How to Ensure Optimum Utilization of your Remote Teams by Jay T T T T Get notified with latest updates July 13, 2020September 10, 2021 Remote team is the new normal. More and more businesses are relying on an entire remote team strategy to run their operations. But they are still battling for the right answer to “are my remote teams a 100% utilized?” There was a time when remote work was considered a privilege, made available only to a select few under extra ordinary situations. But, the tables have taken a 180 degree turn. COVID-19 pandemic has made it highly unsafe to be out of our homes. Yet clients need to be serviced, bills need to be paid and businesses need to run full steam. The initial months of 2020 were more about being safe and absolutely indoors. As the new world order came to life, it was understood that COVID-19 is here to stay and our businesses and lives need to work around and with it. No choice whatsoever. And setting up remote teams was the first move by all businesses. Some were ahead of the game, some were reluctant, some were forced and some are still battling. But the fact remains that inaction and being tongue tied at home wouldn’t get you anywhere. As companies adjusted with the new operating model, underlying challenges came to the fore. Getting remote teams functional was just the tip of the iceberg. Maximizing productivity and generating value based outcomes that contribute to the bottom line became an increasing concern. A typical remote team scenario is teams have their laptops, internet connectivity, communication apps and start working. And soon there are failing deliveries, delayed schedules and quality of work isn’t as expected. What can project managers and business leaders do to ensure their teams are as productive and efficient as in a normal office setting? Contents Implement transparent work modelSet DeadlinesSet twice a day status meetingsPractice Hourly UpdatesConclusion Implement transparent work model What does this mean exactly? The extra need to involve the team collectively across projects right from planning till closure. Savvy project managers know that remote teams have an innate need of clarity beyond the obvious. Hence, making the team part of decision making and project planning right from the beginning is a great move. This way, the remote teams see the full view of the project goal, are aware of each team member’s roles and responsibilities, timelines and required efforts and contribution. Any sort of guess work, apprehensions or thoughts of being short-changed are eliminated entirely. This brings a lot of transparency within the team. Teams clearly see how their contributions would shape the project, impact their team members and add to the company’s bottom line. Thereby, the added accountability of being committed to the project goal and staying on top of their game. For this to happen, project managers need to ensure that each team member knows what is expected of him and when. Most importantly, the entire plan must be easily accessible and visible to every team member at all times. Set Deadlines Common indication of teams not being productive is delay in their deliverables or a dip in the quality of work produced. Procrastination at times is caught too late. Why allow for this to happen in the first place? Breakdown your project into meaningful tasks and set clear deadlines and estimated hours. As a project manager, you are backed by factual information from past projects and experience and know what efforts are required for specific activities. Account for reasonably allowed deviation and set the deadlines. Having a central task management system, comes in handy where all information is visible in real time. Eliminate scope of guess work or manual reminders, catch-ups and status updates. Working from an active to-do list acts as a great motivator to ensure all work is completed on time. The fact that the task progress is visible across the project team enables team members to be mindful of their deliverables. Also, when tasks are interdependent, other team members to maintain a close vigil to prevent an adverse impact on their own deliverables. There is also a healthy competition within the team to excel at their own deliverables. The main idea here is to enable collaborative task management with greater transparency and real time visibility for the entire team. Set twice a day status meetings May sound like an overkill but works like a charm and is highly effective. When you conduct team review meetings at the start and end of the day, you plan things in advance. Basically, your tomorrow is planned today plus the morning meeting sets the tone for the current day. Any anomalies, dependencies & perceived issues are highlighted on time and the right help and attention is accorded. Secondly, teams get to brainstorm on issues and find solutions collaboratively. Status update meetings also enforce a sense of time and gives the team to look forward to sharing their accomplishments. Major benefit is any slack or procrastination by the remote workers can be easily identified by the managers and relevant corrective measures can be implemented in time. As a project manager you can identify any lagging trends and nip them in the bud. Thus there is heightened awareness and increased scrutiny within the remote workers leading to greater accountability and sense of ownership to deliver their work on time. What happens is teams work towards the defined estimated hours and associated time tracking capabilities by task management tools allow for quick view of planned vs actual hours. Over a period, you can quickly review resource utilization reports to see your billable work, deviation between planned vs actual & identify trends in terms of specific resources, task type or project. Thus you have greater control over your project schedule and just in time visibility to take corrective actions that will boost remote team productivity. Practice Hourly Updates Do not fall of the chair! There is a concrete logic behind it! First of all, you need to deploy this for team members who are new to the remote work culture. Second of all, if you have a lot of junior team members, interns etc. then this is a boon for you. Junior team members tend to stray away like cattle if left un-monitored. It may not be a discipline issue. Rather, work related e.g. they may get stuck and lost in a work and end up with something that was never asked in the first place. The idea is not to micromanage in any manner. This practice comes in handy in getting more done because you need to deliver a concrete output every 2 hours or so for e.g. May not be applicable all the time, but knowing that you are being timed generates a self-competition. So the team members will be on their toes ensuring they have meaningful updates. The other aspect is if they will be more open to highlight issues and backlogs to get the right help to make swift progress. Basically, you have introduced your team to the culture of “time boxing”. Hence, they will now be more granular in their planning and approach looking to deliver an output every 2 hrs for e.g. You may think it to be adding stress. But we have practiced it and it actually proved to be highly effective and radially improved resource utilization. There were no beating around the bush anymore. Either there were well-timed deliveries or meaningful discussions and solutions. Conclusion Internet is full of advice and content on how to be an effective remote worker, remote leader, make your remote teams productive etc. The truth is one size doesn’t fit all. What works for you may not work for me. But the important thing is you won’t know unless you have tried, eliminated and identified what works best for you. Understand full well that remote team management isn’t about micromanagement, spying or being intrusive. It is about building trust, generating confidence within your team members, letting them know you’ve got their back and most importantly provide a robust task management platform that offers extensive collaboration, transparency and visibility. Task management tools ensure boundary-less collaboration, offer increased visibility of progress and keeps the team on the same page. As a result anomalies are quickly addressed, teams have clarity of purpose, deeper sense of ownership and accountability towards their deliverables. Thus, remote team utilization can be tracked and improved in a collaborative and non-intrusive manner. What’s your remote team’s productivity today? How do you track it if at all? Haven’t thought of it this way? Start today!