telecommuting can provide a valuable level of flexibility for both the company and the employee. Most of our workforce has always availed of some level of flexible working, which can help people to balance their work and home commitments. Productivity often increases when people are not spending hours every week commuting. Being set up to work from home also allows flexibility when people are working on projects across time zones – it is much easier to take an early morning or late evening meeting from home.
Remember: A happy team is a productive team. Try to find the balance that works for your company and your workforce and try not to be bound by past norms. New ways of working are not always better or worse; they are simply new.
Why not start from the beginning of our Telecommuting series? Click here to go to the first entry.