Guide to managing remote teams and building a successful remote work culture
The ability to quickly implement effective remote work processes and leverage cloud based collaboration is what will separate the winners from the losers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked many companies' route to working remotely and remote work software, with many experiencing working from home for the first time. Prior to this, 2019 statistics show that only 5% of employed people in the EU between 15-64 worked from home. During the pandemic, almost 4 in 10 people in the EU began home-based work . Comparatively, in the US, 42% of the labor force were working remotely full-time during the same period whereas just 5.2% of workers worked at home in 2017 in the last recorded US Census.
But beyond the crisis, we are likely to see a continued upward tick in remote working practices. Why?
- Since 2010, we’ve seen a staggering 400% increase in the number of people working at least one day a week at home
- Before the pandemic, more than half of employees aged between 22 and 65 (62% in total) reported telecommuting some of the time already.
- 42% of telecommuters say they intend to work more frequently working from home in the next 5 years
- 40% of remote workers intend to work from home the same amount as now
Trends in remote work growth
Whilst it is likely that remote working opportunities will continue to expand and be seen as an attractive employee benefit, it’s important to highlight that working from home presents it’s own set of unique challenges, as well as benefits, to both employers and employees alike.
Things can become particularly problematic if there aren't clear set guidelines provided by the remote employer, or a healthy remote working setup isn’t established by the employee from the start.
But that’s where we step in. In this guide, we will be providing advice on how to manage a remote team effectively, as well as providing tips on improving productivity and boosting engagement for remote workers. We will also cover the best practices from promoting a positive, engaged remote working culture that facilitates a healthy, happy work-life balance for all.
Below are the points we’ll be covering in our guide to remote working:What is Remote Working?
The Difference Between Remote Working and Freelancing
The Rise of Remote Working
Re-imaging the Office After COVID-19
Remote Work Benefits
Remote Work Benefits for Employers
Remote Work Benefits for Employees
Remote Working Challenges for Employers
Remote Working Challenges for Employees
How to Build a Remote Work Culture
Remote Work solutions: Tips for Managing Remote Teams Successfully
How to Set Up a Remote Office
How to Be Productive Working Remotely
Remote Work Software for Collaboration
What is an Intranet?
Happeo’s Collaborative Features for Remote Teams
What is remote working?
Remote working refers to companies who employ staff that can work outside of the office, wherever they wish - though almost 80% decide to work at home as their main work location.
Some companies may have their entire workforce working from home, whereas others may have a telecommuting or flexible working policy in force, meaning that employees can work remotely on a stipulated part-time basis. This may be once or a few times a week, or a certain number of days per month.
The difference between remote working and freelancing
Wondering what does it mean to work remotely? It is worth highlighting that there are a few fundamental differences between remote working and freelancing. Whilst both remote workers and freelancers may choose to work from home, and companies may decide to have both remote workers and freelancers - they are not exactly the same thing. Here's how:
- On company payroll, either on a full-time or part-time basis
- Usually entitled to employee benefits such as holiday leave and sick leave, and pay insurance contributions
- May be stipulated in contract that they cannot work for other companies at once
- Are not on the company payroll
- Typically hired on a project basis (length varies according to agreement between the business and freelancer) on freelance websites such as Upwork, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates, and TaskRabbit
- Do not receive company benefits such as holiday and sick leave
- Self-employed, and organise their own tax contributions
- Can usually work for multiple companies at any one time
The rise of remote working
Why has the interest for remote working from both employers and employees grown considerably in the past decade? There’s a few powerful factors attributing to this. These include:
- Technological Developments
- Increased Employee Awareness
- Changing Family Dynamics
Let’s take a look at some of them one-by-one.
The huge advancements in technology has enabled remote working to become a reality. Whether it’s the development of cloud based tools, the proliferation of instant messaging or video conferencing tools, there are a staggering number of ways that employers and staff can effectively collaborate online, helping to streamline project management and makes problem solving faster. For example, some platforms allow teams to schedule meetings, screen-share, and instant message all at the same time without being in the office, or even the same country.
Change in working expectations
What people want more of from their jobs is telecommuting options: 80% U.S. workers would turn down a job lacking flexible working options. Today’s workers want more flexibility, to save on commuting costs and avoid being burdened by office distractions.
Changing perspectives on what people expect from work has also played a role. For example, travel has now emerged as one of the top priorities amongst younger generations.
In general, much like Generation X, Millennials don’t mind switching jobs or even careers throughout their lifetime. However, they tend to value flexibility and work-life balance above other generations. 69% of them would forgo other work benefits in order to have remote working opportunities instead, and 74% of millennial and Gen Z managers allow team members to spend a large proportion of their time working remotely compared to 58% of baby boomers. They are also two times more likely to invest in technology to help facilitate a remote workforce.
Younger Generations Attitudes to Remote Working
- 69% of Millennials would forgo other work benefits to have remote working opportunities
- 74% of millennial and Gen Z managers allow team members to spend a large proportion of their time working remotely
- Only 58% of baby boomer managers allow their team to work remotely
- Millennial and Gen Z are two times more likely to invest in technology to help facilitate a remote workforce
Although work-life balance is not the exclusive priority of Millennials, they have a strong desire to perform on their terms. This sometimes means making their own schedules. Millennials are also likely to seek companies that align with their personal beliefs and goals. Employment under organisations that serve an essential purpose allows them to feel a greater connection with their work.
As Millennials are spearheading change in the workplace, the 9-5 workday may soon reach a tipping point. Between new technology and the growing desire for flexibility, more companies are implementing remote work arrangements instead of sticking to traditional hours. Consequently, companies have needed to include remote working options as a way of attracting the best talent.
Changing family dynamics
The norm has shifted from one parent working to two working parents, with a rise in single-parent households. Working at home allows families to maintain their income while raising children and more flexibility over their schedules.
Growth of remote companies
Big technology companies such as Amazon, have all proven that it's possible to sustain success with a remote setup. Global companies successfully achieving a remote work setup has inspired many SMEs and startups to do the same, seeing the benefits of greater flexibility, access to a larger pool of talent and lower overall costs.
Better access to a global workforce
Instead of having to recruit from a local region, employers now have access to a global market of skilled workers, and they’re all available online. Hiring remotely allows businesses to expand with a much larger talent pool to choose from and with no limits on borders.
Re-imaging the office after COVID-19
It is likely continued flexibility and the ability (and willingness) to adapt will play an important role in companies' successes. Before a vaccine becomes available, enabling employees to have the option of working from home will be key, helping to reassure staff of their safety.
A taste for the remote working lifestyle is also something companies will need to consider when it comes to office dynamics post COVID-19. According to a recent McKinsey study, 80% said they liked working from home, whilst 41% said they had been more productive than in the office. Meanwhile, 28% said they had been equally productive.
With more people deciding they’d prefer to be working remotely, this is something more businesses will need to factor in when thinking of employee benefits to woo talented staff.
How did people find working from home during the pandemic?
- 80% have enjoyed working from home
- 41% say they have been more productive than in the office
- 28% had been just as productive working at home as in an office
Space will be important
For companies who decide to re-open their offices before a vaccine is available, adapting office spaces will also be essential, as well as limiting the number of staff within the workspace through staggering the number of people allowed to return. Social distancing within the office may prove more complicated for companies with smaller spaces.
Want to read about the impact on co-working spaces? Check out our article on the future of shared workspaces after COVID.
Remote work benefits
The benefits of working from home tend to vary between employer and employee. Let’s explain these remote working advantages in two distinct sections:
Remote work benefits for employers
What Are the Benefits of Remote Working for Employers?
- More productive: 77% of employees working from home say they are more productive
- Fewer absences: 56% said working from home reduced their absences
- Better talent: not bound by geographic location
- More globally focused: gain an international perspective
- More availability: create a 24/7 workforce
- Fewer operational costs: no workspace related costs
- Boost talent acquisition: 75% cite remote working as one of the best ways to retain employees.
- Close skill gaps: reduce employee gaps in knowledge by recruiting globally
- Reduce employee turnover: 79% of company managers say telecommuting and flexible schedules are their most effective staff retention strategy
Simply put, remote staff are more productive when working outside of the office. 77% of employees working from home say they are more productive . Whilst those with particularly complex jobs that need little interaction with stakeholders are far more productive than if they were in the office.
Reduce staff absences
The remote workforce model gives people the opportunity to balance life and work more easily. For example, A person could work in the morning, attend a parent-teacher conference, then return home to finish their projects. This can be done without requesting the entire afternoon off. With this kind of flexibility, workers won’t need to request leave as often - which is better for you. In a recent survey, 56% said working from home reduced their absences.
Larger pool of talent
If a business is in a sparsely populated location, then there will be recruitment limitations when it comes to hiring talent. But as we all know, talented people can be found anywhere - and remote companies can use this to their distinct advantage. Businesses can leverage the skills of remote workers worldwide, having access to a much wider pool of talent. That means they are not bound by location, enabling them to unlock innovation and drive their company forward.
Become more globally-focused
In an era of ever-increasing interconnectedness thanks to globalization, businesses need to think global in the way they hire, looking for talented candidates who have an international perspective and speak multiple languages. Hiring remotely facilitates such opportunities, thanks to the ability to recruit staff from anywhere in the world.
Create a 24/7 workforce
Instead of hiring in-house employees to work in shifts, companies can create a 24/7 global workforce. This is especially beneficial for larger enterprises with around-the-clock customer service departments, or for companies where there may not be enough local agents available. By having people work across different time zones, clients can get the help they need at any hour of the day. Such availability puts businesses above the rest in terms of excellent customer service and technical support.
Fewer operational costs
When businesses invest in remote workers, they reduce their need for office space and the overhead costs that come with it. Not only does this include renting the office space itself, but also electricity, water, office supplies, furniture, coffee, and snacks, as well as the inevitable repairs. The only overhead costs businesses need to consider are the tools used to communicate - and many of these are free online.
Team spend has gone digital too. Gone are the days of the little petty cash lockbox. If your team is working on a shared project, they can share the budget, too, via team company cards. International fintech company, Payhawk, provides individuals and teams with company cards so that businesses can get control and visibility overspend — no matter where their employees are spending. Payhawk makes the expense management post-spend simple too. Everything's connected — so there's no need for users to hang onto piles of receipts anymore or dig into their personal funds. Plus, finance teams save a tonne of time as lots of the usual finance admin is automated and all in one place, including invoice management, bill payments, and ERP integrations.
Boost talent recruitment
83% of workers, remote or on-site, say that a remote work opportunity would make them feel happier at their job. Organizations can attract global recruits with flexible work from the home arrangements: 75% cite remote working as one of the best ways to retain employees.
Close the skill gaps
In-house companies can struggle to find the quality talent they need to compete in the marketplace, having key skill gaps within their workforce. This issue can be removed completely by hiring remote employees. By not limiting their hiring practices to geography, enterprises can recruit and hire people to fill in these gaps as they happen in real-time.
Reduce employee turnover
Remote working opportunities are regarded as a desirable employee perk. Not only does this increase the likelihood of attracting high-performing workers, but it also improves staff retention too, therefore, reducing associated rehiring costs too. In a Future of Work Survey, 79% of company managers said telecommuting and flexible schedules are their most effective staff retention strategies.
This is largely due to the high level of flexibility telecommuting brings. For example, if a member of staff spends too much time commuting, remote working opportunities give them the freedom to work from home or a co-working space that’s closer to them, reducing their chances of leaving the company altogether.
Remote work benefits for employees
Most important benefits of working remotely
- 91% cite a better work-life balance
- 40% say having a flexible schedule
- 30% say working anywhere
- 14% cite family time
- 13% say working from home
- 12% cite the freedom to travel
- 11% say choosing their work environment
- $4,000 - average income increase for remote employees vs office employees
Better work-life balance
One of the biggest attractions of working from home is having the ability to have a better work-life balance thanks to more flexible schedules. The chance to have greater flexibility over one’s personal and professional life plays a huge role in people’s morale, particularly when it comes to reducing stress. 90% of people surveyed in a recent study said it had an impact.
Some people are morning larks, others are night owls in terms of when they are most productive with work. An in-house 9-5 job doesn’t allow for that level of working flexibility: but remote work opportunities do. 40% of remote employees say it's the biggest benefit of being a part of a distributed team.
The freedom of choice remote working provides and the opportunity to decide to work independently or with others (co-working spaces are particularly popular with remote workers) is fantastic. It’s no wonder 30% of remote workers say it’s the biggest advantage of working remotely.
Spending time with family
A recent study shows that spending time with family was the second biggest advantage of being able to work from home, with 15% citing its importance. Particularly for parents of young families, remote working and the flexibility it brings makes things such as school pick-ups, children’s holidays, and appointments far easier tasks.
Working from home
13% of remote employees say working from home is the biggest advantage of working remotely. With no need for a morning and evening commute, the ability to work flexibly and being able to work distraction-free, this should come as no surprise.
Choosing work environment
The ability to choose where you work enables remote workers to knuckle down with important tasks without being endlessly distracted by other less important tasks, other staff trying to engage in chit-chat, or just general noise in the background. The biggest benefit to working remotely was cited as the work environment by 11% of remote workers, and it’s not hard to see why. Being able to clearly focus on the task at hand is likely to produce better work, and enable you to be more productive too. This brings us to our next point.
Ability to travel
Want to work in another city, another country, or maybe even an island?: whatever you decide, the choice is ultimately yours. It’s why 12% of remote workers cite being able to travel is the best advantage of working remotely.
Whilst employers benefit from a reduction in operational costs, employees benefit from a reduction in travel costs (whether it be public transport or fuel) to get to and from work, lunches, and so forth. There is also the additional benefit of time saved commuting, which can be then spent on time working instead. It pays off: the average annual income for most remote workers is $4,000 higher than those who work in an office.
Remote working challenges for employers
In this section, we will discuss remote working challenges for employers, including remote work culture. We will also give management some tips on how to build a strong culture with a remote team, adapt to remote work culture and how improve the experiences of remote employees.
Biggest remote working challenges for employers
- Working Across Time Zones
- Cross-cultural Sensitivity
- Communication Gaps
- Onboarding Problems
- Difficulty with Team Bonding
- Reduced Productivity Fears
- Struggles with Measuring Performance
Working across time zones
As companies embrace remote work, one of the biggest challenges they might face is working across different time zones. Responses may come in later than expected, or language barriers can prevent colleagues from collaborating well together. That’s why team leaders and managers must plan ahead and take steps to alleviate these problems before they begin.
As organizations open the global talent pool, people may encounter language and cultural barriers. Unfortunately, these barriers can lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings. Even employees who speak the same language may still notice cultural differences if based in different countries where the language is spoken.
Lack of communication can be a huge problem for remote workforces. For example, when there is a lack of face-to-face interaction (not supplemented by video conferencing tools), then people miss vital facial expressions or body language cues regarding important business decisions, that would otherwise be picked on in an office environment.
Other common communication issues can be failing to clearly indicate goals and expectations for remote workers.
As more organizations hire remote employees, they face the challenge of creating a new remote onboarding process that accomplishes this goal online successfully. Employees in different locations don’t have the advantage of meeting team members or managers in person. A disjointed experience means that remote employees might not feel connected to the company’s mission or vision, impacting their quality of work.
Difficulty with team bonding
One of the best things about remote work is the freedom to choose where to work from. For distributed teams that are worldwide, team-building can become an issue. Do not underestimate the importance of getting to know the remote staff – forging bonds has a great impact on staff retention.
Reduced productivity fears
One of the biggest fears for companies considering remote working policies is that employees will simply work less if they do. However, a two-year study by Stanford University saw an impressive increase in productivity among people who worked from home. By the end of the study, many participants preferred working at home rather than at the office.
In another survey of 5,500 professionals, 66% said their productivity greatly improves outside of the office with 76% highlighting fewer distractions at home overall.
This overarching fear can breed a culture of distrust and micromanaging when it comes to monitoring remote staff. Ironically, this can have a harmful impact on employee productivity - the last thing a remote team leader wants.
Struggles with measuring performance
Businesses working remotely for the first time may experience the challenge of monitoring employee performance effectively. One of the main reasons for this can be due to the in-built habit of focusing on the hours spent working. For home-based working, it’s much better to focus on the outcomes of the projects themselves. The typical 9-5 does not always apply with remote workforces, especially so for those with remote employees in different time zones.
Remote working challenges for employees
Employees working outside of the traditional office environment can also encounter difficulties.
Biggest remote working challenges for employees
- Collaboration Issues
- Work-life Balance Struggles
- Career Mobility Issues
The biggest challenges of remote working
- 21% say feeling lonely
- 21% struggle with collaborating and communication issues
- 14% find motivation a problem
- 13% cite different timezones
Loneliness can be an issue that arises among remote workers, with 21% of distributed staff saying it was their biggest challenge working remotely. Sometimes, employees can end up lacking the social support they need (and thrive on) which can be found among teammates in an office environment, leaving them feeling isolated.
Feelings of isolation may lead to poor physical or emotional health, which is bad for both the employee and the organization they work for. It may eventually lead to problems with communication, absenteeism, and motivation - 14% say they experience problems with motivation working at home.
21% of remote workers say the biggest problem they face with working at home is the trouble of collaboration and communicating with others. This may be due to the lack of face-to-face interaction typically involved in remote setups, as well as things such as timezone challenges (cited by 13% of remote workers in a recent survey as a problem).
Work-life balance struggles
When employees have the freedom to choose their own schedules, it also gives people the opportunity to work all the time. With fewer boundaries between work and their personal lives, some workers feel as though they’re always on call.
According to Buffer, 22% of remote employees struggle with unplugging after work, and 16% find distractions at home a problem. Without a set schedule or coworkers to take frequent breaks with, remote employees may find themselves working too many hours and lacking time out, which could lead to work dissatisfaction and eventual burnout if the right routines and policies are not in place.
Career mobility issues
Working from home has many perks, but it’s unfortunately all too easy for career progression to be forgotten about by companies. While in-house employees are seen on a daily basis, remote teams lack visibility, and it has been shown to have an impact on career progression in some instances. Research shows that remote employees work harder than office staff for the same promotions. This means that getting a promotion can be more challenging, even if they work just as hard as other teams.
How to build a remote work culture
Two other questions we often hear are: How to build a strong culture with a remote team? And do you need to maintain a team culture while working remotely?
Having a positive company culture is important because it affects your employees' satisfaction and productivity. Since remote teams are physically distanced, building, maintaining, and cultivating a culture in a remote-work environment is a challenge and needs some extra attention.
Wondering how to maintain a culture while working remotely and how to keep remote teams engaged? Take a look at some of our top tips for managing remote teams and ideas for remote team-building activities to help increase productivity and bring remote teams together.
- Virtual team-building activities
- Regular check-ins
- Embrace employee feedback
- Importance of cross-cultural sensitivity
Virtual team-building activities
It’s critical to have a workforce that comes together and collaborates, no matter what time zone they’re in. This is why company leaders and managers should prioritize team-building activities. Whilst organizations can’t always give up the time or resources for expensive retreats, there are other ways to weave team bonding into the workweek via virtual meetings (using video conferencing tools is highly recommended).
Employers could designate a time at either the beginning or end of an online meeting for team building or schedule a separate meeting entirely that focuses on team building, held on a regular weekly basis.
In addition, just like there are dedicated chats for different departments or team projects, there can also be separate chats for small talk, which is key to fostering bonding within a team. Individuals can share photos, talk about their weekends, and get to know each other better through a designated virtual platform.
Companies with a great remote work culture know that regular check-ins, via instant messaging or video, are effective ways to acknowledge employees, but the biggest impact can be seen from honoring achievements and contributions. Whether an employee met a certain goal or celebrated a work anniversary, this recognition allows people to participate in company culture and become an official part of the team.
Wherever possible, use video when doing check-ins as it gives both parties the chance to read body language and facial expressions, both of which are essential for successful communication with remote staff.
Embrace employee feedback
When remote workers feel part of the conversation, they can also offer solutions that ultimately benefit the remote company. Questions that could be asked include:
- Do employees feel that their efforts are appreciated and recognized?
- Are they satisfied with their roles and responsibilities?
- Do managers and supervisors communicate expectations clearly?
- Feedback should be taken on board, discussed, and acted on wherever possible.
- Being willing to embrace change and feedback is vitally important to any company’s success, especially so when it comes to bringing remote teams together.
Businesses may use anonymous responses to assess how engaged employees are in their role and committed to the company as a whole. However, managers should also realize that anonymity does not necessarily guarantee transparency and keep this in mind. Employees may still feel apprehensive about their responses.
Importance of cross-cultural sensitivity
Want to know how to build a strong culture with a remote team? Consider cross-cultural sensitivity. As part of a team-building exercise, remote employees can share insights about their cultures and geographic regions. This practice helps reduce misunderstandings and strengthens bonds among team members, and it’s a great way of creating a culture in remote teams.
Remote work solutions: tips for managing remote teams successfully
A big question we often hear: How to manage remote workers? Managing a remote team is no mean feat, but it is absolutely possible if you follow a remote working framework. Here are 7 tips for managing remote employees.
Tip 1: Set expectations
Providing guidelines and structure helps your workforce understand what is expected from them, and to stay focused while working from home. It also avoids potential misunderstandings, stress, and a lack of productivity too.
Tip 2: Communicate effectively
A clear communication strategy is vital to remote working success. For example, those managing a remote team should:
- Highlight tasks in terms of priority, so that employees know what to focus on first
- Discuss the number of reports-in you will be requiring from staff every week and how (e.g. instant messaging for urgent matters or catch-ups over video conferencing tools)
- State the best times to reach managers during the workday, as well as who to call if they are unavailable
- Clarify the tasks you expect to be completed by the end of the week or a month ahead of time
Tip 3: Be organized
Using project management tools can help you to keep on top of all tasks and priorities in a streamlined manner. Being organized also gives your remote team structure, and enables all staff to fully understand current project statuses.
Tip 4: Define performance goals
Since remote teams are not confined to the 9 – 5 workday, it’s tempting to micromanage to ensure the work is getting done. However, this is proven to be one of the least effective ways to keep employees on task. Instead, organizations should focus on whether people are meeting certain performance goals. Setting goals with specific metrics and KPIs in mind helps managers envision success and achieve it.
One-on-one meetings are also a great way to have an in-depth discussion about goal-setting with remote employees. These one-on-ones with a team leader or manager allow remote workers to talk about their current projects and whether certain deliverables can be met. Employees can also discuss any roadblocks that might be getting in the way of completing their tasks on time. Not only that, but one-on-ones help remote workers feel more supported at work.
Tip 5: Don’t forget promotions
The remote working career ladder matters too. If remote employees don’t see a clear path to advancement, they may become frustrated and look elsewhere for work. Dedicate regular time to having one-to-one video meetings with remote workers, discussing their career development as well as their goals for the future.
Tip 6: Consider a gamification strategy
Gamification is the use of game elements, such as points and scores, to help people reach certain goals. When applied to the workplace, gamification allows workers to play and compete against each other and become more motivated in their work. It can be an excellent way to onboard new employees, encourage team building, or meet certain sales or marketing goals
Tip 7: Provide benefits
Keeping a talented member of staff within your company (whether in a remote team or not) also involves making sure that they feel valued for their contributions, and promoting a healthy work-life balance. An excellent way of doing this is through remote workplace benefits. For example, you could offer wellness program incentives, ample holiday time, or childcare vouchers. Remember that if staff are happy, healthy, and feel appreciated within the workplace, they are more likely to stay within your firm.
How to set up a remote office
Want to know how to enforce a remote work setup successfully? Then follow our list.
- Upgrade Security Protocols
- Delegate a Remote Work Representative
- Ensure Important Documentation is Online
- Research tools for Best UI/UX
- Define Communication Tools
Upgrade security protocols
To avoid unnecessary security breaches and the associated costs, businesses should create standard security protocols with remote employees. These policies can include a list of pre-approved applications and guidelines on how to keep home devices secure. As technologies continue to grow and change, these policies need to stay current. If there is an incident where a device has been compromised, employees should have a procedure in place for reporting it.
Delegate a remote work representative
It may be worth considering having a designated remote work representative for onboarding new remote staff. A remote work representative ensures teams know who to contact for help or to address any concerns they have.
Ensure important documentation is online
It is vitally important that all-important company documentation is available online for remote employees, such as company policy or HR material. Using file-sharing programs and cloud intranets like a Google intranet to store, share, and edit documents as needed that are easily accessible to all relevant people can help to streamline processes, including the onboarding experience.
File sharing programs also offer different permission levels for sharing, so managers can make sure that certain documents are kept confidential if need be.
Research tools for best UI/UX
When choosing certain tools and applications for remote teams, organizations need to take into account UX and UI elements to make sure employees use the product to its fullest.
Platforms with bad user experiences often have high turnover rates because employees end up confused or frustrated about the systems they have to use every day. When remote workers don’t feel bogged down by the tool, they can spend more time producing quality work - better for your business.
Define communication tools
Clearly defining the communication tools you will be using with your remote workforce beforehand is the key to success. When leading remote teams, make sure you have designated the preferred tools you want to use according to the task at hand. For example:
- Decide on instant messaging for daily communications
- Use video conferencing for weekly meetings and training
- Define the project management tool you will use for organizing workflows
Many organizations use instant messaging tools like Slack to reduce the number of emails received each day. Others may lean on shared note-keeping applications to give updates, which also provide instant messaging features.
But avoid over-communicating, which can lead to distractions at work. Having a policy also in place about sending too many messages can prevent teams from getting sidetracked.
How to be productive working remotely
We understand the challenges working from home as a remote employee can bring. Check out our tips for working from home below in order to create a healthier working environment, and to learn how to stay connected when working remotely. You can jump to your preferred section by clicking one of the titles below:
- Establish a work-life balance
- Designate a working space
- Reduce distractions
- Be organised
- Look after your health
- Arrange social breaks
- Engage with other remote workers
The best ways to stay productive according to remote workers
- 37% say taking regular breaks
- 33% keep setting working hours
- 30% believe a to-do list is important
- 25% work in the same place daily
- 23% find waking up early best for work
- 20% choose to listen to music whilst working
- 19% say planning the following workday
- 17% use a calendar
- 16% say getting regular exercise
- 15% find communicating with other staff online helps
Establish a work-life balance
It is critical for remote workers to create clear boundaries. Employees will need to learn to add structure to their day, establish daily habits, and form boundaries to separate work from their personal lives.
For example, Richard, Happeo's SEM Manager, works remotely out of Barcelona, Spain. Having a dedicated space to work, creating a detailed calendar, and taking regular breaks adds structure to his day and prevents unwanted distractions. Limiting social media and web surfing also helps with staying on task.
Remote employees might also want to experiment with different methods of maximizing productivity to improve their work-life balance. For example, this might be waking up early, or using the world-renowned Pomodoro technique, where 5-10 minute breaks are scheduled after 25-minute long working sessions to boost overall productivity.
Employers can also help set these boundaries by establishing flexible office hours or scheduling frequent check-ins to keep people focused. Expectations regarding availability and project timelines should also be clearly established.
Designate a working space
Establishing a set space where you work, whether at home or in a co-working space, can also help to increase efficiency and productivity whilst working remotely. Working in the same place each day, alongside having set working hours can help keep you focused.
Co-working spaces can be extremely convenient for those limited with a viable space to work at home, as well as those needing to meet clients in-person, or if you are looking for something more social.
Instead of working at home alone, remote workers have the unique opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people on a daily basis. Since most co-working spaces have both private offices and an open floor plan, members can choose to work independently or with other like-minded people on a project
Interruptions from family members, childcare needs, and housework all-cause individuals to procrastinate and postpone the work they need to do. These distractions can put certain tasks in jeopardy.
To counteract this, consider working at times when you can increase your level of focus. Since one of the benefits of remote work is having a flexible schedule, remote employees can choose to perform work during their most distraction-free hours of the day.
Others may prefer to block out distractions by finding a cafe or co-working space to complete daily tasks. This change of scenery may physically remove people from interruptions that usually derail their time.
Organizations can help to streamline the process of managing remote workforces, as well as being useful on an individual basis.
Excellent organizational skills enable telecommuters to keep on track of various tasks, all in one place. If you are wondering how to stay motivated and organized when working remotely, think about:
- Keeping a to-do list
- Using a calendar
- Planning the next working day
- Using project management tools such as Trello, Asana or Monday which make organizing workflows a breeze
Project management tools enable teams to manage their time and stay informed about upcoming deadlines. Since remote workers can also share updates within the program, these tools eliminate the need for status update meetings, improving overall efficiency.
Through project management tools, managers can easily communicate and collaborate with colleagues, organize notes, and delegate tasks to the right people online.
Look after your health
It goes without saying that working overtime, not maintaining a healthy diet nor having regular exercise, will have an impact on your overall health and mood, which may impact your quality of work and even lead to burnout. This can be amplified as the remote working lifestyle can often become sedentary, thanks to the lack of commute involved, as well as the lack of enforced structure (if you haven’t enforced good habits yourself). Make sure you get plenty of fresh air every day, as well as schedule exercise breaks whenever you can, and listen to music for an extra mood boost.
Arrange social breaks
Taking social breaks gives people something to look forward to and prevents them from feeling disconnected while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Stepping away from the computer and meeting with friends, engaging in hobbies, or being social outside of work is an important part of looking after your wellbeing.
Engage with other remote workers
Wondering how to build relationships when working remotely? Building culture with remote teams isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Schedule face-to-face video calls, and communicate with co-workers online whenever you can. Having a deeper connection with co-workers allows people to experience a similar level of rapport that they would feel in an office, bringing remote teams together.
Remote work technology for collaboration
Using remote collaboration tools helps make the effective project management of remote workforces, from progress to completion, possible. But which ones are recommended tools for remote workers? Here are some of our top apps and solutions, which we’ve separated into different categories:
- Best for team communication and video conferencing
- Best file collaboration tools
- Best for cloud storage and file sharing
- Best for time tracking
- Best for project management
- Best all-in-one digital workplace tool
Best for team communication and video conferencing
Slack is highly recommended for remote work. Excellent for speedy, real-time conversations for companies of all sizes. Whether it’s organizing meetings, managing Internal Communications or simply just having an informal chit-chat, the remote tool enables you to create a number of channels to keep things relevant and focused. Slack also has seamless integrations with a range of other popular tools including Google Drive and Zoom.
Another excellent tool for all remote teams is Google Meet. Both an instant messaging and video conference tool, it’s incredibly easy to use. For example, to start a meeting, all that is needed is to share a link with relevant team numbers: no plugins or downloads are required.
Meet integrates directly from Gmail or through Google Calendar, which makes planning even easier. For meetings that require full-screen presentations, Google Meet also has a screen sharing feature.
Consistently excellent for both sound and video quality, it has a number of useful features that enable remote businesses to create meeting links, record meetings, and screen share with ease. Video calls can also involve ‘Zoom rooms’ of up to 1,000 video participants in total. Zoom is highly recommended for the remote worker.
This remote collaborative communication tool enables audio calling, meeting scheduling, and has integrated chat and messaging features too. This tool is best for companies working mostly with Microsoft products already.
Best file collaboration tools
Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)
Google Workspace is the perfect choice if you are looking for a remote work tool with a high level of functionality and flexibility. Thanks to its wide array of tools, including Forms, Sheets, Calendar, and Google Docs.
All of these tools allow team members to collaborate remotely together on the same document simultaneously and in real-time - remotely or in the same office. Google Workspace can also seamlessly integrate with other popular applications for more efficient workflows, including Happeo.
Read more on how Google Workspace boosts remote work.
With Microsoft 365, you can also easily share files and folders with your team, wherever you are, with its One Drive, Office, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams products. Use Microsoft Office whenever you are looking to co-author, edit files or collaborate with others. If making changes offline, these will automatically sync when you are online.
Best for cloud storage and file sharing
An inexpensive, well-organized way to connect and collaborate with a remote team. One of the best things about Google Drive is its accessibility: you can access your documents or files anywhere and can have multiple contributors for files that update in real-time. A recommended tool for remote work for companies or teams on a low budget.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that has cloud storage features, enabling businesses to share documents in real-time. A big advantage of this tool is that it has both security features that can be added (including two-factor authentication) as well as excellent sharing permission options.
For example, it’s possible for team members to have access to all files at either project level or organization level - a real-time-saver for distributed workforces. Dropbox is also recommended to teams that are looking for a low-budget tool.
Best for time tracking
Seamlessly track the time you or your team is spending between a number of devices with Clockify - with a desktop app, browser extension or mobile. A recommended remote work tool for any team that simply wants to measure working hours.
Toggl is a time-tracking app that makes improving your own productivity (as well as your remote workers) easy. The time tracking tool is simple to use and enables you to easily analyze the time spent on projects, and makes remembering to count the time simple, thanks to its one-click reminder timers.
Best for project management
The minimalist and uncomplicated style of Trello makes it a firm remote worker favorite. It is possible to consolidate and collaborate with different teams working on one project across different apps, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and Slack. One of our favorite remote work app!
Asana is also another popular tool used amongst distributed teams to help them manage projects, assign work to others and communicate about tasks and deadlines within the tool itself.
Google Data Studio
Many teams spend countless hours putting together reports for managers and stakeholders. Google Data Studio gives organizations everything they need to turn data from Google Analytics and other sources into easy-to-understand reports. Data Studio has a simple layout and design interface so employees can build personalized reports efficiently. On top of that, team members are able to edit and collaborate reports in real-time.
Data Studio can gather data from the desired sources automatically on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis as requested. Scheduled email delivery also allows remote employees to send automated emails with a simple PDF download of the report and a link to the report on the platform. One of the best remote work apps for making reports.
Best all-in-one digital workplace tool
To take your Internal Communication to the next level, think Happeo. Companies need intranets in order to work remotely successfully. Our remote work platform enables you to do exactly that. Happeo is a Google-partnered social intranet platform that simplifies processes, saving companies valuable time and resources that may otherwise be wasted on having multiple products, enabling you to focus on business growth instead. With its features and user interface, it is a highly valued remote work app.
What is an intranet?
To clarify, an intranet is an online portal where employees can share or access critical information within a company. Since intranets are private, they cannot be accessed by the general public through the internet. Intranet platforms provide a space for employees to work together and collaborate on projects, even when they’re not in the same physical location. They are an effective way for teams to store files, read company updates, and connect people together.
The information takes on many forms, including onboarding documents, meeting notes, and company analytics. An intranet solution is a centralized location where all of this data can be stored. Companies often use intranets to store employee directories, provide access to updated HR policies, or share new information about products and services. When employees have access to what they need to get the job done, they can work efficiently and feel more confident in their roles.
Happeo's collaborative features for remote teams
It’s not only an intranet with an intuitive user-friendly interface, but Happeo comes with an array of collaborative, communicative, and social networking features too, helping to promote a collaborative and effective remote working culture and community, as well as boosting employee productivity and Internal Communication.
Features in all our Happeo pages include:
- Google Workspace integration: seamless native integration with Drive, Calendar, and Google Workspace directory
- Controlled access: provide user roles (including Viewer, Admin, Owner, and Editor) for channels and pages
- Community features: teams can post, comment, like and use-in post styling in channels
- Ease of use: set up various channels to help foster communication and collaboration among your workforce
- Interactive: create interactive intranet pages that are simple to update through Happy's dynamic widgets
- iOS and Android apps: access Happeo anywhere through our Android and iOS native mobile applications
- Multilingual interface: Happeo is available in Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish, and can quickly scale to any other required language
- Knowledge base: a vast library of onboarding resources and learning materials to train your team.
- Customer community: access to a global community of customers, leaders, and experts who share their best-kept secrets, tips, and tricks
Happeo is proud to be named one of the most promising startups by the European Union in 2017. We happily serve hundreds of thousands of users on a daily basis. Learn more by connecting with a member of the Happeo team today.