Unleashing the power of human potential comes with a unique set of challenges for managers of remote teams. As employees transition to a distributed model, the benefits of flexibility can quickly be outweighed by a plummet in productivity.
The good news is that these challenges are not insurmountable. When managed well, distributed teams can operate with the same productivity, purpose and potential as colocated teams. In this two-part series, we’ll share a few best practices to help you cultivate productivity for yourself and your remote team, starting with the basics – structuring for success.
Refine your routine
When the only place you have to be in the morning is in front of a computer screen in the comfort of your home, a consistent routine can be quick to slip away. While your daily routine doesn’t need to be identical to what it was when you went into an office, adding structure to your day - and to the days of your team members - can help increase both predictability and productivity.
As a manager, you can facilitate remote workday structure for your team through a simple and consistent cadence of communications. Sending a friendly morning message or prompt to your team on an internal messaging system like Slack can signify the start of the workday and help your employees form a mental correlation that they should be in the work mindset. Similarly, a sign-off message in the evening can remind employees to draw boundaries - preventing burnout and encouraging focus on self-care.
Incorporating video technology to connect with your team regularly can also help employees develop healthy habits and routines. For example, here on the Greenhouse talent acquisition team, we have a daily midday Zoom sync where all team members share their morning accomplishments and afternoon goals. A (short) daily dose of face-to-face interaction can provide a sense of normalcy, accountability, and connection - which can make a world of difference when working remotely.
Plan and prioritize
So now that you’ve defined a basic daily routine, you can simply add in any scheduled meetings and call it a productive day, right? Not so fast. To truly make the most of your time, take it a step further by adding structure to your day beyond just meetings. And encourage your team to do the same.
Identify gaps in your calendar and transform them into structured blocks of self accountability for work tasks and projects. And don’t forget to schedule time for meals, breaks, family, fresh air, and wellness.
When it comes to figuring out how to assign work tasks to calendar gaps, ask yourself:
- What is the most important thing to do?
- How long should I work on it before I stop?
- Does something else become more critical after a certain point of progress?
Consider utilizing a time management technique like the Pomodoro method when dividing and assigning the open spaces on your calendar. The Pomodoro method consists of working for short intervals (e.g. 25 minutes) without distractions, followed by a short break (e.g. five minutes), and then repeating. After 3-4 cycles, take a longer 15-minute break for fresh air, food, or movement. Time management techniques like this can be particularly helpful for those balancing parenting responsibilities, who may only have 2-3 hour time slots of uninterrupted time while children are napping.
Write these blocks onto a daily agenda in the same way that you would write down a meeting, and leave it in a place that’s visible to you over the course of your day. If you’re having difficulty focusing, simply look down for a reminder on what you should be doing and remember that there’s a break coming up soon to look forward to.
Consider a shutdown ritual
The act of assigning and writing specific tasks into a schedule for the upcoming day can actually serve as an ideal work “shutdown ritual.” Performing the same sequence of activities at the end of every workday ritualistically can create a habit that primes both your mind and your body that you're closing out your work and preparing to enter a space of personal rejuvenation.
An effective shutdown ritual could also include updating your master to-do list with new tasks that you might have collected in your notes over the course of your day, as well as looking ahead for the next week or two to ensure things are on track for upcoming meetings and deadlines. Perhaps it could even include that message to your team signing off for the day - encouraging them to enjoy their evenings once their work is done.
After you’ve completed your shut-down ritual, try to resist the urge to check in on any professional obligations until the next day. A slave to your screen? Turn off email and Slack phone notifications and store your laptop out of sight until the morning.
Remember that the goal is to make the most of your time during the work day, igniting the confidence to set defined boundaries between work and personal life - which we’ll learn is a crucial component of effective remote work in the next part of this series.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where we'll reveal six productivity ideas that you can kickstart now.