While the rest of the business world is enjoying the cost savings that comes with remote work, there are a few skeptics who are still hesitant to make the leap. Another case might be that you’re done with working online. It hasn’t produced the results you wanted. In both cases, you might think your employees will simply “goof off” during the work day. Research has shown that in truth, American on-site workers usually work only 2 hours and 53 minutes a day even if they’re sitting right in front of you. This blog will tackle the alternative— take the plunge but don’t go in blind. Use productivity tools effectively and increase productivity in the remote workplace.
What are Productivity Tools?
Productivity tools for remote work are online platforms or tools that aid remote teams in managing tasks, communication, time, and projects more effectively. These solutions are designed to boost productivity, optimize operations, and promote collaboration despite the distance. Through these tools, you can ensure that your virtual employees are staying productive and accomplishing tasks on time. Here are some common categories of remote work productivity tools:
Project Collaboration Tools
These are tools that allow your team to visualize tasks, and timelines, and see who is assigned to what. How does this help? Think of it as your way of walking over to someone’s desk and telling them the guidelines for their next project. These include Trello, Asana, Monday.com, Basecamp, Airtable, and more.
Time Management and Tracking Tools
If you really want to be sure you know what your virtual employees are doing, you can use time-tracking tools. These are platforms where they can enumerate what tasks they have been doing and for how long. You or your management team can see if anyone has idle time with these platforms. Common time trackers include Clockify, Time Doctor, and Toggl.
Secondly, you can help your teams lay out what they need to accomplish with the help of online to-do lists. These are a few examples: Todoist, Microsoft To-Do, and Wunderlist.
Communication and Collaboration Tools
While the tools above can provide autonomy for your virtual employees, directly speaking with them can mean clearer instructions. You can use a variety of tools to communicate and touch base. Here are some video conferencing, instant messaging, and email management options:
Video Conferencing: Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet enable virtual face-to-face meetings, screen sharing, and real-time collaboration.
Instant Messaging: Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Slack foster quick and easy team communication through chat, file sharing, and integrations with other apps.
Email Management: Email clients like Gmail and Outlook and tools like Boomerang and SaneBox help organize and prioritize emails efficiently.
Tips for Using Productivity Tools Effectively
You might think that knowing the best productivity tools is all you need to manage virtual teams well. However, that’s only the first step. Let’s tackle how to use productivity tools so your members can work diligently and collaborate smoothly.
Guideline 1: Choose the Best Tools for Your Situation
The first step in ensuring your virtual team functions at top efficiency is to select suitable productivity tools. Before choosing a decision, it’s critical to assess your team’s individual needs and goals.
According to Science of the People, providing your employees with the appropriate tools can help reduce micromanagement and increase trust in the remote workplace. Let’s say you run a digital marketing agency with remote employees spread across different time zones. In this scenario, Time Doctor could be an ideal choice to track hours worked by team members. On the other hand, if you need a comprehensive project management solution, Monday.com might be a better fit to manage campaigns, track progress, and collaborate seamlessly.
Guideline 2: Explain and Implement Transparent Time Tracking
Being on the other side of the world can scare some employers. You might be worried that your employees are goofing around. There is no need to fret, you can eliminate the gray area altogether while maintaining employee autonomy by using time trackers. In fact, allowing your employees to engage in time tracking can get rid of 80% of productivity gaps.
Still, you must use time trackers in remote work with the intent to keep everyone’s tasks and productivity levels transparent. If you explain your reasons for implementing these tools it can cultivate trust within your virtual team. Options like Clockify allow your virtual employees to keep track of their outcomes without taking screenshots of your remote workers’ laptops.
Guideline 3: Set Clear Expectations and Goals
23% of employees report that ineffective communication and poor project management increase wasted time during work hours. To combat this, you have to establish clear expectations and goals for your virtual team to get the most out of task management systems like Monday.com and Airtable. Define project objectives, prioritize work, and effectively communicate responsibilities.
Starting out you might want to create a detailed project board on Monday.com. This includes tasks and deadlines. Assign particular team members to each assignment and keep everyone up to date on progress to ensure everyone is on the same page with project goals. Transparency aids in tracking progress and avoiding bottlenecks.
Guideline 4: Provide Training and Support
A survey of 1,000 remote employees found that respondents who received training often rated themselves higher on questions about productivity as well as time management over those who did not receive training. This can be especially important when these professional development sessions include information that affects the way they work at your company.
Consequently, when introducing new productivity tools to your virtual team, adequate training and ongoing support help everyone get on the same page. Ensure that your team is knowledgeable about these tools and has access to resources for troubleshooting and help.
Let’s say you want your remote employees to use Airtable to visualize their tasks or projects. Before you let them use the platform, you can provide a training video, document, or set aside to demonstrate how to use it through a video conference. Make a help structure or FAQ document that covers typical problems or concerns. By providing the appropriate training and support, you enable your staff to properly use the tools at their disposal.
Guideline 5: Regularly Review and Optimize Processes
The virtual work environment can be very dynamic, and the needs of your team can shift over time. To sustain high productivity levels, it is critical to analyze and optimize your processes and equipment on a regular basis.
You can analyze the data and performance metrics every quarter to find bottlenecks or areas where efficiency can be enhanced. Some tasks can take longer than intended, resulting in missed publishing deadlines. By addressing these difficulties, you can increase overall productivity by tweaking your operations through your findings.
Guideline 6: Promote Work-Life Balance
While productivity tools are useful for tracking work-related activities, it is also critical to encourage work-life balance among your virtual team members. Encourage them to set boundaries and step away from work when necessary.
To accommodate different time zones, consider introducing “no meetings” days or flexible work hours. Monitor workload with productivity tools to guarantee that no team member is continuously overworking. Remember that a team that is well-balanced and well-rested is more likely to be productive and creative. Many remote employees even specifically choose this setup for this reason. 67% of employees reported that their work-life balance was better when they moved to the online workspace.
Guideline 7: Embrace Continuous Improvement
Productivity tools should not be band-aid solutions, but rather part of a continuing process of improvement. Encourage feedback from your virtual team members and be willing to make changes to your policies depending on their feedback and changing needs.
For example, if your software development team discovers that Trello does not entirely satisfy their needs, look into additional project management solutions or interfaces that can improve their productivity. Being open to ongoing development ensures that your virtual workforce has the best tools available to generate high-quality results.
The Bottom Line for Using Productivity Tools Effectively
Businesses need careful planning to use productivity tools effectively for virtual teams. Remember that these tools can empower your virtual employees and that success in the online workplace requires a combination of technology and prudent management.
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