Managing remote teams is here for the foreseeable future. Whether you’ve always done so or are still getting used to this new way of working, the right time management tools and smart scheduling can make it a whole lot easier.
The flexibility of working from home is one of the biggest perks. Office set-up, hours, and style of working can be tailored to each team member to bring out their best work. However, without the structure and accountability encouraged by the typical office environment, it can cause havoc for team organisation and work-life balance.
In this article, we outline some of the best time management tools and practices to follow to improve the productivity of your remote teams. Some changes include introducing smart software to take some of the organisational burdens off team leaders. Implementing easier ways of monitoring progress helps to keep teams accountable. Other changes can be executed personally by each team member to improve their working habits and efficiency.
One day your team is firing on all cylinders, projects are progressing, deadlines are met, and everyone finishes on time. The next day, employees work overtime but any headway grinds to a halt and you see no benefit. What causes such a drastic difference over 2 days?
Effective time management.
Time management is the process of organising and managing how much time is spent on specific tasks. Every working day has the potential to be productive and efficient if the time is utilised effectively. If you manage your own time well and empower your employees to keep track of theirs, you can immediately boost business productivity.
Whether you’re new to managing a remote team or a seasoned pro, it is always an evolving process. Every team and business are different. Changing guidelines, employee life changes and business developments all bring about new challenges. Keeping the dialogue open on what is working best for your employees as they work from home is a great way to continually provide support. What works best might change over time. The tools and techniques in this article are a firm foundation to work from; adapt them to your team and watch as efficiency improves.
In a virtual environment, keeping track of employee hours and project timelines becomes a job of its own. You can cut out the time-consuming job of chasing up hours by introducing a standardised process that everyone can follow, wherever they work. Tracking hours worked is not only essential for the financial management of your business, but it also keeps employees accountable. Using a time tracking tool where it is simple to assign, track and input hours worked leaves you with more time to run your business.
Crono is a timesheet app that keeps it simple. You can easily create timesheets for team members, set individuals specific tasks and monitor how long jobs are taking. Once the work is completed, employees simply input hours spent and submit. Submitted timesheets can be accepted or rejected and you can provide additional comments as to why; incomplete tasks won’t slip under your radar. It’s easy to see who is performing well and delivering tasks in good time. Using Crono’s smart Sticky Filters makes finding and managing timesheets easy. You can search by date, team member, approved, rejected or pending.
Project management is straight forward with Crono, simply assign team members to the projects they are working on. The hours spent on a project can be collated, helping you to keep on top of project tasks, deadlines, and costs. Crono even generates invoices for your clients, automatically calculating costs based on timesheets and the hourly rate you set. You can mark invoices as paid or pending, to help you keep track of revenue flows. At a glance, managers have an excellent overview of project costs, tasks and team members and can quickly drill down into the details. All employees know what work they need to complete and can rest assured that their hours are being processed.
Distractions in the working environment massively hinder employee efficiency. It can be difficult to manage this when everyone is working remotely, but there are things you can do.
Encourage all your employees to set up a dedicated workspace. It doesn’t have to be a home office or even a desk, a coffee table will do. But having a space that is solely for working aids productivity and helps people to focus. It’s also a handy signal for family members or flatmates that work has started, and they should keep interruptions to a minimum.
Once a workspace is created, next up is tackling digital distractions. Without nosy colleagues to keep people accountable, social media and online shopping can creep into the working day. Establish an honest dialogue with your team about this and direct them to some useful tools they can use. When turning a mobile onto flight mode isn’t an option, there are more sophisticated blocking apps such as Freedom and StayFocusd. They can block specific websites and social media sites across devices during working hours.
Online tools can boost productivity, especially if you have team members working alongside noisy neighbours or children home from school. Focus@will deliver personalised music developed by neuroscientists to help extend individual productivity and block out external distractions.
Flexible working hours is one of the greatest perks of working from home. Adapting the working day to better suit your team members can boost productivity. However, consistency is important, not only for your staff but for client management and business planning.
For your team, keeping regular hours will establish a good routine and enable them to tune into work more easily. If you have clients to manage, it’s important to know who is available as a point of contact throughout the week. Poor time management can leave clients hanging and lose valuable business.
Knowing when everyone is working is essential to plan meetings, assign tasks and manage project deadlines. Therefore, developing a clear way for everyone to communicate the hours they are working is important. A project management app such as Asana is one option, or you can share calendars linked to work emails. Keeping everyone in the loop regarding availability aids problem-solving. It’s easier for team members to resolve issues when they know who is working, rather than emails languishing in inboxes for hours.
When working from home it’s all too easy for the work and home life boundary to blur. Without a scheduled lunchtime or tea break, the hours can mount up. This isn’t good for employee morale or efficiency. Brain function is improved by frequent, short breaks and you should encourage your staff to take them. Desk workers especially benefit from getting up from behind the screen, moving their bodies and enjoying some fresh air.
There are online timers that can help employees take the breaks that they need. The Pomodoro technique involves focussed work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 cycles, there is a longer break. Online Pomodoro timers take care of the clock-watching for you. Employees can even create their own schedule better suited to their working habits.
If you would rather have a more sociable time-out, you could replicate a 10-minute morning tea break with a conference call. Not only will this ensure your employees take some time out, but it can help you assess team morale and provide human interaction for remote workers.
Working in or out of the office, nothing makes the working day drag more than a poor night’s sleep the night before. If you don’t want your employees napping on the job, encourage them to form healthy sleeping habits when they work from home.
Cutting out commutes already saves some valuable morning sleeping time, but a good routine is even more beneficial. We’ve long been told to avoid screens before bedtime and a work laptop is no exception. By encouraging employees to stick to scheduled hours and work from a dedicated workspace, you are already avoiding some of the unhealthy habits that can affect their circadian rhythms.
Working from home is not a case of making do until you can get back into the office. For some businesses, this is the best way of working. For others still in a transition period, working from home isn’t going anywhere soon. Now is the time to optimise at-home operations to improve business performance.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to improve remote time management and you should tailor our advice to your team and business. Adopting company-wide timesheet software like Crono will save valuable time and streamline operations. Direct your team members to great online resources that can help them to build healthy remote working habits.
The best way to know what is working is to talk to your team members. Keep communication channels open and adapt where necessary to maintain an efficient and happy working environment.