by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
Does your remote team’s workflow look like this?
Even though remote team members might avoid the morning commute, they can encounter traffic jams once they get to work. Several factors native to remote work create higher opportunities for workflow to get bogged down. That means a loss in efficiency and productivity. Let’s take a look at what they are and how we can best address them.
Nothing gums up the gears in the remote team machine faster than when our technology breaks down or doesn’t work the way we want it to. This can happen for a number of reasons over which we have no control: power failures, internet provider glitches, software malfunctions. In those cases, there’s no choice but to be patient and wait for whatever third party we’re depending on to fix it.
But remote leaders often invite other tech tragedies by failing to do two things:
- Employing out of date tools and software
- Not ensuring proper training
In the first instance, leaders of remote teams have to make sure that they’re utilizing the most effective tools at their disposal. This doesn’t have to mean “most expensive,” but trying to save money on technology is often the culprit. Think twice about trying to save money by not upgrading computers or software. Think about how much these workflow stoppages will affect your bottom line. You’re probably better off investing a little more on the front end to avoid losing money down the road.
Even when remote team leaders get the newest and the best tools, too often they just deliver them without instructions or expectations on how they’re going to be used. When team members don’t know how to use technology, it’s no different than not having the technology to begin with. That’s creating the worst possible situation: spending money to ostensibly prevent a workflow stoppage only to have it happen anyway and lose productivity.
Poor Asset Organization
“Where is it?” is probably the most common question asked by remote teams. Even though remote team members might be scattered across the globe, they’re still interconnected. A project manager needs that latest schematic from the design team. Where is it? A copy editor needs access to an image created by the graphic artist. Where is it?
Remote teams can’t just be a collection of random, unconnected CPUs. Organizational assets have to be centrally stored and easily accessed by the entire team. Effective remote teams employ asset managers. Depending on the size of your organization and how many assets you’re creating, this can be an extra duty for someone on the team, or it can be a dedicated position.
Whatever your need, don’t allow your workflow to get bottled up simply because people on your team don’t know where to find things. Organize your assets into a logical, user-friendly system that everyone can access when needed.
You can have the latest version of Skype, a top-notch phone system, a great instant messaging app and still have communication breakdowns. How does that happen? When remote leaders don’t clearly spell out the communication process. Here are just a few common questions that can produce workflow breakdowns if not addressed:
Who do I ask? Who’s the “go-to” person for tech solutions? Asset organization? Office supplies? If your team doesn’t know who to go to with these questions, they’re going to be spending valuable time blindly searching for answers. Worse, if they think you are the one who’s going to take care of all these things, you’re going to be spending more time doing office administration than leading your team.
What channel do I use? This is an important meta-communication question. Even if you know who to ask for what, asking it in the wrong platform can create a workflow problem. Sending an email, which might be responded to in the next few hours or tomorrow, for a problem that needs an immediate solution creates an unnecessary pause. Better to pick up the phone or use instant messaging. Conversely, contacting people via “instant” platforms when the problem doesn’t need an immediate answer can create unnecessary distractions for the person on the receiving end. Or if they’re getting multiple instant requests, it makes it easier for the need to get lost in the mix.
What’s the expected response time? Answering this question kills “down time” while waiting for an answer. If I know to expect an answer immediately, I’ll wait. If I know it’s going to take a while, I’ll move on to another task while they’re working on finding that answer. Knowing how soon to expect a response also encourages trust and good will on your team. When these expectations go unmet, assumptions get made and bad feelings start to develop.
As a leader, you are the “traffic manager.” The degree to which you get out in front on these issues will determine whether your team operates smoothly in the “fast lane” or whether they get stuck avoiding potholes and traffic jams.
If you want your remote team working at peak efficiency, check out our course on How to Create and Manage Remote Teams. This course is available on demand, or we can even come to your site. This option is especially effective for larger organizations with multiple remote teams.