Social distancing has been the most important and probably the most effective response to the
Coronavirus pandemic. Amidst the global health crisis, our workplaces have also undergone significant changes — with more and more companies moving their operations online or, at least, considering this option.
With a large number of employees in the US admitting that they actually prefer working remotely, the changes we’ve experienced in the past months may be here to stay. In fact, according to a study conducted by IBM, 75% of the respondents said they would like to continue working remotely on occasion and 54% said they would like this to remain their primary way of working).
However, a remote workplace will face challenges of its own. With no direct supervision, project timelines may get fuzzy, business operations may slow down and both employees, and managers may feel stressed out about failing to meet targets.
So, how do you create a sense of urgency at work in this new environment that is healthy instead of stressful? How do you get an employee to work faster without having a face-to-face conversation? How do you set urgent tasks to remote workers who are still just adjusting to the new working mode? These are just some of the questions that a business working with a geographically scattered employees will need to address.
In this post, we will go over a few strategies that have proven helpful in keeping a remote workplace running efficiently without putting your teammates under a lot of pressure or setting unreasonable standards.
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This means that if you set a deadline for something to be done, say, within a month, this is probably how long it will take your team to complete it. Setting a shorter deadline, on the other hand, will probably get you the results much faster. With that, setting short deadlines for assignments comes with pitfalls of its own and may have a negative effect on the quality of the completed work as well as employee morale.
What can help is breaking down a big assignment into smaller parts and setting shorter deadlines for each of the assignment “milestones”. This way, you will be able to keep an eye on the progress of the project at hand and make necessary changes to the timeline—should more or less time be needed for its completion.
Announcing project deadlines in a meeting, putting them down on a digital project board or simply sharing them in a working chat group can be a good way to motivate your team to stick to the set goals as they may feel accountable for the deadlines to a larger group of people.
You can use a DIY project board or one of the many popular project management tools like Slack or Trello to help your team keep track of task timeline, share updates and more.
Learning how to help slow employees work faster without putting them under a lot of stress is an important skill for managers. It can be quite efficient to ask the person you’ve assigned the task to for a status update before the actual deadline — for instance, 24 hours in advance. This can serve as a soft reminder to your team mate that you are expecting to see results on the due date but also instill a sense of urgency that will motivate that person to put the finishing touches on the project at hand sooner.
You can even set an update schedule and send update requests to your team at regular intervals so that you are all on the same page when it comes to the progress of the project.
The more “free” time you and your team have throughout the day, the less work may actually get done. For instance, if you are looking ahead at your day and see no meetings, presentations, work calls or project catch-ups, you will probably feel like you have all the time in the world to get things done and, thus, take things slowly.
However, if your and your team’s day is “interrupted” by a quick meeting, a project catch-up or a work call, you may feel the need to plan your day more carefully (as you will be expecting that interruption). Consequently, you’ll stay more focused on your assignment when you do have the time to give it your undivided attention.
Another effective way to tackle employee time management issues is to use specialized tools. Fortunately, there is a generous choice of time tracking software online that can be a very effective addition to your project management toolkit.
Time tracking software like Traqq is designed to automate time tracking and lets supervisors and managers monitor employee activity. The tool is so discreet that it operates without interfering with a person’s day-to-day work or putting extra pressure on their systems. Traqq can also take screenshots and video recordings of screen activity, which can give project managers the needed visuals to keep track of assignments while creating that sense of urgency and accountability for ongoing tasks.
Time tracking apps are also great for analyzing productivity levels of individual team members as well as monitoring productivity across the board and can prove to be very helpful when it comes to delegating responsibility.
Taking regular breaks and ensuring your team does the same is one of the key aspects of staying efficient and committing to that state of urgency that you may need to get things done on time. While you want your team to be able to push themselves to meet necessary deadlines, you also need to make sure that they have the stamina, creativity, energy and motivation to complete assignments remotely. Workplace adrenaline may be quite an effective tool in the short term, however, in the long term it can actually cause more harm than good.
In a typical workplace, some of our break time is regulated — we get lunch breaks, office banter, moments by the water cooler, etc. When working online, it is just as important to assign time-off periods throughout the day — which you can do with the help of time tracking or project management apps.
We hope that the strategies above can help you and your team build towards a healthy and efficient working structure and create a safe, reassuring and cooperative working space — even if that space is digital.
About the author: Stephanie Henderson is a writer for Traqq.com on the weekdays and a portrait photographer on the weekends. She enjoys keeping up with the bleeding edge of technology, which led her to a career as a technical writer. Fun Fact: Even though Stephanie couldn’t bake to save her life, she has never met a cupcake she didn’t like.