June 2, 2020

How to Ensure You and Your Team Are Productive While Working From Home

Written By Charesse Spiller

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While we’re in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, many business owners and their teams are having to learn to work from home without any time to prepare. Although working from home is the dream of many entrepreneurs, developing a virtual team and a business that can run remotely is tough

While we’re in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, many business owners and their teams are having to learn to work from home without any time to prepare. Although working from home is the dream of many entrepreneurs, developing a virtual team and a business that can run remotely is tough work! One of the primary problems business owners face is ensuring that their team remains productive without having an office environment to keep them on track and reduce distractions. 

Having worked from home for many years, I have experience setting up my own business and schedule as well as managing remote workers. Let’s dig into the steps you can take to creating a productive work from home schedule.

Identify Inefficiencies

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is real. In a traditional office setting, team members are able to collaborate in real-time to reach efficient, effective solutions to the problems they’re facing. However, when your team is remote, the ability to reach out and get help ASAP feels notably more challenging.

Back and forth emailing, for example, is a key inefficiency that employees face. They’re able to send a quick email into the internet universe, then move on to their next task. But as soon as that email is “out of sight” they stop thinking about it. 

They don’t close the loop to find a solution and check a task off of their list. Instead, they get locked into an endless email back-and-forth that rarely results in a quick solution. While email can be a fantastic tool or your virtual team, don’t discount the benefits of a quick phone call or a message sent out via a tool like Slack.

Another “out of sight, out of mind” inefficiency that I often see crop up is the ability to access files. Paper files in the office that can’t be accessed can cause a problem when you’re working from home. Make sure you have a secure process for having files scanned into your virtual system so that the entire team can access the files they need to knock things off their to-do list and serve your clients well. 

In this same vein, it’s critical to track edits in virtual documents. If your time is out of sight and out of mind, you may make revisions to their work without thinking about it. However, if you miss submitting feedback, you’re hindering the growth of your firm and your employee. 

Remember: working from isn’t something that anyone is formally trained to do! You will run into inefficiencies, whether they’re tech-based, or your team is struggling to find a new rhythm. Luckily, working from home is a learned skill – you and your business will thrive as soon as you weed out the inefficiencies you’re facing! 

Problem Solve

Once you’ve identified the inefficiencies you’re dealing with, it’s time to problem solve!

Start with regular team meetings. If you’re accustomed to speaking with everyone every day, try a 15-30 minute team huddle every morning. Use this time to review what you’re working on, and ask for help where it’s needed. This can keep everyone on track and push them to connect with one another virtually to get things accomplished. 

Then, throughout the day, communicate through chat systems. For example, you can use Slack, Google Hangouts, or your CRM. Find the most efficient communication method for your team (like tagging team members in tasks or questions in your CRM so they can easily access your notes), and stick with it! 

If you’re a business owner or manager, you should also ensure that you’re freeing up time to check in with your virtual team. Many team members struggle to overcome the mental block of reaching out to you while you’re “at home” – even if you’re working! This could mean that they stop asking for help if they run into roadblocks. If someone is struggling with completing a project or needs guidance, you can tackle this with them with a quick screen share (use Google Hangouts, Join.me, Zoom, or GoToMeeting). This is an easy way to eliminate inefficiencies and help your team stay focused.

Set Best Practices

Now that you’ve started to problem solve, you can take the next step – proactively setting best practices for virtual work. First and foremost, you should encourage your entire team (yourself included) to set up a small workplace at home. 

Because everyone in America iis learning to work from home on the fly right now, you don’t need to spend the time and money on building a full-blown home office. Instead, set up a single dedicated space in a clear corner of your home. This can be your kitchen table or a corner of your counter space. When everyone has a “work zone” you’re helping them create a way to “go to work” and stay focused throughout the day.

Next, find a way to build and maintain a to-do list for your team. Store tasks in your CRM or a project management tool, or even write things in a notebook so that you can physically track your tasks. This can help you keep both yourself and your team organized. 

It can also help to encourage your team to set office hours. This might mean waking up early, building a physical “routine” to ease into your workday, and a routine to ease out of work. This may not be 100% feasible if your team has kids who they’re helping to educate during a stay at home order. However, even they can work to set “office hours” when they’re available for team meetings or communication. 

Finally, remember to take breaks whenever you can. This goes for your team, as well! Get up, stretch, make time for casual team check-in’s or conversations. The more you can emulate a true office environment, the less burnout and the more productivity you’ll see!

I’ve been working from home for many years. The best things that work for me is having a dedicated space to focus, and starting my work in the early morning. I typically don’t check my email until I am at my desk and have prepared a to-do list. However, you and your team will each need to find a rhythm that works best for your own productivity. Sometimes starting the conversation and pushing everyone in your business to create a routine that works for them during these unprecedented times is all it takes to level up in this new virtual work environment. 

Need help? Streamlining your operations can help to create a more efficient work-from-home environment that increases productivity. Reach out to learn more! 

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