3 Best Practices That Will Raise Productivity When Working from Home

This article was originally published at Enplug.com

According to research by Gallup, 43% of all U.S. employees work off-site sometimes. And with social distancing guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the number of companies with work from home policies is now much higher. Mediation is a confidential method of resolving disputes without filing a lawsuit. There are yoga poses you can do as well. Whether your team was already working from home on occasion, or has just started to, here are the best practices, strategies and tools that make remote work productive and gratifying.

1. Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Working from home means no more casual chats by the coffee machine or group lunches. And without these activities, your employees will find they have less context for understanding the work they’re doing. That’s why, despite what some may think, meetings are an essential component of managing remote workers effectively.

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It can even help to remind your employees that they are telecommuting. When you telecommute, you’re still commuting – just virtually. That means your staff is expected to attend meetings and communicate regularly.

Remote employee in home office waving at manager on her computer screen

Individual Check-Ins

When managing remote employees, you might not be able to meet face-to-face with your coworkers. Even if you don’t have your direct report sitting in front of you, it’s important to develop both a personal and a professional connection. One-on-one meetings are a valuable opportunity to make sure that remote employees feel heard and valued – as well as invested in the direction of the company as a whole.

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Team Check-Ins

Regular team check-ins keep everyone on track and help each team member understand how their tasks fit into larger group goals. This is especially important because they’re no longer getting to see what their coworkers are doing on a daily basis. Because the unexpected happens, now is the perfect time to review goals and adjust schedules as necessary to make sure everyone sees their work as achievable.

Tips for successful check-ins with remote employees

  • Celebrate employee contributions & accomplishments. Employee anniversaries and project milestones might be celebrated more spontaneously when in office. When working remotely, they’re still an important tool for motivation, so don’t forget them.
  • Set a clear meeting agenda with input from both parties. The key to keeping employees engaged during a check in meeting is to have them collaborate on the agenda. Empower them to get the answers and tools they need to do the best job.
  • Decide on a check in schedule. Your employees might find that when working from home, there are specific times of the day when they’re most productive. There could also be days of the week when they’re most likely to need direction on priorities and projects. Work with your team to find the best schedule for check ins that move work forward instead of interrupting it.

2. Set Clear Goals and Track Them

When you suddenly find yourself managing remote workers, you’ll need the help of all your team members to achieve your business objectives. While those objectives might be clear to you, it’s important to translate them into specific goals for each team member. Adopt SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) goals when supervising remote employees.

Specific and time-based goals: Help your team turn what might seem like an unstructured today, into an attainable plan of attack.

Measurable goals: Give you and them the peace of mind to know that even if you’re not directly supervising employees, progress is being made.

Achievable and realistic goals: Raise morale as you can celebrate the small wins, instead of waiting for the big one.

Remote employee looking at a laptop with a corporate screensaver showing team goal.
Set goals and celebrate accomplishments to keep your remote employees on track.

3. Develop clear and consistent communication guidelines

When speaking face-to-face, it’s easy to ask for clarification – and get it right away. But telecommuting means juggling incoming messages from different communication channels at the same time without the context of body language and tone of voice. And all while tuning out children, pets and housemates. This makes it hard to have an efficient conversation when collaborating remotely.

Luckily, if you and your coworkers can all agree on some ground rules for communication, you’ll avoid misunderstandings and get work done.

Availability. You don’t expect your direct reports to be available every minute of the day when they’re in the office, so don’t expect it when working remotely. Instead, agree upon what times of the day are critical for collaboration. When you do step away, update your colleagues, so they aren’t left waiting.

Technology. Maybe your company has dedicated communication channels and apps. If it doesn’t, select which technologies employees should enable on their devices. Using the same video conferencing solution no matter who sends the meeting invite can save a lot of time. You can even discuss which notification settings are enabled, so you’re sure no one is left out of a conversation.

Purpose. Make it clear why you’re choosing a virtual meeting over an email. When you share why you’re taking time to communicate, employees will see it as a good use of time. For example, if you need to brainstorm or collaborate, video conferencing works much better than email.

Tips for effectively managing remote communication

  • Respect working hours. Employees need to have a start and end to their workday if they’re going to recharge and remain productive.
  • Be aware of context. Frustrated that an employee who keeps giving you short replies in a messaging app? Don’t jump to conclusions. After all – you can’t see that their child has just spilled coffee on the keyboard.
  • Use the right communication tools. If you haven’t already, explore dedicated tools for remote work. Slack lets you connect with your team across devices. Trello manages tasks and workflows. Digital signage software like Enplug shows corporate communications.

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