Olby Shaju , PMP, PfMP, SAFe SPC, MCP – MSP and Project Server 2013

Magic spell for increasing productivity, team happiness, and work-life balance for remote workers

Posted on October 25, 2021 by Olby | Agile, Best Practices, Project Management

by Ms. Subha Sadagopan, PPM IT Consultant in CAPPM (Centre for Advanced Practical Project Management)

Businesses today are embracing remote trends and hiring top talent from different countries. A remote team is a group of professionals from various time zones, diverse skills, and different cultures working together on a unified project. Remote work is increasingly becoming the new norm rather than an exception. The COVID pandemic has mandated social distancing, compelling professionals to collaborate virtually.

Remote working was an increasing trend with the pandemic to just speed up this process:

  • 4.7 million People were already working remotely from home before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Flex jobs)
  • 74% of companies plan to shift some of their employees to remote working permanently after COVID-19 (Gartner)
  • Before the pandemic, 52% of global employees worked remotely once a week, and 68% did so at least once a month (Owl Labs)
  • 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when working from home. (CoSo Cloud)

Examine Remote team needs:

  • The team members should be connected, not isolated.                                                                           
  • Have clear goals and expectations.​
  • Receive frequent feedback on progress.​
  • Be consulted on issues and decisions.​
  • Not be micromanaged​
  • Understand the capabilities of virtual teammates.​
  • Having clear communication channels.​
  • Ensure their career progress is supported.​
  • Feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions.​

Leadership Skills for Remote teams:

Strong leadership skill is essential for creating a business culture that’s productive, innovative, and able to adapt to an ever-changing professional landscape. The remote employee is going to be more a fitting than a favour, with this shift, team leaders will need to learn the new skills required to meet the challenges of a virtual workplace. Along with the other leadership skills, project managers use Servant leadership skills which adopt a more human-centric, collaborative approach to project management, where customer and employee relationships take center stage.

Best team-building practices:

Team building refers to the activities undertaken by groups of people to increase their motivation and boost cooperation. Best team-building practices that allow co-workers and employees to use their collaborative strengths to bring long-term value to the business.

Set Boundaries and clear goals with Remote Workers

  • Remote teams often need some kind of boundaries to outline their work and personal life as they are work from different time zones.

Working on Sprints

  • Sprints are the key to managing an agile team. Instead of setting goals by quarter or year, break them down into smaller projects ranging from 1-4 weeks. 
  • Start the sprint by creating a list of activities (backlogs) and deliveries that need to be made to complete the project.

Frequent Communication

  • Over-communicate decisions across all geographies training the team to understand when decisions are made and how they need to be communicated.

Encourage and Embrace Diversity

  • A simple way is to find how different people from different areas are open to receiving feedback, promote a mindset of celebrating differences, be respectful about national holidays for your global team, and respect every cultural difference.

Accountability and trust

  • Emphasize that for teams to work effectively, everyone must trust each other, focus on their responsibility, and be accountable for their actions.

Remote Team Tools:

Project management tools are a valuable addition to the teams working remotely. Project management for remote teams requires managers to rely on collaboration and communication tools, project management tools, and emerging technologies to help them stay connected and updated on projects and deadlines.

  • Asynchronous communication tools give people the ability to communicate instantly with anyone / anywhere without having a face-to-face conversation. 
  • Synchronous communication tools – real-time communication when you expect to get an answer at the same moment in time. 
  • ​The tools which make collaboration and communication easier for the remote teams are: GIT lab, Slack, Twist, Loom, Mural, Hugo, Geek Bot, Jell, Confluence, Microsoft Project, Trello, Wrike, WebEx, Google meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Fishbowl, Tumblr, etc.

The Remote Team types:

  • The Co-located team indicates that there is a functional team working on a project sharing the same workspace.​
  • The teams that work entirely from home or other remote locations are called fully remote or fixed teams.
  • The concept of a hybrid team refers to the amalgamation of remote work and work from the office.​

Engaging team members in Remote teams:

Use Agile to manage your remote Team

Implementing an Agile project management approach can minimize these roadblocks and boost engagement. For instance, the agile methodology allows people to communicate openly and frequently discuss roadblocks. Team members can openly share their challenges in scrum meetings, without fear of judgment. The Agile approach also includes frameworks like implementing scrum artifacts for managing cross-functional teams, which can help.

Invest in Frequent Training

This includes on-the-job mentoring and shadowing, as well as regular training workshops on technical and soft skills. Employees feel excited about training programs that help them build the vital skills they need to grow in their careers.

Create a Customer-Focused Culture

This shared purpose is more difficult to assimilate in a remote work team where people are physically separated from their team. This feeling of purpose is most important in customer-facing roles such as sales and support. Lack of engagement there will lead to stunted revenue growth and excessive customer churn – both of which can be disastrous. Creating a customer-centric company culture is a great way to build a sense of shared purpose and is perfect for boosting engagement.

Centralize your communication

Communication can get confusing in a remote work team. This leads to misunderstandings, conflicts, stress, and, consequently lower levels of employee engagement. Communication becomes a lot simpler when all members working remotely stick to the guidelines and use innovative technologies.

Rewards system and employee recognition

Motivated workers are always highly productive, and this, in turn, will enhance the bottom line. But to accomplish this, we should consider offering rewards and a recognition system to the workers. This will serve as a means to reinforce the employees positively. Virtual recognition ideas recognize performance and appreciate those departmental members who are consistently doing well. The best way for managers and businesses to show appreciation virtually is to recognize and reward with uniformity. 

  • Be as creative as we can: extended lunch breaks, gift cards, performance bonuses, extra vacation days, etc., are just some of the things we should consider. 
  • Work anniversaries and birthdays are landmark days in an employee’s life and are cause for celebration. 
  • Virtual contests are fun for virtual teams to participate in while challenging them. 
  • A wall of fame can be on a whiteboard tool where the person’s name, picture, department, and reason for going up on the wall are listed.
  • Social media shoutouts are a type of virtual kudos where everyone in your and your employees’ network sees the post and interacts with it.
  • Meal coupons with discount codes are one of the best recognition ideas invented.
  • Virtual employees who have worked overtime hours on billable projects can cash in complimentary offs for those weeknights and weekends.
Benefits of Remote teams Downsides of Remote teams
Increased productivity Nightmare in scheduling
Reduced costs for organizations Managing workloads
Reduced stress Harder to build company culture
Access to top talents Complex team communication
Report employee’s satisfaction Slower team formations

To develop an effective and efficient remote work team, here are six best practices represented by the acronym REMOTE:

  • Review the situation
  • Engage as a team
  • Maintain momentum
  • Foster Openness
  • Leverage Technology
  • Evolve team practices

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