There are lots of great reasons to work with a remote team… access to a worldwide talent pool, flexibility for team members, reduced office overheads, time saved commuting – to name just a few. But despite these benefits, remote teams have their challenges as well. Different time zones, cross-cultural communication, lack of visual and verbal communication cues can make productivity challenging.

With a remote team, you can’t just call an impromptu meeting in the boardroom, take someone out for a coffee, or get an idea of what your team is working on by walking past their desks. Remote team productivity relies on setting up the right systems to allow everyone to work at their best.

Here are 6 ideas to increase remote team productivity

1) Agree on “Core Hours”

Flexibility is great, but if team members are not working during the same hours, a lot of time can be wasted. Instead of insisting that everyone works 9am-5pm, find a middle-ground where everyone agrees to work from 11am-3pm (or whatever your team agrees on). Their hours outside of this window can be flexible but this way you’ll always have a good chunk of time for team members to collaborate in real time.

2) Share Daily Action Plans

When teams work in the same office together, it’s easy to have a good feeling for what everyone is doing. But with remote teams, that’s not the case. A lack of transparency can easily create distrust in the team, and people can easily waste time working on things that aren’t the top priority.

To circumvent this, insist that every team member note down the few things they are going to work on for the day. (Writing this down and having a defined focus actually makes individuals far more productive too.) You can do this in Actioned, Google Sheets, Trello, Slack or some other tool. Knowing what everyone else on the team is working on creates a high-performance atmosphere and a much better feeling of working in a team towards a common goal.

3) Understand When to use Which Tool

There are a plethora of online communication tools available but deciding when to use each can make all the difference for remote team productivity. Maybe you have a team video call once a week, hold weekly one-on-ones with each team member on an audio call, and use chat for working 1:1 on a project. You might also want to put in some guidelines that if things are getting off-track and communication is failing in one channel, switch to a different channel. (Often text can be misinterpreted and a voice or video discussion can remove any confusion.)

Use your regular team meeting to check in with your team and understand how communication is flowing. Maybe a shift is required for certain types of communication.

4) Simulate the Water Cooler

Just because your team works remotely it doesn’t mean that building a strong team culture isn’t important. In fact, it’s more important that you take deliberate steps to do this than ever! Teams that know and respect each other tend to work more productively and achieve greater results. After all, no-one wants to let a friend down.

To achieve this, you need people to share personal information about themselves and as the team leader, you need to set the example. Tell your team about your family, your holidays, your hobbies, and remember to talk about both the good and the bad.

It might sound contrived, but you also need to build “water-cooler conversations” into your regular communications too. For instance, perhaps during your weekly meeting, each team member should share the highlight of their weekend. Or on Wednesday afternoon, everyone shares what they’re cooking / buying for dinner. Or you could use random prompts like these to build team culture and change up the conversation. Little by little, these snippets of information build up to form stronger bonds between team members.

5) Share Daily Accomplishments

Don’t you hate it when remote team members seem to vanish and are gone for the day? Instead, of letting this happen, build in systems whereby everyone checks in with the team before clocking off.

But they don’t just bid everyone farewell and leave either! They should give a brief summary for the day and state what they accomplished and any problems holding them back. This habit of “showing your work” has an enormous impact on remote team productivity. Like the Daily Action Plans, these quick notes convey a lot of information and really help a team to work together and become extremely productive.

6) Share the Business Vision and Goals

It’s easy to assume that your team members are just focused on their specific roles, but most people find it far more motivating to understand how they fit into the bigger picture. In your regular meetings, share and discuss the business’ vision – brainstorm what that might look like in the future and how it impacts each department.

Also discuss the business goals with your remote team. Share the wins (and of course, the misses), so that everyone knows what they’re striving towards.

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With systems like these in place, and of course, the right team members onboard, it’s easy to run an extremely productive remote team.

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About the author

Fiona Adler is a writer and serial entrepreneur with an MBA. She recently created and sold Australia’s largest business reviews website. Fiona is currently building Actioned.com – a productivity tool for teams, and writing at DoTheThings.com, while living in France with her family.