The coronavirus outbreak has made us rethink everything we know about how we work and run our businesses. 

With the exhausting year of 2020 behind us, aside from an end to the pandemic, our hope for 2021 is to carry out all of the things we have wanted to do for so long. 

What most of us are looking forward to in 2021 is getting back to normal social life – something that we all miss to a great extent. But what about our professional lives?

Something we’d speculate about before the pandemic turned out to be the only way for millions and millions of people to continue their working lives in a somewhat normal fashion. 2020 provided us with an incredible opportunity to “normalize” remote work.

Working Remotely

From an employer’s perspective, not having a physical office and allowing employees to work from home means eliminating pricey real estate expenses and a step-up in the company’s ability to recruit the needed talent more efficiently.

It’s hard to disagree that the 9-to-5 office-centric work involves many inefficient processes while lacking flexibility. The switch to distant work has made it possible for many of us to hang onto the best practices of office culture while liberating ourselves from the obligatory commute.

On top of that, remote employees have the freedom to customize their days around their personal needs. 

The benefits of working from home are crystal clear. You can walk your pet or start a load of laundry between video calls. You can exercise when you feel like, or take a power nap if you get tired.

Side-Effects of Remote Work

While all the benefits are great, it’s easy to get distracted. It’s essential to stay organized and disciplined; otherwise, you’ll end up with a ton of work, accumulated stress, and emotional exhaustion.

In the US, for example, the overwhelming majority of employees were logged on for an additional few hours per day during the COVID-19 shutdowns, and the situation hasn’t improved for those who are still working remotely

While some employers might consider it as an advantage, a situation like this could negatively affect a team’s performance ability in the long run. 

Let’s suppose your workforce is going to stay remote for a while and you are concerned about results from your distant squad. And by now you’re probably aware that working from home successfully requires certain qualities and skills.

Effects of Remote Work on Team Productivity

When your remote employees are telecommuting from home or local remote workspaces, is it vital to focus and improve these particular skills:

  • Collaboration – open-mindedness, communication, long-term thinking
  • Organization – self-motivation and results-driven
  • Commitment 
  • A strong work ethic

These skills aren’t obtained overnight. During these months of Covid-19, the large companies with crisis management departments – trained for shifting overnight their employees to a home-working environment – have done extremely well. 

Productivity has even improved, with best stocks reaching record prices. But from the other side of the equation, companies that didn’t have these skills have failed to reach full productivity, and have failed, at press time, recovering from the crisis.

However, as a team leader, you need to evaluate each employee (if possible) and figure out a personal approach. Only then your team will be in sync.

In order for this to happen and prevent the risk of burnout, try to follow these few simple yet effective recommendations to increase the productivity of your entire team.

Help team-members who have organizational issues

Your employees should stay focused on their endeavors for as long as it takes to get them done. Developing persistence will allow your team-members to train themselves to concentrate on their tasks for longer periods of time while also working more diligently. 

Some employees have organizational issues and feel trapped by a never-ending workload. Identifying such team-members is extremely important for the consistent and productive performance of a group. 

You can begin by privately discussing their daily routine schedule, personal development goals, and professional challenges. 

These one-on-one virtual meetings will hopefully help resolve the issues and take the pressure off the individual team member and the entire team. 

They will also show your employees that you care and are willing to give them a hand when needed, which is one of the ways to keep your employees motivated and loyal.

You might want to continue checking in by setting up regular calls to make it easier for your employees. This should help with focusing on daily tasks and overall project goals and deadlines.

Get the right tools

Remote work is possible only due to collaboration tools, but it’s also possible that not everyone on your team is tech-savvy. Sometimes people get demotivated because it’s too hard for them to adapt to certain tools and use them daily. 

To ensure that your team members are open to learning new solutions, using simple yet highly efficient remote work tools is the key. 

The best collaboration tools for productive remote teams include:

If you are still using default communication tools like Zoom/Google Meet and messaging platforms like Skype, upgrading to one of the software listed above will allow you to improve each team member’s performance. 

Using such tools allows everyone on your team to communicate in a timely manner and concentrate on their tasks without the necessity to reply to distracting messages constantly. 

Besides these large platforms, there are also numerous task-oriented tools that can simplify your team’s workflow and increase overall productivity such as: 

  • Rescue Time – a powerful time management tool  
  • Trello – an incredible visual organizer that keeps track of all your tasks
  • Box – a cloud storage solution very well suited for business users and remote teams
  • PDF Reader – a comprehensive tool for all your PDF-related tasks
  • DottedSign – an eSignature solutions for signing, assigning, and managing documents online
  • zipBoard – a web-based visual feedback and bug tracking tool that helps developers, testers and project managers collaborate efficiently.
  • Process Street – a modern process management platform that helps teams share their core processes, then transform them into powerful no-code workflows.

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Minimize Video Meetings

Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts were some of the most actively used video conferencing tools early on in the pandemic. Remote teams relied on them for virtual meetings and collaboration. 

But it turns out that regular virtual meetings are real productivity killers. Plainly put, everything your team needs to know can be conveyed through project management platforms

Video meetings can be reserved for special situations like project kick-offs or virtual team-bonding events like birthdays or holiday celebrations. 

If you want to take the meetings and brainstorming sessions to a new level, letting your employees use wireless earbuds allows them not to be tied down to their desktops or laptops. Instead, your team members can be mobile, do something around the house, or work out.

Stop micromanaging

Micromanaging is another productivity killer. A control-obsessed manager who insists on endless team meetings, detailed reports, and constant KPIs discourages their employees more than anything else. 

Typically, such managers try to watch the employees’ actions very closely and provide recurring criticism of their work. This excessive supervision creates a negative environment where the team develops insecurity and a lack of confidence in their work. 

If you identify yourself as a micromanager, it might be one of the reasons your team is not delivering high-quality results. 

Try eliminating unnecessary pressure on your employees and creating a culture of trust with constructive candor and employee recognition for individual and team achievement. One way to eliminate this would be to use a simple dashboard, like the one in Excel that helps managers and business leaders in tracking key KPIs or metrics and take a decision based on it.

By doing so, you will help your team members become more resilient and maintain boundaries between their work and home lives. While simultaneously getting all the data/information you might require.

Think about boosting the perks

If you want your team members to move past the COVID fatigue, you have to address their wellbeing and mental health. Many companies are offering their employees various mental health benefits like telemedicine screenings and stress reduction programs

Another thoughtful incentive would be investing in upskilling and employee development. Doing this would provide employees with confidence and a sense of stability as well as a spark of powerful motivation and energy.

Some other employee perks could include:

  • Extra time off around the holidays 
  • Virtual gym membership
  • Points rewards system that can be redeemed for goods and services
  • Gifts for life milestones
  • A digital gift card to buy coffee
  • Virtual library with best-selling books
  • Time-off to spend time with kids

Any incentives that can help your team members work through the period of stagnant uncertainty are worthy of consideration.

Experiment and Reduce Stress

The coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the way we work. Faced with sudden lockdowns and budget cuts, companies have had to adapt their business strategies and operations to survive.

With that came a rapid need not only for remote work platforms and remote team tools but also for the new management methods.

What steps should you take to guarantee that your remote team will perform at the highest level? Even if you have the most advanced software in your arsenal, don’t expect your employees to work in productive spurts if they are micromanaged and stressed. 

The tips we suggested earlier can’t be implemented without lots of consideration and planning on your part. If something doesn’t work right away, don’t consider it a failure on your part or blame your team for it. 

It’s very likely that your remote employees are all stressed out. While there are deadlines to meet and projects to complete, it’s important to take a beat and consider what’s at stake. 

Your employees are already doing the best they can while working remotely, managing their homes and families under difficult circumstances. Whatever you can do to alleviate their stress will result in increased productivity. 

Use our recommendations as a starting point and add your own ideas to the mix, so you can build a strong team that will outperform all your expectations.

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This blog was submitted by Darya Jandossova Troncoso

Darya Jandossova Troncoso is a photographer, artist, and writer working on her first novel and managing a digital marketing blog – MarketSplash. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, creating art, and learning everything there is to know about digital marketing. 

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