As most of us have experienced, there are definite benefits to working remotely (for a while anyway). You’ve got independence and flexibility over your work. You can complete tasks anywhere you want. You can even travel while working.
But being an efficient remote worker can be challenging. And if people are working in different time zones or countries, there’s added impact. You and your team may face productivity pitfalls on the road to mutually beneficial collaboration.
This article dives into top productivity blockers of distributed teams, and methods on how to overcome them.
Communication issues that stifle team productivity
1 – Having unstructured team communication
When your team members aren’t sitting right next to you, communication about projects and tasks needs to be intensely clear and specific to get work done. The key here is regular updates and milestone checks. Job management software (like WorkflowMax or Asana) and communication platforms (Slack, Google Meet and Chat, or Microsoft Teams) can help you have the structure you need to keep work on track.
Communication is crucial for getting people from different cities or countries to achieve common goals and staying productive.
When your team members aren’t sitting right next to you, communication should be intensely clear and specific to get work done. The key here is to elaborate rules and stick to them – whether it’s a mix of daily one-on-one’s by phone and having everyone on Skype group chat in the meantime, or any other system that works well for your team.
2 – Overlooking two-way feedback
It’s not only the work that requires regular check-ins. Team and individual catch-ups will help everyone feel connected and give you the opportunity to find out how people are doing. This two-way feedback is crucial to promoting wellbeing-led performance and helping to reduce stress and burnout.
Collaboration issues that can cause headaches
3 – No streamlined online collaborative workspace
Collaboration is a crucial part of team productivity. Even a small issue in the project lifecycle can cause chaos. Especially if you manage projects in spreadsheets or something similarly un-automated.
By using a job management system that has collaboration tools, you’ll save time, keep all documents in order, and help everyone collaborate effectively, no matter where they’re working.
4 – Failing to measure productivity
Do you always know exactly what other team members are working on? And which milestones they’ve completed? With job, task and staff management in one place online, you can keep track of everyone’s progress – as well as the holdups.
5 – Not respecting each team member’s time zone
When you work from home or in a distributed team, finding time to talk across time zones is challenging. Meetings can often fall into a more ideal time for one group and the other can feel like there’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’ system in place.
Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if you all really have to be there. If a recording will convey all the information, send that out instead. If ongoing meetings are necessary, consider rotating the time zone to share the load more equally. Or move the start time by 30 minutes occasionally so it causes less interference with home life.
6 – Not structuring meetings enough
How do you get the most out of meetings and stay in sync when most people just want to get on with their work? Here are some ways to make virtual team meetings more productive and useful:
- Invite only those who really need to be there.
- Always include a purpose and agenda in your meeting invites so everyone knows exactly what you plan to cover and why.
- End a meeting by discussing next steps.
- Stick to meeting times and remind people of when the meeting will finish.
- Replace some meetings with daily updates in your messaging platform.
Engagement issues that decrease team productivity
7 – Skipping new employee onboarding
You always want new employees to feel welcome, but that can be difficult when everyone can’t say ‘hi’ in person. Here are a few ideas to implement for onboarding:
- Make sure your onboarding processes are top-notch. Check that your new hire’s laptop and phone will definitely be ready when they start, and that they’ll be able to log on to all your systems easily.
- Walk them through their role and your systems thoughtfully – don’t try to teach them everything all at once.
- Organise one-to-one meetings so your new team member can meet everyone they need to. Give them the rundown on who each person is in advance.
- Assign a virtual mentor. Having a helpful buddy that can guide a newbie through all the things they should learn is really handy.
8 – Not encouraging social interaction
A distributed team means you can’t run out for a coffee or celebrate birthdays together. But you shouldn’t disregard all types of social interaction. Organise a monthly or bi-monthly social catch-up where you do a quiz or an online escape room. Maybe have a drink together or morning tea. This kind of interaction can help people get to know each other better so they can collaborate more effectively.
When communication, collaboration and engagement are all working well – no matter where your employees are – you’re bound to see better productivity across the board.