Working outside of a typical office space certainly has its perks, but it can be difficult to focus with so many distractions. And for employers and managers, it's challenging to measure whether remote workers are staying on track and getting their work done.
Collaboration enabled by technology and clear, frequent communication are vital.
To ensure productivity for employers and employees alike, we asked 15 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to tell us one strategy they use to improve focus when working remotely (or that they ask their remote employees to use). Their best answers are below.
1. Create accountable communication.
A study conducted by the Project Management Institute showed that poor communication within a team led to project failure one-third of the time. This is in part due to a disconnect between management and the employees. Creating an open company with a remote workforce is like combining a giant brain all working towards the same goal. Consider software like 15Five to create accountable communication.--Cody McLain, WireFuseMedia LLC
2. Use an always-on messaging platform.
When it comes to remote team members, it can be easy for the physical distance to cause a disconnect from the core team. That makes it hard to focus on what's important right now to the business. We love the always-on nature of messaging tools like Slack to make sure team members globally have instant access to colleagues. It may seem counterintuitive, but messaging helps everyone focus better.--Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
3. Schedule frequent check-ins.
We clearly outline expectations and employee responsibilities. We also hire great communicators who work well independently and are accountable. Beyond that, we work extra hard to foster connection through frequent phone check-ins and regular meet-ups: whether celebrating a company milestone, someone's personal accomplishment, or just for fun. If everyone feels plugged in, we and the company thrive.--David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
4. Set daily goals.
When traveling or working remotely, I always set daily goals to keep myself focused throughout the day. Oftentimes, I divide my list into morning goals and afternoon goals. It isn't so much about the number of goals, but rather the responsibility I instill in myself to keep to a schedule. It's better to have a small number of goals and complete them than a huge list that never gets done.--Kim Kaupe, ZinePak
5. Use white noise apps.
Working remotely often means working with distractions. Using white noise apps on your smartphone or laptop is a surprisingly effective way to tune out the world around you and stay focused on the task at hand.--Sam Saxton, Salter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs
6. Break up projects into smaller "accountability points."
Any time focus is low, divide up tasks into smaller component parts, then be accountable for meeting those goals. When you set smaller goals within a big project, it's possible to work intensely for a short time, then take a deserved short break.--John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation
7. Limit email access.
I spent this last summer working from Spain. The single most effective tactic for improving my focus (so I could also spend time enjoying tapas) was limiting email access. Being nine hours ahead of clients allowed me to work uninterrupted, get stuff done and answer emails in one batch (as opposed to when they come in). Clients understood the limitations, which enabled the strategy to work.--Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
8. Set firm working hours.
It doesn't matter if you're on the beach in Cabo or in your home office grinding away at your standing desk. Wherever you are, you should budget work time vs. play time accordingly. It is easy for most people to postpone fulfilling responsibilities when they're not at the office or when not in an environment where everyone else is working. To keep yourself accountable, set fixed working hours.--Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep
9. Schedule a daily huddle.
Every morning at 10:00 a.m., our team jumps on a Google Hangout and within a couple of minutes, each member articulates what they accomplished yesterday, what their goals are for today and what's blocking their progress (if anything). It's incredibly effective at keeping us accountable and connected.--Avery Fisher, Remedify
10. Set office hours.
Set "office hours"--times that you ask your family not to disturb you--just like a real job! Couple this with setting specific "time off" hours as well. This will help create purposeful hours that make your day feel just like any other work day.--Kuty Shalev, Clevertech
11. Outline goals for each team member.
Our team gets more done by having clearly outlined goals for every member, including me. If we all know what we're responsible for, we can focus on completion and outcomes instead of watching the clock. We check in as needed, but our emphasis is on results.--Lisa Nicole Bell, Inspired Life Media Group
12. Send clear, efficient emails.
The key to working remotely is keeping email to a minimum without sacrificing open channels of dialogue. It's one thing to cross-talk on an email chain when you're all sitting together in the same room; it's another when an employee is relying on email to stay in the loop. Keeping email uncluttered means sending clear, actionable, efficient messages to only the necessary stakeholders.--Jeff Fernandez, Grovo Learning, Inc.
13. Use time-tracking tools (but take a break, too).
Most of my employees handle more than one client, so staying focused on client tasks is important. Some employees use time trackers so they know clients are getting the time they're paying for. Sometimes the most productive thing to do is to stand up, prepare a cup of coffee or tea and disconnect for a few minutes. You'll be reloaded and ready to complete your tasks.--Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME
14. Set clear expectations.
You need to set clear expectations for yourself and for your remote workers. Give them enough work to keep them busy and have a full day of work. Do not assume that they will come to you for more work--you need to keep asking them if they have enough keeping them busy. Having worked remotely for 4+ years for the current company I work for, this is needed for both parties.--Peter Daisyme, Host