Now that remote work is standard, companies are looking for ways to make their remote teams more productive and efficient. One way to achieve this is by identifying and addressing time-consuming tasks that can be automated, delegated, or eliminated altogether. Do this well and you’ll save time, increase productivity, and raise employee morale.
In this post, we’ll share six tips for getting time-consuming tasks out of the way of a remote team. If you implement these tips appropriately, you should be able to achieve marked improvements in the economy of your business, leaving you with a remote team that’s just as effective as one huddled in a conventional office.
Let’s get started!
1. Prioritize Tasks Based on Importance
When you’re in an office with people, it’s fairly easy to tell from context which tasks are vital and which can be cast aside — but the same can’t be said when you’re working remotely (it’s one of many remote challenges). Minor tasks can pile up, leaving people uncertain of what they should be doing at any given time. Worse yet, having so many tasks on the docket can leave workers feeling overwhelmed.
Combat this by prioritizing tasks clearly and accurately. Start by making a list of all the tasks that need to be done (be very strict with this), then sort them based on importance and urgency, factoring in complexity and the presence of roadblocks. Tasks that are both important and urgent should be done first, while tasks that are important but not urgent should have their due dates pushed back accordingly.
Meanwhile, tasks that are urgent but not important can be delegated to other team members or outsourced. And if you happen upon any tasks that are neither urgent nor important, you made some mistakes in preparing the list. Filter the list again with a more discerning eye, then start sorting. Get this right and you’ll clear out many pointless tasks that were only wasting valuable time.
2. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
What’s the purpose of your business? What about a given task? If something is necessary, what do you expect to gain from it? Will you get added ROI if the person responsible for it goes the extra mile, or will further work yield no reward?
Clear goals and expectations are critical in the world of remote work, because online communication is much muddier. It’s tough to build a sense of collaborative commitment with a scattered team.
When setting goals and expectations, be specific and realistic. Consider the individual strengths and weaknesses of your team members and assign tasks accordingly. You may find that some tasks have been sent to people who are ostensibly equipped to handle them but don’t actually fit them that well.
Once you’ve been through this process, you’ll again have some tasks that don’t fit. Maybe you’ll have to dial back their expected deliverables to make them worthwhile. In some instances, you may need to raise the budgets of your big tasks to ensure they aren’t abandoned in favor of small tasks that take up time without achieving much.
3. Utilize Automation Options
Digital automation was fairly potent when it first arrived on the scene, and it’s only become more useful and accessible since then. Automating repetitive tasks largely clears them from your docket, freeing up your team members to focus on more interesting tasks that are more deserving of their talents.
Your biggest focus here should be on using tools with native automations, as each tool will come with extensive documentation, knowledgeable support staff, rich features, and a sense of reassurance that your automations will work reliably. This last item is particularly important; custom automations are potent, but they can cause more problems than they’re worth if you get them wrong.
Do some industry research with the specific needs of your remote team in mind. You’ll also need to think about cost; you can go far on a limited budget if you’re sensible. The biggest issue with dedicated high-end automation systems is that they can get expensive at the business level (even more so at the enterprise level), but that isn’t necessarily the case with tools that just happen to feature automations.
Airtable is a great example of such a tool, because you can create interesting custom automations on even the cheapest tier. Data entry can be a massive productivity drag, so a few conditional sequences can make a radical difference.
4. Choose the Right Collaboration Tools
Collaboration is key to the success of remote teams. When team members are working from different locations, it’s important to have tools that allow them to work together seamlessly. The best collaboration tools make communication and collaboration easier — which can save a lot of time. Note that while there’s overlap with the previous section, the focus here is on making manual management tasks work without duplication of effort.
Many types of collaboration tools are available, including project management, communication, and file-sharing tools. They range from the most generic (Gmail) to the specialized (financial tools along the lines of Zuora).
Again, you need to do your research. Management tools are foundational elements governing your basic business processes, so you mustn’t just go for the first tools you spot. Chargebee is chief among Zuora competitors, for instance, and may be preferable for your business. Thankfully, the internet is full of detailed comparisons, so seek them out.
5. Encourage Time Management and Accountability
When working remotely, it’s easy to become distracted and lose track of time. Encouraging your team to use time management tools can help them concentrate on their tasks. One tool that can be particularly helpful is a time-tracking app, as it can help employees monitor the time they’re spending on specific tasks and identify areas where they may be wasting time.
Additionally, it’s important to foster a culture of accountability within your team. This means setting clear expectations for deadlines and project milestones, as well as holding team members responsible for meeting them. Encouraging open communication and scheduling regular check-ins can also keep people on the same page and ensure that tasks are done.
If you’ve got a great project management tool in place, you can promote accountability by checking that all tasks are assigned and tracked. If everyone knows exactly what they’re responsible for and can see how their work fits into the larger project, mistakes will be fewer and morale will be higher.
6. Monitor Progress and Continuously Improve
Once you’ve implemented the tips mentioned above, you’ll arrive at the last tip, and one of the most important: monitor progress to make sure you’re getting the results you need. Determine whether your efforts have helped reduce the time taken to complete tasks and improved the productivity and efficiency of your remote team.
Collect feedback from your team members — you’ll want to know whether they find the changes helpful, and if they have any suggestions for further improvement. Encourage an open and honest discussion and make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Remember, if people are saying nice things but sounding much more negative, they’re likely just being polite.
Additionally, take a look at your metrics and KPIs to see if they’ve improved in key areas like employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth. The results here will help you fine-tune your processes and procedures, incrementally making them more suited to the unique needs of your remote team.
Remember: the key to success is to constantly iterate and improve your workflow. By regularly evaluating and optimizing your remote processes, you can ensure that your team is working as efficiently and effectively as possible, while freeing up time for them to focus on higher-value tasks that drive business growth.
|This article is part of Buildremote’s contributor series. Occasionally, we’ll share other people’s ideas about running a remote company. If you have a topic you’d like to pitch for Buildremote, send us an idea here.