For many, the five-day in-office work week is dead. McKinsey reports that most people working in computing and mathematical jobs have remote work options, and 77 percent say they’re willing to work fully remotely.
But are we as productive at home as we are in the office? Some research indicates that working from home has a “positive impact on productivity,” with gains of five percent. Other research claims that productivity decreases by 20 percent when people work remotely. And still, other sources say that while people may get more work done at home, they have better, more creative ideas at the office.
Even as the debate around remote work continues, managers remain responsible for ensuring that their teams maximize productivity and support the needs of the business. Here are five strategies IT teams can leverage to ensure that they are successful and productive in a remote or hybrid work environment:
1. Be predictable
Most organizations would define productivity – at a macro, organizational level – as “doing more with less.” This can mean designing more products, developing more features, or delivering more services to customers. If we drill down to the team level, predictability drives productivity. If a team has regular routines, it becomes easier to set and meet deadlines, plan effectively, and save time.
[ Also read Remote work: How to balance flexibility and productivity. ]
There are variables we can control and those we cannot. There will always be things that come up during product development within an organization – a new idea, an unanticipated result, or even a bug. The better you plan for what you can control, the more time you have to address the unexpected.
2. Define what productivity means for your team before you try to measure it
Every organization measures productivity differently because they care about different things. A leadership team may be laser-focused on revenue growth or key performance indicators (KPIs), while IT is thinking about cycle time, velocity, and sprint numbers.
Various team priorities are mapped to different measurements, targets, and milestones. These productivity metrics may include projects completed, revenue acquired per employee, improvement per sprint, sales close rate, etc. The first step is identifying the metrics that matter most to your team. Then you can measure them regularly over time to gain productivity snapshots.
Given that each team has its priorities, metrics will vary. Any organizational tool you use should be customizable, allowing you to define your objectives and key results (OKRs), and KPIs.
3. Hire the best team
In his best-selling business book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that getting the right people on the bus (or company, in this case) should be the number one priority. Once the right people are on board, leaders can figure out where to drive the bus.
The same can be said for your IT team. It starts with the right people. Hire mission-driven people and ensure they’re aligned with the company. Then empower your teams to do their jobs and give them the space they need.
Part of empowerment is trusting your team. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Hire smart people and get out of their way.” That is good advice. Today’s workers now have more autonomy (with less managerial oversight) than they used to – something our post-pandemic, asynchronous remote work environment has helped accelerate. IT teams are now making decisions on architecture and product specs.
This increased autonomy is what fuels innovation. Engineers are like artists; they are naturally creative and, given autonomy, can create amazing products.
4. Take the friction out of collaboration
As more organizations and their employees have standardized on a remote work model, we’ve lost the ease of communication – now, it must be intentional. This comes up frequently in the feedback I hear from my teams.
How can you bridge this communication and collaboration gap? Eliminate the laundry list of products your team uses to collaborate. Team members shouldn’t be toggling between various tools (spreadsheets, documents, messaging platforms, whiteboards, etc.) to work on projects.
Remove this “collaboration friction” by uniting everyone on one common platform. Here’s how this can work: Sales can tag someone in product engineering about a customer use case, engineering can respond, and the product team can view this feedback and change the product roadmap if necessary.
[ Related read 4 ways to create a culture of collaboration ]
This seamless collaboration expedites results and boosts productivity. And it’s especially critical given today’s modern work environment.
5. Define the team’s mission. Repeat it. Repeat it again
Earlier, I mentioned metrics and priorities. Those goals and team priorities should support an overall mission statement. A mission statement should be simple, understandable, and repeatable – for example, “We extract value from your data.” Every team member makes micro-decisions, but all should map back to and support the overall mission.
IT team priorities should be outlined and reinforced. Clear prioritization keeps your team’s focus on the right products, projects, and services. If you are not prioritizing the right things in a high-growth environment, you will spin cycles, waste time, or spend valuable time completing the wrong tasks. All of these are productivity killers.
Most of us would agree that in today’s world, the only constant is change. Amidst this change, you must work to attract and retain top talent – and ensure they can easily communicate and collaborate on projects that will move your business forward. The guidelines above will help you optimize your team’s productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.