May 27, 2022
Picture taking in a beautiful sunset everyday at a beach far away from home as you finish the day’s work. Or going for an early morning hike in a remote forest before you login for the day from the modest comforts of your jungle cottage.
Only till a few years ago, what wasn’t possible even in imagination has now become reality.
AirBnB, for one, recently announced a LIFETIME live-and-work-anywhere policy for their employees, minus any adverse effects on their compensation. Over 16% of the companies in the world are already fully remote. And an overwhelming 72% of employees surveyed in Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2022 report said that their organization is planning for some form of permanent remote work going forward.
There are tons of time and cost-savings involved — both for employers and employees, among other compelling benefits.
That does not mean that all is hunky-dory with remote workers, though.
Remote work comes with its (un)fair share of challenges. As a remote employee, the key challenges for us remote workers, in my humble opinion, have to do with three things — connection, communication, and collaboration with my team.
An absence of these can make it hard for us to be our most productive selves.
Which makes it inevitable for management to come up with strategies that make the transition from in-office work to hybrid or fully-remote setups easier.
It is necessary for companies to invest a great deal of time, thought, and care in how they manage their remote employees. Managing remote employees is necessary for hybrid or distributed teams to not lose sight of employees as human beings with emotions and lives outside of work. And of course, to maintain productivity to achieve business goals.
A remote working setup makes it tough for people to establish a sense of personal connection with the team. I still remember meeting my colleagues for the first time in person at a company offsite, six months after joining. I also remember experiencing the magic of offline conversations with them. And I won’t deny that there was a newfound ease in working together with my team virtually after getting to meet them personally.
This is not surprising and is not only my experience alone. A BCG survey of 12000 employees across three countries confirms it.
In a remote setup, employees who reported that they were satisfied with social connectivity with their colleagues were two to three times more likely to have maintained or improved their productivity on collaborative tasks than those who were dissatisfied with their connections.
It is for a similar reason that Companies such as Google, Meta, and Zappos have office spaces designed to increase chance encounters between colleagues, with a view to improve their performance. After all, you can’t recreate the serendipity of a water-cooler moment virtually, especially for large teams across different time zones.
Other challenges of remote work such as setting schedules, clarifying roles and responsibilities, tracking performance, optimizing collaboration etc. make it imperative for managers to employ dedicated tools and strategies to manage remote employees effectively.
Focusing on the mental and physical health of remote workers as well as providing them access to the right workplace tools also correlates positively with higher productivity.
Okay, but how do you go about managing remote employees to maximize their productivity?
Here are some proven tips and strategies we’ve found after talking to managers and employees and exploring some best-practices.
Establishing clear OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a best practice for all teams, whether remote or co-located. It ensures everyone is on the same page regarding what needs to be done, when, and how. Documenting productivity standards also allows companies to identify and eliminate possible bottlenecks to performance.
There’s a caveat though. Unlike at the office, working from home (or cafes, or a park bench, or a beach!) presents an almost infinite scope for distractions. Amidst crying babies, needy pets, and constant commotion, remote employees may struggle with carving out focused times. It helps to be kind and accommodating and figure out what works for both sides. Which brings us to the next point — flexibility.
As more and more teams go remote, traditional 9-5 structures are collapsing. Almost one-third of remote workers (30%) say they would consider looking for another job if their companies took away the existing remote-work policy.
Flexible timings help remote employees harness their peak productivity without needing to put in the hours just for the sake of it. This also fosters a sense of trust and transparency which bodes well for team cohesion.
In order to make them feel a part of the team, it’s essential for companies to provide their remote workforce the same training and support that may be available to in-office teams. A majority of companies surveyed in Buffer’s 2022 report seem to have cracked this code already, with over 75% companies ensuring that systems are in place for remote team collaboration and that 1:1 meetings take place regularly.
Collaboration, one of the key challenges of working remotely, can be addressed by ensuring that remote employees have access to the right tools and software technology at all times. Establishing an async, dynamic repository or knowledge management system where all enterprise knowledge is centrally accessible can go a long way in improving their productivity. It eliminates the time spent on searching for things which is crucial to getting things done efficiently.
You may also need to implement a secure and convenient virtual mailbox if your remote workers move around a lot or don’t have a permanent residence.
Check the section below to find out which are the best tools for remote work management in 2022.
Set aside specific dates and times for recurring team interactions, have regular one-on-one meetings with remote employees to identify where they may be struggling, and make sure that remote workers are treated with the same respect and get the same acknowledgement for their achievements. If you're looking for creative ideas for engaging remote employees and fostering a strong team culture, check out these ideas from GoCo.
You can even take a leaf out of Clevertech’s book. This software company encourages employees to play video games together to encourage bonding within teams online. GitLab takes it a notch ahead with their “Random Room” on Google Hangouts, where anyone can drop in unplanned, to simulate water-cooler moments and chance social interactions between colleagues.
Implementing these strategies for managing remote workers becomes a tad simpler when you have the right arsenal of tools and software at your disposal.
As remote work has evolved, new collaboration and productivity tools have emerged to make managers’ lives easier.
You can choose from the many, many tools out there to manage remote employees better. We have classified them by function to make it quicker for you to choose!
Developer collaboration and project management rolled into one
While Github is the de facto tool of choice for developers to collaborate, it also doubles up as a powerful agile project management platform. With its Kanban boards, team roles, file sharing, and project tracking, your team can plan projects, assign responsibilities, delegate tasks, and monitor the overall progress of any project, large or small, while working together from different corners of the world.
Issue tracking, simplified
Ask anyone at OSlash about their most visited shortcuts and they’ll be sure to mention o/inbox — the fastest way to access the status of our tasks in Linear, our favorite ticketing tool. Our engineering team is a fan of their extensive keyboard shortcuts that let one create, find, access, and resolve issues at lightning speed. The best part? Multiple teams can collaborate together and tie their goals to the overarching roadmap in Linear.
The connection and organization hub for teams
The devil may be in the details but retaining sight of the bigger picture is what will get you past the project finish line. Asana’s real-time charts and visual highlights let you do just that, quite literally. You can use Asana to seamlessly share project status, identify bottlenecks, and streamline workflows — across your entire workplace. It comes with over 200 integrations that we find super useful for getting things done in a snap, every day.
The synonym for video conferencing worldwide
The great savior of human connection during the months of pandemic-induced isolation, Zoom had already surpassed 300 million daily meeting participants by April 2020! With all the workplace collaboration features such as screen-sharing, meeting recordings and transcriptions, messaging, whiteboard-sharing, etc. Zoom became the default communication platform for many remote teams. No surprises then that our allhands meeting at OSlash also takes place on Zoom (at o/allhands of course).
Collaborate comfortably on the browser
Google Meet’s biggest advantage is that it comes bundled in with the rest of the Google Workspace applications. People don’t have to install a separate tool to meet coworkers remotely. The free plan lets you host meetings with upto 100 people at once, perfect for small and medium companies. Unlike Zoom which works best in the native app, Meet works primarily on your browser and also doesn’t have the annoying 40-min group meeting duration limit.
People, projects, and documents in one place
As a workplace communication app, the USP of Slack lies in its channels — dedicated spaces that are cordoned off for specific projects, with specific colleagues. #marketing can be a channel for your entire marketing team of 15 while #socialmedia can have just the four colleagues who handle your social accounts, for example. It’s quick and handy because you can call your teammates, text them, share files, and collaborate on projects from a single app — on desktop or mobile.
Async video messaging for distributed teams
Loom has made it super easy for us to report bugs, share suggestions, explain ideas, and simply talk to fellow Humans Of OSlash without needing to indulge in the exasperating back and forth of scheduling meetings. It lets you record a video with your screen and cam and send it over with a simple link, saving loads of time, especially for remote teams.
Time and cost-effective employee management
When it comes to remote employee onboarding, Rippling is second to none in the market. You can easily onboard new hires in a matter of minutes and set up their payroll, insurance, work system and even connect to external apps like Slack and Zoom in a matter of minutes. Besides, it is one of the very few HR management software that comes with a built-in IT management module and makes it easy to kill two birds with one cost-effective stone. Plus they have a great mobile app that lets employees track their leaves, payslips, attendance etc. securely on the go!
The all-in-one HRM and Finance software
Quickbooks is like a blessing in disguise for remote companies thanks to its exhaustive list of solutions. From accounting and invoicing to payroll to time-tracking and employee management, you can combine a number of Quickbooks solutions together to save costs and maximize your remote team’s productivity. Our HR cannot imagine working without o/payroll, o/invoice, and o/banking — all shortcuts that lead instantly to respective Quickbooks tabs for a quick overview of all things people and money!
Your team’s go-to knowledge base
Confluence ticks all boxes for a modern knowledge management tool. It lets teams create, capture, access, review, and share enterprise knowledge — from a single, centralized knowledge base. Templates speed up the creation of workplace docs including everything from your meeting notes to bug-trackers to your product roadmap. And you can find what you need easily using the in-built enterprise search.
The wiki for your organization
Used predominantly as a wiki for all kinds of teams and organizations, Notion’s USP lies in its ever-expanding library of templates and advanced collaboration, organization, and content customization features. From a public job board to a confidential marketing strategy — all your documents can get their own access restrictions and still reside in a central place with Notion. The coolest part? You can even build an entire website using Notion pages!
Effortless knowledge management — within teams, across departments
The app that ties all your work together, OSlash is a browser extension that lets you transform all your ugly-looking URLs into simple shortcuts. The benefit? Shortcuts are easy to recall, quick to find, and can be shared even by saying them out loud, unlike links. With this, you and your team can create a single source of truth for important company resources; organize your links using folders called collections; and also find the right information with advanced search — at your fingertips. Dogfooding OSlash has led us to believe that there’s no going back once you get a taste of the OSlash experience!
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