Today’s guest post was submitted by Stevie Nicks at Just Another Magazine, an online magazine that covers lifestyle topics.
As of December 2020, many of us are now nine months into working remotely.
Despite this, only a few of us have really mastered the art. Sure we enjoy the extra half hour in bed, we’ve had time to conquer the coffee machine and we can finally make those healthy lunches we craved after five supermarket sandwiches in a row, but the question still remains — are we as productive?
It’s hard to be productive in a global pandemic, and pushing yourself beyond your means is absolutely not the answer. However, whether this is going to continue well into 2021, or your business is considering remote working as a permanent option, it’s important to find ways to make you and your team remain as productive as possible.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of five productivity hacks perfect for remote teams.
Managing Your Time Properly
“Time is money” might sound like a cliche, but in 2020 more and more companies are finding time is their only saleable commodity.
That’s why time management is so important, especially in an environment where it’s easy to get distracted.
You might not like your office and its beige walls, but at least it doesn’t have all your home comforts, a stocked kitchen and roommates/a partner just waiting to distract you from your work.
Being more cautious of your time is an essential component of working from home. That’s why so many businesses have switched to time tracking tools. Without managers to monitor productivity it is difficult to know how much time is being put into projects. Tools such as HourStack and RescueTime have become essential, giving companies genuine, real-time data that helps them highlight which tasks are holding up their staff and wasting precious time.
Efforts to tackle this issue also need to come from within.
Lesson one: take proper breaks. Give your eyes a rest from the screen and your back the chance to realign from your desk chair. Short, frequent breaks (not on your phone!) help you recharge and produce better work.
Lesson two: ensure you aren’t working overtime. Many people have reported they feel pressure to check emails and work later as they’re already at home. Ignore that feeling!
Good time management is about being sensible and working within your personal limits much more than it is about pushing yourself to make every second count.
Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
Outside of the workers themselves, digital tools have been the true MVPs of 2020.
Think where we’d be if we couldn’t chat over Zoom or track website performance with Google Analytics. It doesn’t bear thinking about really!
We’ve already touched on time tracking tools, but there are so many other tools you should invest in to really hack your productivity when working remotely. The best thing about digital tools is they don’t just help out the individual, but your whole team.
A great project management tool is a must. A central hub that collects all your projects into one ensures everyone is aware of what needs doing and when. They make it easier for everyone in the business (and freelancers) to understand what’s required of them and helps managers to notice potential problems before they become too big to control. A great project management tool doesn’t just streamline existing work but prepares you for future assignments.
Communication tools are equally important. Zoom and its contemporaries are an obvious choice but think about how your business is going to answer the phone while everyone is out of the office. Ensuring the right people can be patched through doesn’t just save time, it helps win new business.
Finally, you need to consider the creative and specific tools that keep the heart of your business going. Is social media the lifeblood of what you do? Get tools that make scheduling posts one bulk task. The variety of digital tools available is vast. Don’t just hoover up all the leading tools on the market and weigh yourself down with subscriptions. Find what works for your team and what they do. P.S: Free trials are your friend.
Dedicate Time to Learning and Training
A remote lifestyle doesn’t need to be an endless grind of work work work.
Smart businesses know one of the keys to true productivity is giving teams the opportunity to gain new skills through training and improve their industry knowledge. They might not be able to attend conferences or discuss ideas with their colleagues, but there are plenty of ways employees can grow and develop in their role from the comfort of their home.
There are, of course, plenty of virtual conferences happening every day around the world. As keynote speakers and thought leaders become more comfortable with video chat and organizations look to recoup lost incomes, events have become commonplace on everything from digital marketing to how to work with charities. These are great sources of knowledge and networking opportunities for remote teams.
Alternatively, teams can access the bountiful collection of online courses, blogs and videos available from a number of providers across the web. Larger course collections such as Lynda are a brilliant place for companies looking to develop specific skills such as Photoshop editing, while industry blogs (or vlogs like Simpletivity) provide little nuggets of knowledge from leading professionals that can be digested in your own time.
You don’t even need to convince your team to commit to hours and hours of formal lessons to get something out of remote training. A productivity podcast might be the best ways for them to absorb key skills and a productive mindset by osmosis. Consider encouraging teams to listen to a productivity podcast like Get Yourself Optimized to broaden their perception of what productivity means in a real-world environment.
Training isn’t just an opportunity to improve your team’s capabilities, but a way for them to recharge and break up their day. They’ll appreciate the investment in them as a business asset and the time they can spend away from demanding projects.
Outline a Clear Workflow
This is where having the right project management tool really pays off.
A clear workflow can be the difference between a project that gets done in time and one that weighs down the business well beyond the deadline.
Before you can start to re-think your workflow you need to take a step back and analyze where it is now. How are people working? Are people’s roles well defined? Could this team benefit from an additional member? Once you have answers to these questions, you can start to hack your workflow.
Organize efficiently and ensure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. This can be assigned through the use of a digital tool or by frequent meetings. While spending all day in a Zoom call might sound unproductive, it can be a useful session for employees less sure of their next step. Optimized communication (think comments on tasks) is essential to a great workflow.
To future-proof for better workflow on other projects, you should ensure you are documenting every step of your process. Keep records of every checklist, minutes of every meeting and notes on every task to help further streamline what you do. There is no catch-all answer, you have to build on feedback and obvious roadblocks unique to your processes.
Set Achievable Goals and Objectives
It can feel like a cheap psychology lesson, but there is huge value in setting clear goals for your team. An achievable objective gives teams something to work towards.
Working from home (especially in these circumstances) can be disparaging and lonely. A light at the end of the productivity tunnel can make all those days working from a bedroom desk seem worth it. Even if they’re not personal goals or objectives, completing them can give the whole company a little boost.
It even helps with training. If team members can see value in the training they are doing and how it relates to their position (and the possibility of a promotion) it can be easier to get them to buy into it. Objectives take something hypothetical and transform it into a tangible endpoint everyone can celebrate.
By laying out clear objectives you’re ensuring the body of the business is working in tandem. If one part of that body breaks down because it isn’t sure of its purpose, it can have a significant impact on the whole process.
When you’re sitting at home for the third month in a row missing your colleagues it can be hard to push yourself to engage with a project 100%. Being productive isn’t easy, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for not working to our best every day. But these tips will help ensure everyone on your team is getting as close as possible as frequently as possible, and improving every day.