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Remote Work Best Practices to Keep Your Team Productive

Explore our top remote work best practices that can help your team communicate and collaborate more smoothly and be more productive.

Ragnar Miljeteig
Writer at Motion
Jul 9, 2024
Table of contents

Has your team recently transitioned to remote or hybrid? Are you struggling to get an existing remote team to work together efficiently?

It can be difficult to manage people if you’re unable to check in on them face-to-face. And without the right approach to communication and management, your employees can end up burning out by not properly managing their work-life balance.

To help you avoid this issue, we’ve compiled a list of particularly helpful remote work best practices.

Best practices for remote communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy working relationship between you and your employees. When your team goes fully (or partly) remote, it becomes more challenging to get it right. But it’s even more crucial to do so.

Here’s what you can do to make sure this happens in your organization:

Use documentation and workflow management to minimize confusion

When you can’t drop in and talk with someone (as disruptive as that can sometimes be), even minor misunderstandings can take a long time to resolve. Waiting for a response often becomes a bottleneck against progress.

The best way to avoid this issue is to minimize the amount of confusion that happens in the first place. Create standard operating practices and reliable workflows. Even new employees should be able to finish standard tasks without having to ask managers or colleagues for assistance.

You should also define which communication channels to use and who to contact in different scenarios to minimize collateral damage. Say goodbye to questions like ”Hey, James, should I reach out to Sarah or Lee about this?”

Get comfortable with asynchronous communication

Seventy-three percent of remote workers prefer a healthy amount of communication to happen asynchronously — that is without a need to reply in real time.

A graph showing the split between synchronous and asynchronous work in 2023

Even if it’s possible to answer instantly in Slack, don’t teach your team to expect that. Instead, help them implement time management strategies like time blocking to keep their productivity up on meaningful tasks while still replying to messages within a reasonable time.

Using a variety of remote collaboration tools is a good first step. But you need a clear communication plan to avoid confusion. Answer questions like:

  • Who should an employee contact in which situation, and which channel should they use to do so?
  • How often are employees expected to check Slack, email, and other communication channels?

Do you have employees in foreign countries? Divide responsibilities by time zones, if that makes sense.

By baking this into the company culture, you can help your employees focus on the most high-impact tasks first.

Build respecting scheduled tasks into the company culture

There’s a paradox with remote work where it’s often easier to reach out to colleagues for minor issues. You no longer need to get out of your seat and knock on a door — you can just jump on Slack.

To stop this from distracting your team and leading to lots of unnecessary back-and-forth, implement these three steps:

  1. Have your team respect scheduled tasks and not expect replies instantly.
  2. Encourage your team to schedule high-priority tasks in predictable ways (e.g., doing coding tasks from 9–11 am).
  3. Get your team to automatically set their status to “do not disturb” during these times.

With a tool like Motion, which automatically synchronizes with Google and Outlook calendars, this is a whole lot easier. Your team can see what their teammates have scheduled and know when it’s a good time to reach out to them.

Use meetings in the right ways

Nobody wants to spend time in a meeting that meanders. But that doesn’t mean that meetings are inherently bad. When done right, meetings are a powerful tool for managing your team.

Here are a few tips to ensure meetings uphold productivity among your team:

  • Always have a goal (and outline it at the beginning of each meeting).
  • Share the meeting agenda with the attendees beforehand.
  • Stop meetings from getting off track. Set a designated person to chair the meeting who can nudge it back on course if it veers off.

For more in-depth tips, read our guide to managing meetings effectively.

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Best practices for managing a remote team

It’s not just about communication. As a manager, you can do many things to improve the experience for remote employees.

Here are some examples:

Use tools that give you visibility without needing to contact

As a manager, the last thing you want is to have to ask your team for updates constantly. Not only do you sometimes need to wait for hours as a result of different time zones, but every message is a potential disruptor to productive team members.

Project management software like Motion can give you the visibility you need.

Kanban view in Motion

‎A Kanban board can give you an at-a-glance overview of your employees’ current progress. It will show you who’s on track and who’s lagging behind and needs some extra input, guidance, or help.

And it’s not just project management, either. You can use various remote working tools to streamline meetings, call scheduling, and more.

But don’t try to onboard 10 new shiny tools at once. Start with a few high-impact tools, and only add more after your team has successfully made the initial transition.

Train employees to use necessary software (and confirm their ability to do so)

If you use specialized software, ensure that everyone on your team knows how to use it correctly. With each confused employee, the team’s productivity worsens since these individuals often reach out to (and distract) their fellow team members.

And in a worst-case scenario, these employees may even ruin your settings or cause serious miscommunication to happen. The last thing you want is for a priority prospect to get added to the wrong list and forgotten.

For a remote sales team, make sure to train all new employees in your CRM, knowledge management tool, and more. Follow up with the new hires and ask them for feedback on the training so that you can optimize over time.

Focus on the right metrics and deliverables

Don’t get tricked into micromanaging your employees just because you can.

Many companies get caught up in employee productivity monitoring. But focusing on how many mouse clicks an employee makes per minute is a recipe for disaster. Senior remote employees who complete their tasks on time will resent the needless critique in this area. And sometimes more is less. The last thing you want is employees rushing tasks and making mistakes, just because they have to meet an arbitrary productivity goal.

Instead, focus on completing tasks, meeting deadlines, and replying punctually.

A manager looking at key metrics on a computer

‎Focusing on metrics that actually matter is key to successful remote management. You can still use tertiary metrics, but don’t use them to directly evaluate your team’s performance.

And if someone continually performs well, don’t just give them more work. Ask them about their preferences and help them work toward their goals. Rewarding good performance is fundamental for boosting employee engagement.

Bridge the gap between remote and on-site employees

Many remote workers struggle with feelings of isolation, especially in hybrid teams with a tight-knit on-site community. You can bridge these gaps by creating events where both sides participate.

Consider the following:

  • Virtual coffee hours: Facilitating casual conversations is important for team-building.
  • Virtual meetings: Focus especially on shared “wins.”
  • One-on-one meetings with remote employees: Concentrate on their career development opportunities.

You also want to make sure everyone is included in team meetings. So, invest in conference room hardware — cameras, speakers, projectors, etc. — to give the entire team a voice.

Building connections remotely isn’t easy. But it’s necessary if you want to maintain a healthy, productive team.

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Best practices for facilitating a healthy work-life balance among your employees

When your employees work from home, it’s easy to lose a sense of boundaries, and the stress of work can seep into every area of their home life. This is a recipe for burnout — 69% of remote workers actually face increased burnout due to digital communication tools.

Encourage the use of a separate workspace

In an office setting, you don’t need to worry about turning off “work mode.” The act of going home from the office does that for you — you have a physical barrier between your personal life and your job.

A designated work desk in a regular living room

‎For remote workers, a home office can act as a barrier in a similar way. Encourage your at-home employees to use a separate room for their work (and, if possible, offer some reimbursement programs around this).

This can be as simple as:

  • Giving them a budget to purchase a desk and/or chair
  • Sponsoring coworking space memberships for them
  • Giving them a company credit card to occasionally visit their favorite coffee shop

But be careful not to mandate anything. After all, flexibility is the reason why many professionals prefer working remotely. If your remote work policies are too restrictive, this could impact your ability to attract top talent.

Make it a policy to avoid communicating outside of working hours

It can be tempting to jump on the computer and check Slack or your email inbox. After all, it’s only a few clicks. What harm can it do to your team members to stay up-to-date?

The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot.

Behavioral research from 2022 shows that checking emails outside of work hours can be a significant contributor to “anticipatory stress.” In the study, this factor alone contributed more to work-related stress than factors like meetings or performance expectations.

A remote worker feeling stressed when cooking dinner

‎So, ban communication outside of working hours in your communication plan and policies. You can make exceptions for emergencies, but this is often a slippery slope. What’s considered an emergency varies from person to person, so include a strict definition.

Then, routinely check that to make sure your employees aren’t breaking these rules. A rule only works if it’s followed.

Of course, this ban excludes social interactions, but these should happen outside of company channels anyway.

Encourage your team members to spend lunch away from their laptop

Spending lunch breaks away from the digital world is key to decompressing.

So, aside from social events like coffee hours, you don’t want to keep your employees on their computers outside of work. Instead, encourage them to take breaks from their computer and use the time to decompress.

Here are a few ideas for achieving this:

  • Give full-time remote employees company credit cards they can use at local cafes to get a cup of coffee or tea and take a break.
  • Allow flexible schedules to give employees longer breaks to get meaningful activities done (picking up their children, cooking meals for their family, taking long walks in the park, etc.) in between work hours.
  • Sponsor gym memberships (or other fitness-related subscriptions, like yoga or dance classes).

Boost your remote team’s productivity with Motion

While optimizing remote work often sounds easy in theory, the day-to-day management of a remote team can cause stress. When a last-minute task comes in, you often have to reach out to multiple people to get a handle on their schedule.

With Motion, not only do you get complete visibility into all of your employees’ schedules, but you can also let our algorithm handle the delegation of new tasks. With variables like task dependencies, deadlines, priority, and more, Motion sends new tasks to employees with capacity in just a few clicks.

Start your free trial today.

Ragnar Miljeteig
Ragnar is a Pomodoro enthusiast and a SaaS writer with over 10 years of experience. When he's not focused on getting a sentence just right, he loves cooking and training Muay Thai.
Written by Ragnar Miljeteig