Working from home doesn’t have to hurt productivity - it can be a benefit!
Updated on Nov 15th, 2022
Over the past few years, the idea of teamwork from home has boomed, with research showing that more than half of American workers (58%) report being able to work from home at least one day per week. The reality is that many teams are now completely remote, working from home full time from different cities, states, or even countries.
This boom in work from home has created a new employment landscape and offers opportunities in many industries, but it also comes with a new set of challenges for teams and the managers who organize them and looking to impact teamwork from home.
First, communication must be considered much more methodically for remote teams than those in a traditional office – you can’t just pop by somebody’s desk for a chat. If there is something to discuss in a WFH team, you need to organize a video meeting, call, or group chat.
What’s more, this lack of organic interaction also leads to some psychological and emotional challenges, such as isolation and loneliness. We often underestimate the importance of informal “water-cooler” talk in an office environment, but it is vital for people’s well-being and productivity.
The challenges of remote work don’t only come from what’s lost, however. Working from home means living at work, which can make it hard to disconnect from the workday. Moreover, the home environment often introduces distractions that an office would not – from pets to chores, and packages to childcare. These are a natural part of working from home but can have a serious impact on a team’s productivity.
That might seem like a whole lot of problems, but at the end of the day, the benefits of working from home will generally outweigh the problems, and whether you like it or not, working from home is here to stay. Moreover, each of these unique WFH challenges can be overcome with the right tactics and solutions. So, if your team is working at home permanently, here are some can’t miss strategies for you to try out!
Communication Is Key
Before we get into the tips for teamwork from home for teams, a common thread will weave through them all: communication. It is vitally important for any team and made much trickier when every employee is in a different city, state, or even country.
The biggest pitfall of new remote team leaders is not paying enough attention to how, when, and why their team members communicate. Think about this as you work through the tips, and you’ll be well on your way to success. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at these tips!
Set Clear Goals (and Hit Them!)
Goals are a vital part of any team strategy but become even more critical when you’re working remotely since managers have less oversight than they would with an office-based team. Not only are goals important from a company perspective – overarching targets are reached – but people need to know what they are meant to be doing on an individual level.
Working from home can leave people feeling lost and can even lead to team members “falling through the cracks”. Clear goals offer direction and structure, so even if a person hasn’t got a team around them, they know what they are working towards.
When setting goals for teamwork from home, ensure that they are measurable – metric-driven team goals are easier to grasp when you don’t have continuous contact to monitor a person’s progress. There are plenty of different goal-setting methods that can help keep your work-from-home team on track.
Make Those Goals Effective
When setting goals, you need to consider what kind of goal system you are using. One popular method is the SMART goal strategy. This focuses on five main aims in goal creation, each represented by a letter of SMART.
Specific: Goals should take big, unwieldy concepts and turn them into concrete targets for an employee or team to hit.
Measurable: You need a way to track the progress and completion of your goals, which is why they should always be measurable.
Attainable: Consider if the goal you’re setting is realistically achievable. If it is too big, the goal can backfire and lead to a loss of motivation and the onset of procrastination.
Relevant: Ensure that the goal is connected to the right people, projects, and overall company ambitions.
Timely: Deadlines are key! Deadlines push people to get things done, and in the flexible world of remote work, it is especially important to keep everyone on track and to work together.
Having a good goal system ensures that remote employees remain engaged with work and don’t feel like they’re being left out on their own.
Give Your Team A Way to Get In Touch With You Daily
Staying in touch is vital for improving teamwork from home, and a big part of this is giving employees the tools and channels they need to get in touch with you or other managers. Email is the powerhouse of business communication, so it should remain one of the methods by which reports can contact you, but a variety of tools should be used for different needs. At minimum you should have:
- Email: already mentioned, but email is one of the most important forms of communication for teams working from home.
- Video Meetings: ideal for more in-depth discussions that can’t happen over email or for staying more connected through a “face-to-face” chat.
- Voice Calls: people don’t always want to look at a screen and be on camera, voice calls offer a great alternative to one-on-one or group video meetings
- Voice Messages: for topics that require more explanation than a text but don’t need synchronous communication.
Choose the Best Tool for the Job
Could that meeting have been an email, could that email have been a voice message, and did you really need to send anything at all? In short, are you communicating with the right method?
Email is still the backbone of business communication and has major benefits for remote teams – namely, it is an asynchronous tool, meaning you don’t need both parties online for it to work effectively. Someone can send a message when it suits them, and the recipient can reply hours (or even days) later without issue.
However, if the topic at hand is complicated or requires a lot of back-and-forth discussions, an email probably isn’t the right choice, a meeting is. With remote teams, this means video conferencing, which allows team members to engage face-to-face, see body language, and hash out more complicated topics. However, this is a synchronous medium – all members of the meeting need to be online, in front of a computer, at the same time.
Then you have the middle ground, with tools such as voice messages or notes. They offer a way to communicate complex topics in a quick and, more importantly, asynchronous way. It doesn’t matter if your remote colleague isn’t online, you can record your explanation, and the recipient can listen and respond in their own time.
This is all to say that for remote teams, different types of communication require different tools, and it’s your job to know which to use when – nobody wants to be in a video meeting that should have been an email.
Spike is the ideal team work from home solution as a collaborative digital workspace. It’s the first collaborative email platform that helps teams of all sizes connect, create, chat, and collaborate in order to accomplish more. Here are some of Spike’s features your teams will love:
Priority Inbox lets you focus on the important messages first
One Click video meetings
Scheduled Send and Snooze Options
Online Notes with File Sharing
Team Group Chat
Spike supercharges your existing email account with Conversation Email and Priority Inbox, as well as combines all the other communication channels you need into a single package accessed from one cross-platform app. With Spike, you can switch seamlessly from a Video Meeting to collaborative Online Notes and then check ongoing team Tasks, all without switching tools, or context. For the most effective Teamwork from home leadership, make sure you establish guidelines for when each of these tools should be used and how to use them.
Implement a Two-way Communication Strategy
Your work-from-home team now has the tools to communicate in every way you need, but do they have the framework? Your remote team needs to know the right tool for the right job, and it’s up to you to implement a clear communication strategy to make this happen. Covers when and how remote workers should use the various tools at their disposal. For example:
If a client suddenly changes their requirements, your strategy might advise a text update in the relevant Group, changing the relative collaborative document in your Online Notes, and scheduling a Video Meeting to discuss how to pivot.
This gives clear guidelines on how to use the various team collaboration methods.
Keep in Regular Contact with Your Employees
When working remotely, it’s easy to feel disconnected from your team as a whole. This can lead to practical problems, like somebody not knowing what to do, as well as deeper issues, like an individual employee feeling alienated.
To avoid these issues, keep in regular contact with your work-from-home team. Depending on how you usually operate, this can be done in several ways (and will be part of your communication strategy!). Two common methods are either organizing a daily team meeting or weekly one-on-one meetings.
These will most likely be video calls, but if you’re on a hybrid work schedule, it might be helpful to schedule these when team members are in the office to allow for some face time. A quick check-in is often more useful than a protracted meeting, what’s important is that the contact is regular and consistent, so remote employees know that there is a regular opportunity to touch base with you and possibly the rest of the team.
Make Sure There are Opportunities for Social Interaction, Even if Only Virtual
We mentioned earlier the importance of “water cooler” talk, but the social aspect of work is often overlooked, especially for teams working from home. Team chemistry is vital for productivity and, more importantly, the well-being of your team members.
There are plenty of social activities you can try while working remotely – from something as simple as a social chat channel to an organized team-building video activity. Whatever you end up doing, just make sure it aligns with what your team wants. Talk to them and figure out the kind of social activity they would like. Some teams love a Friday afternoon shared lunch, while others would prefer to just be able to drop a cute cat video in a shared chat — there’s nothing worse than forced fun.
Let Your Employees Disconnect
Being able to disconnect from work has always been a hot topic, but never more so than with remote teams, where people live in their de facto offices. It has become such an issue that governments are even trying to legislate the right to unplug, and it’s no surprise – not being able to disconnect inevitably leads to burnout, which is detrimental to health.
When leading remote teams, it’s your job to ensure that employees are not only able to disconnect, but have to. One of the simplest ways to do this is to implement asynchronous communication rules as part of the two-way communication strategy. For example, employees can’t use synchronous communication (such as video calls) or even send emails to team members who aren’t meant to be online.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you all have to be working at the same time – with tools like Spike, you can schedule emails to send later and snooze tasks to appear when you need them. However, something as simple as this can help remote teams not be tied to their emails and constantly online.
Summary: Teamwork From Home
Teamwork from home and hybrid work is here to stay and, when embraced, offers many benefits to individual team members as well as companies as a whole. There are challenges, of course, but with these simple strategies, you’ll overcome the issues to have a happy and productive Teamwork from home.
Just remember to set clear goals to keep people on track and comfortable with their tasks, give team members multiple ways to contact you as well as clear guidelines on how and when to use each of the channels. Regular communication is key, as is social interaction and the ability to unplug – so balance the need to collaborate with the need to unwind. More than anything, don’t get tangled up in the tools: keep things simple with an all-in-one app for work-from-home teams.
The future of email is here,
are you ready for it?
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