Getting the best results from remote work

COVID-19 sped up the shift to remote work for many organizations. While online collaboration tools can help teams stay productive and efficient, maintaining quality can be a challenge for distributed teams.

That challenge may just become part of the new way of working: a recent Gartner study of global HR executives revealed that 74% of companies plan to shift at least some of their employees to permanent remote working after the pandemic is over. Even before the pandemic, surveys found 80% of employees wanted the flexibility to work from home sometimes.

Here are four practices we’ve observed that enable efficiency and support high-quality content creation for remote work groups:

1. COLLABORATION: Know when to talk it out
It’s a good rule not to “over-meet”: sometimes an email will convey instructions or a decision faster and more simply than getting everyone together. But the opposite is also true. There are times when, to get team thinking aligned, a meeting is more effective and allows for higher-quality input. It gives people the chance to feed back and agree on next steps, with more clarity than a massive email chain or multiple sets of tracked comments in a single document might provide.

2. CREATIVITY: Make space for great thinking
Team brainstorming is still an important way to surface creative ideas and shape up plans. Even if you can’t be together physically, simple practices can help recreate the in-person brainstorming experience, such as having one person capture ideas on flipcharts and send photos around after the session. Digital whiteboarding and collaboration apps can be useful for more complex exercises.

3. QUALITY CONTROL: Set up clear document control processes
Tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, etc. are great for efficient collaboration, but version control can get dicey when there are a lot of “cooks” in the kitchen. Setting clear feedback deadlines for contributors, and document-locking functions if they’re available, can ensure quality control as things keep moving.

4. SMART PROCESS: Schedule time for getting things done
Clearly defined schedules keep people on track when everyone’s working remotely. But “doing” time can sometimes get lost in all the “meeting” time. Be sure to carve out blocks that allow good focused productivity during the workday, so work-work doesn’t get relegated to nighttime and early morning. It can be helpful to reserve small buffers after meeting slots, too — for the follow-on items that inevitably come from those sessions.