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Easy Ways To Track Productivity In Remote Teams

Ways to track productivity in remote teams

The joys of working from home, whether hybrid or fully remote, are unparalleled for those who have made the most of it during lockdowns. However, now that the post-Covid dust has settled, the reality of continued remote working arrangements makes conventional managers uneasy and pessimistic about the future prospects of workforce management. While their concern is not without merit, there are still ways to track the productivity of remote teams.

Justifiable concerns when managing remote teams

Remote working offers a host of rewards for both the company as well as the team members. Some of the more obvious perks include:

  • Less commuting time for team members who live far away.
  • Autonomy allows team members to keep a flexible schedule.
  • An improved individual work–life balance.
  • Higher productivity & increased motivation.
  • Reduced staff turnover, especially following the post-pandemic work-from-home adoption.

However, there is a reason why managers and team leads are biting their nails in anticipation. To understand their concern, it’s best to look at some of the recurring challenges companies face when they have a diverse workforce that is no longer office bound.

Unit cohesion

In the same way that many animals thrive in packs, so many sales teams rely on team sync meetings to drive their performance and to aim for impossible deadlines. It is difficult to simulate this explosive energy via virtual meetings. While some have found creative ways to bridge the gap or to inspire staff with a drive to perform, others have struggled to adapt their salesforce to a remote working platform.

Waning professionalism

The biggest concern for most companies stems from a sudden drop in the overall team morale or engagement, especially where remote working was stumbled into without being prepared. Reports and processes instantly fall by the wayside and the founding protocols that speak to the company’s core value system, have lost all their worth. This can result in remote members dragging their feet, for instance, where deadlines are looming, or where poor customer service has soured the relationship with the company’s most valued clients.

Missing the spunky office vibe

Birthday celebrations, warm greetings, staff events, and fun interchanges with colleagues across desks are some of the added bonuses of a productive office. While not applicable to those hanging around the watercooler or the coffee station to avoid the mountain of work piling up at their desks, there are others who saw the office as a place of comfort. The sudden plunge from a lively team setup with a vibrant office atmosphere can have dire consequences on the members within that team and drastically change the way they operated previously.

The forgotten human element

It is important to note that not everyone has the ideal home working environment. In fact, home might be a problematic area where the individual is exposed to a great deal of personal stress. We all lead different lives with our own unique circumstances. It is impossible to predict what someone’s home situation is like. There are team members who would rather trek across town to a dank office space where they can step away from distractions and home chores.

Having support systems in place to engage with team members on an individual basis is absolutely imperative. Allowing them to openly express their own fears or concerns, is the only way to keep a finger on the pulse of their emotional and mental wellbeing. As a manager or human resources representative, you could be the earliest indicator that there is an emotional storm brewing in one of your fellow team members.

This is why companies that are on the cusp of international expansion drives often resort to outsourcing some of their key business functions. Not only does it reduce the cost associated with their business plans, but it also saves them from having to establish global talent acquisition initiatives in a foreign country.

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5 Ways to track your remote teams

An autonomous workforce can be fraught with time and payroll tracking complications. Timekeeping alone can be a complex component, simply because the process of accounting for every single hour is not always a clear-cut, actionable process. As a global Professional Employer Organization (PEO), Boldr focuses more on finance and payroll objectives and leaves the day-to-day responsibility of team management to our outsourcing clients, but they often ask for advice on tracking productivity within their teams.

A quick Google search will reveal a treasure trove of decent management tools, that range from detailed time tracking software to flexible platforms that encourage self-management among team members. These can be spread out into five different ways of tracking productivity.

1. Email Tracking

Tracking communication channels might seem a bit excessive, though it has many benefits that go beyond simply keeping an eye on productivity. Email tracking software can offer insight into the team’s internal communication, as well as their response rate to customer queries. This is a manageable statistic that can reveal areas of individual or group improvement. It will also indicate which team members are more adept when it comes to the administrative function of emails.

Moreover, with a worldwide clampdown on the sharing of personal information, not to mention the risks of exposure to spam emails and phishing, it is necessary to regulate all communication channels. A proactive approach here, trumps a reactive approach later.

Examples of email tracking:

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Gmail
  • HubSpot Email Tracking
  • Mailtrack

2. Task Tracking

The most powerful tool available to companies with remote teams are software programs that help team members to track the progress of a specific task, or a collection of tasks over a specific time period. The tracking of tasks allows managers to have an unbiased view of every individual team member. A task is either completed, in progress or not yet completed, with reasons detailing why it is in that phase. In other words, the completion of a task is solely dependent on the status of it in the software program. Depending on the size of the task, it can be broken up into portions, with each portion being designated to relevant team members, with a deadline attached. When applied effectively, the process allows team members to manage themselves.

Examples of task tracking:

  • Monday
  • Asana
  • Hive
  • Todoist
  • MeisterTask

3. Time Tracking

Time tracking software can be invaluable, especially in sales or finance groups where speed to market is a deciding factor to obtaining future business or closing immediate sales. In the same way that a car manufacturing company can estimate how long it takes to build one car, you can use time tracking software to estimate the time it takes to create a quote, or how long it takes to resolve customer complaints. It is important to position the use of time tracking as a means to streamline the business, as opposed to it being a way to track when team members are working or when they are being idle.

Examples of time tracking:

  • Hubstaff
  • Time Doctor
  • Clockify
  • Toggl
  • Everhour
  • Timely
  • Timeular
  • Forest

4. Calendar Tracking

There is no better way to track productivity than having a clear indication of how team members are managing their days. How much time per day or per week do they attend meetings? Are they blocking off time for team engagements? Are they burning themselves out by scheduling meetings outside of working hours?

These are all pertinent questions that could assist leaders to review the way that remote teams function. In turn, they can effectively shuffle responsibilities to the appropriate members, or encourage members to better manage their diaries.

Examples of calendar tracking:

  • Calendly
  • Gmail
  • Microsoft Outlook Calendar
  • iCal
  • Calendar

5. Leave (Payroll) Tracking

This is a strategic way to lighten the load on internal human resources teams, while simultaneously encouraging other team members to take ownership of matters that have their personal interests at heart. By empowering individuals to regulate their own payroll elements or to process and action their own leave, they will have a clearer understanding about what is happening with their remuneration. This can potentially eliminate basic HR queries and concerns, while helping individuals to structure their work personal lives around their work lives.

Examples of payroll tracking:

  • Bamboo HR
  • Paychex
  • Gusto
  • Paycom
  • Zenefits
  • Workday

When reviewing the best platform for your company, be sure to consider the costs of each platform and whether it will streamline or support your current processes. And, most importantly, ask yourself if the platform you choose could have a negative impact on team morale.

Studies have revealed that team members are more likely to pretend they are working when they are being tracked. Constantly checking up on your team’s performance could damage an existing trust relationship. Whether this reaction is a psychological act of defiance or a consequence of digital micromanagement, is debatable. Regardless, it is a space you want to avoid.

Dare to be different, dare to be Boldr

Boldr faced similar challenges during the pandemic-fuelled lockdowns. We did extensive research on the application of productivity tracking tools. In the end, however, we opted for a more unconventional humanistic approach to managing our remote teams while keeping them engaged.

We quickly realized that there is a distinct difference between tracking productivity, and measuring productivity. One is proactive and the other is reactive. While a proactive approach can enforce tighter measures of control over the present productivity, a reactive approach empowers individuals to make decisions based on their delivered productivity.

This type of relationship takes a long time to establish in a team, particularly when they operate as a remote or hybrid team. From onboarding of new team members to gauging deliverables, Boldr builds relationships on a foundation of trust. While we have visibility into Google Calendar to see how members utilize time for meetings, we rather focus on processes that provide actionable feedback and encourage documented feedback, like end-of-day reporting.

When it comes to team member productivity, we evaluate the reporting of output, instead of focusing on the tracking of input. As a purpose-driven outsourcing company, this method of tracking productivity while embracing professional development across our remote clusters, has proven effective time and time again.

If your remote team has expanded, it might be a good idea to consider outsourcing some of the elements of your organization. By doing so, you free up time that can be dedicated towards engaging with your remote members. It is our mission to support our clients by taking over their burdens so they can concentrate on the things that are important to them, like their invaluable workforce.

James Fouche is the wordsmith at Boldr, an author and a columnist. He is passionate about sharing his love of reading and writing with others.

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