🗝️ The Key to Successful Remote Working

The debate about whether or not remote work costs productivity rages on. This week, I'm sharing what's needed to make it work.

Ever since the pandemic came to an end and people could once again freely return to office, the debate about whether or not remote work costs productivity has raged on.

Recent data suggests that they have cost some companies productivity. And yet, I’ve been working remotely for more than 10 years and I’m obsessed with productivity.

I’ve worked with tens of exceptional freelancers and remote workers who have demonstrated that you can have terrific performance while working remotely. So I know for a fact that you can be very productive without ever having to set foot in a traditional office. In fact, I save up to two hours every single day because I don’t have to worry about going on a long journey to and from the office during rush hour traffic.

But, at the same time, I have to concede that the transition to remote work has in some cases demonstrably impacted productivity in a negative way. So for today’s newsletter, I thought I’d share of the key things needed to make the transition to remote work a success.

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1. Check what you monitor

One of the primary arguments in favour of returning to office seems to be based around the notion that if someone can be supervised, they are less likely to slack off.

I would question whether total time spent “working” is really the best indicator of productivity.

An expert may be able to deliver as much in one hour as a beginner may deliver in 4. When you work with remote teams, I find that the following tend to be better indicators of true productivity:

  • Adherence to deadlines;

  • Availability for calls and team discussions during regular working hours;

  • Quality of output;

  • Quality of internal feedback and communication.

2. Workspace conditions

As I’ve said before, I have been working remotely for more than 10 years. But for the first two, I must admit that I was struggling to be productive.

It took me a while to figure out and develop the right habits and working conditions to get it right.

What I’ve learned is that the following are quite critical when working from home:

  • It’s really important that your “office” room, where you spend your time working, is not your bedroom and is not a shared room. It’s really important to be able to work from a space where you are free from distractions and the noise of what others may be doing around the house;

  • It’s important to maintain a consistent schedule. It doesn’t have to be 9-to-5, but it’s important to ensure that you’re working more or less around the same hours that your colleagues, partners or clients are working so that you can connect with them in real time to discuss work;

  • Very important to have a fast PC and internet connection that enable you to work at least as easily as you would from a traditional office.

3. Collaboration & tracking tools

From a management perspective, it’s crucial to ensure that your team has the tools they need to be able to collaborate effectively in real time. To name some of the key ones, that means:

  • Video conferencing tools (Teams, Zoom, Google)

  • Secure chat (Teams, Slack, etc)

  • Scheduling tools (i.e. shared calendar so that it’s easy for colleagues to check each other’s availability for calls)

  • Real-time collaboration (i.e. Mural, Miro, etc)

  • Project Management (i.e. Jira, Coda, Airtable, Notion etc)

  • Secure cloud storage (Onedrive, Google Drive etc)

4. Ways of Working

It’s of course important to understand that with a shift as big as going from in-person to remote working, ways of working will need to be adjusted as well.

You won’t have the opportunity to just look over to your colleague’s desk and head over for a quick work-related chat if they are available. You don’t get the benefit of spontaneous in-person collaboration. But from a management perspective, you can work those kinds of sessions into your team’s schedule. That can mean:

  • Ensuring regular meetings between key team members that enables them to discuss pressing topics;

  • Encouraging team members to schedule their own ad-hoc meetings between each other without having to always include their managers, ask for approval or coordination, etc. Make it easy and it will happen more;

  • Depending on company culture, team dynamics and so on, you may want to also think about how you can integrate gamification into meetings as well as other initiatives aimed at increasing active participation from each member.

5. Team Building

One thing will always remain true and that is that you will never be able to build personal relationship and develop team dynamics as well online as you will offline.

However, this can be achieved in all kinds of ways besides simply going to the office. It can be achieved through team buildings, internal events, workshops, hackathons, etc. In other words, the occasional team activity that is not about the usual day-to-day, but really all about building better connections, improving team collaboration and dynamics. If done right, even meeting just once a year can help build lasting relationships between coworkers.

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