10.01.20

Remote Teams and Good Time Management

By Damian Velazquez Cafaro

This year’s global pandemic has forced the fast adjustment for many organizations from in-office normality to a remote working setup at whiplash speed. The rapid adoption of remote working is not easy though—even without the pressure of COVID. 

Challenges are abundant for both those with remote working experience and those without. Managers and team leaders are struggling to keep their teams motivated and efficient. Remote teams are often seen as more difficult to manage, but the tips discussed in this article can help you overcome these challenges. 

Empower Remote Team Members

Before digging deeper into time and task management, there are actually several basic steps that you need to complete in order to make remote teams effective. The first thing you want to do is making sure that team members can communicate easily and effectively, and that means establishing a way of communicating that everyone is comfortable with.

Most teams turn to Slack, but Slack is not always the best tool for the job. If your team puts emphasis on project management, for instance, using digital Kanban tools with built-in chat feature can be more effective and other communication tools such as Google Mail with Google Chat and Meet integrations are helpful. Microsoft has a similar suite of tools if you’re inclined to that choice of software. 

To further empower team members, integrate a good task management platform. There is no way to keep track of everything when team members have to organize their tasks individually. The easier way to establish a baseline for remote working is by using a project or task management tool that turns tasks into blocks waiting to be managed such as Trello, Asana or Basecamp.

Lastly, encourage team members to create a productive environment that works for them. Some startups and corporations are starting to provide team members with aids to help them set up a more comfortable and functional home office. This is the kind of initiative that puts team members in the right mindset for effective remote working.

Meetings and Discussions

The next thing to tackle is how meetings are set up. Even when working in the office, meetings are very distracting when they are not planned properly. Too many meetings will prevent team members from completing their tasks. Too few meetings could result in the team not having clear⁠—and mutual⁠—directions and common objectives.

With remote working, however, limiting the number of ad-hoc, on-demand meetings is highly recommended. Meetings need to be scheduled beforehand and team members must utilize the provided communications channels⁠—such as groups in Google Chat⁠—to discuss other work-related matters.

Scheduling daily standups that are not too long at the beginning of every day is also a good idea. The daily standup doesn’t just function as an opportunity for everyone to stay up to date with what the rest of the team is doing, but also as an opportunity to provide moral support for each other. As mentioned before, working remotely is not easy for everyone.

Set aside one or two days during which team members can focus entirely on the tasks in hand. For instance, you can have Thursday and Friday free of meetings and other distractions. This will allow all team members to prepare for Thursday-Friday sprints of their own since they already know what tasks they need to finish and can plan for the two days better.

Speaking of planning, it is also recommended to have a predetermined timeframe for sprints. Anything shorter than six weeks⁠—but longer than two⁠—is usually ideal, but ask your team for feedback on how to compose it to determine the best way to organize sprints that work for you all. Don’t hesitate to collaborate on best practices for remote working with team members to facilitate a solution that works for everyone involved. It’s a great way to get buy in at every level.

Boost Engagement

That last part is important on its own. When working remotely, employee engagement becomes a crucial component. You cannot have the progress of the team hindered by one or two disengaged team members. This is where some adjustments to how you (and other members of the team) communicate become very important.

For starters, forget about tracking time. Switch to a result-oriented approach and let team members worry about managing their own time. At the same time, provide team members with resources that will help them manage their time better, such as the digital Kanban board mentioned earlier. Anything that helps organize tasks in a transparent way helps.

Next, throw micromanagement out the window. There is no way you can micro-manage team members when everyone is working remotely. Trying to do so will only disrupt the internal flow and reduce the effectiveness of the team. Instead, allow everyone to be more involved in the tasks that they are interested in the most.

Transparency of workloads will encourage team members to also be even more engaged. With tasks and workloads monitored closely, team members are more likely to offer help to others when their own tasks are finished. There will be a growing awareness of the mutual objectives that the team is trying to achieve.

Manage Time

Of course, remote working relies heavily on the ability of every team member to manage time, and there are several things you can do to encourage good time management. You can start by supporting team members to prioritize the tasks in hand accordingly. Motivation and acknowledgment are key components in the procesto.

More importantly, encourage team members to embrace a work-life balance. Working remotely doesn’t mean working all the time; and trying to push team members to do so will only reduce their productivity. By encouraging the team to have fun and focusing more on the results they deliver, you can facilitate time management improvement in a more positive way.

That’s it! Remote working is a challenge for some teams, but the tips we discussed in this article will help you transition into a remote-first organization in time.


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