We’ve all seen those success stories and advertisements of people making a load of cash working remotely from some little hut in a jungle somewhere. We’ve all smirked at them, and went back to playing tetris, angry birds, and candy crush on our office computer.
Yeah, you know I’m talking about you!
But some of us have had remote jobs, without the jungle hut part, and have seen tremendous results.
Startups or global agencies often assemble remote teams that work on projects together, or handle customer service from different time zones. At our company we do the same.
We have a team in Asia, in the Middle East, in South America, and in the U.S.
With such a diverse team how do we manage to get things done?
Here are 5 productivity hacks that we have implemented that will make any remote team successful.
1) Regular Communication
We communicate often and regularly via Skype.
- Skype acts like a messenger and a video platform
- We also share screens a lot.
- Sometimes we work on projects together on one screen
- Sometimes we brainstorm ideas
- Sometimes we divide assignments among the group. Whatever the occasion may be it is super important to communicate often and regularly.
If you want to be fancy, or need more functionality, you could use Slack or other similar programs.
The more you communicate with your team the better everyone will feel about their jobs as well.
If you are working remotely and you rarely talk to your boss you don’t have that reassurance that you are accomplishing the right things and doing well at your job.
2) Set Weekly Goals
When you work in a remote team things could get vague.
You might be given a general assignment at the beginning of the month and forget to discuss the steps required.
You might have a different expectation than your manager, sitting the world away from you. It’s important to be clear about the goal, as well as to set little goals along the way.
Famous motivational speakers like Lisa Nichols have mentioned that they create 12 micro goals on the way to their big goals and celebrate each and everyone (Lisa’s amazing video about micro-goals).
Setting micro-goals can help relieve the pressure and stress of working remote.
Here is an example:
At eClincher, I am in charge of inbound marketing and blogging, and I have a long list of tasks. Here is how I broke it down per week:
- Write 5 blog posts on our blog
- Write 2 guest posts on other blogs
- 2 Tutorial Videos / Vlogs
- Follow blogging leads
3) Keep track of Hours and Progress
If you are working remotely transparency is key.
Since your the team doesn’t see each other on a regular basis it’s hard to know what each one is doing.
That’s why I recommend starting documenting every day how many hours you’ve worked and what you’ve accomplished that day.
If you focus on each day and try to accomplish a few good things you will be amazed at how much more productive your whole week will be.
Also, the managers of the team will have such a better picture of what everyone is doing, and that will help the whole team be more productive.
4) Have a Schedule
I think the tendency for remote work is to try and multitask. And let’s face it sometimes you want to step away and make lunch, or do the laundry (if you’re working from home), or whatever other activity it may be. And you do this because you say to yourself “it’s ok, I will just work later today, I will do more hours in the evening”.
So instead of your job occupied one part of your day, it starts taking over your every waking moment. Workaholism is not a long term solution for most people. So I would recommend to pick a shift and stick with it. If you want to do some extra hours later you can, just not at the expense of your entire life.
5) Time Blocking
Last but not least, let’s talk about all of those YouTube videos you watch every day or all of the hours you spend on BoredPanda.
Procrastination kills productivity.
Especially when you are working remote, and that view is so nice outside and your cousin came in to tell you a story… and … sorry, let’s get back to the post.
There is an incredible solution to your procrastination and it is called POMODORO – like the tomato sauce. It’s a routine that was created by Francesco Cirillo, which involved a series of hyper-focused 25 work sessions.
- Do one task for 25 minutes,
- then take a break for 5 minutes to stretch, breathe, whatever.
- After 4 Pomodoro periods take a 15-20 minutes break.
So if you are like me and get distracted easily then I urge you to try this technique.
Good news is that there are a bunch of apps that help you do the Pomodoro, check out the pomodoro apps list here
So go out there and crush it folks. When you apply all of our tips you will feel like this guy:
6. Have regular feedback loops
One of the greatest challenges of working with a remote team is communication. Since you don’t get to see your co-workers physically in your office every day it’s really easy to forget to check-in and see how your teammates are doing. If you are a manager of a remote team it’s absolutely crucial that you keep your finger on the team’s pulse. Meaning, you should know how everyone is feeling, and get feedback on the various processes and tasks that you’ve assigned them.
You don’t have to do it manually and keep it all in a giant spreadsheet somewhere on your computer. You can use a tool like LeapSome to send automatic feedback requests to your employees and get analytics and reports about how everyone is feeling.
7. Write Out Your Processes
This is a really crucial tip that a lot of teams miss.
Let me give you an example.
Tom works at a pilates equipment studio where they sell various pilates machines. When Tom started he was their only salesman. Slowly over time, the sales team grew to 5 people. Now Tom has to train each person individually.
If Tom spent time writing down every process that he developed then he can just send those documents to the new hires and speed up training 2-3X.
We take it a step further here at PearlLemon. We not only write out every single process but we also make a video going through each task. This serves two purposes. Not only does it make training super easy but it also builds a positive impression and a sense of connection for the remote teammate.
What do we do when we are done training the new hire?
We set them free to spread their wings and rock out in our company.
The reason for that brings us to tip #8:
8. Give Your Teammates Autonomy
Micro-managing is a big no-no.
Because it kills productivity.
Employees literally feel stifled by a manager that micro-manages.
Give each of your employees a specific project and give them the freedom to make their own decisions. Then you make them accountable over their own results and that’s how they ultimately grow. A micromanaged employee won’t be able to develop their own critical thinking skills and will waste loads of time running back to their manager and getting approval for every little change.
9. Have Annual Get-Togethers
We can not stress these enough. Annual gatherings of the entire remote team is what separates the little ponies from the unicorns.
Just because your team is remote does not mean that you cannot get everyone in some exotic location and have a good time. It will do loads of good to have physical contact with your remote teammates and to make memories together.
Also, all of that money that you are saving on renting out office spaces could go towards an annual vacation fund for your team.
We hope you found this guide valuable. We compiled the best tips on how to keep your team productive. Here they are again:
1. Regular communication – communicate with your team on a regular basis and use video.
2. Set weekly goals and crush them!
3. Keep track of hours and weekly tasks and share with your team.
4. Have a schedule – and stick to it.
5. Time blocking – try the Pomodoro technique.
6. Have regular feedback loops – use a tool to automate this process.
7. Write out all of your processes and make videos on each task.
8. Give your teammates autonomy – don’t micro-manage!
9. Have annual get-togethers. – work hard, play hard.
Please let us know if you have used any of these tips and which ones worked best for you and your team. And as always, let us know if we forgot anything in the comments below!
Ben Kazinik is an inbound marketer for Brightech, the world’s coolest floor lamp and table lamp company. He enjoys hiking, cooking, soccer, and visiting his family around the world. Email me at – firstname.lastname@example.org