In today's business world, more and more people are working remotely. In fact, a recent study by Gallup found that 43% of American employees work remotely at least some of the time. While there are many benefits to remote work, one challenge that remote workers and leaders often face is maintaining visibility within their company.
There are a number of ways to improve remote and hybrid work visibility with a data-driven approach using company analytics, which we will cover in this article.
Importance of Improving Remote Work Visibility
There are many reasons why it's important to improve remote work visibility. For one, it can help managers get a better understanding of how well their remote teams are working, and how the processes are performing. Additionally, it can help identify any potential bottlenecks, issues or problems that may be occurring within a remote team.
Another reason why improving remote work visibility is important is that it can provide leaders a clear understanding of how their company is functioning overall. Managers can proactively understand company performance, identify problems that are preventing goals from being achieved, and then address them on a team level.
Finally, improving remote work visibility can also help to improve the overall productivity of a remote team. By addressing bottlenecks, workflow issues, and giving teams the tools they need, they feel valued and are able to produce their best work that is aligned with the company's vision.
When employees feel that their work is being appreciated and that their possibility for good performance is being appreciated, they are more likely to be motivated to work hard and be productive.
Potential Issues with No Visibility
There are a number of potential issues that can occur when there is no visibility in remote work. One issue is that it can be difficult for managers to get an understanding of team processes and dependencies to other teams. This could be with handovers, communication, workflow, and possible distractions. Without this understanding, managers cannot identify where the issues are and take the necessary steps to resolve them. This can lead to disruptions within the workflow and create bottlenecks further down the line.
Another issue that can occur is that problems or issues may go unnoticed. This is especially true if there are no regular check-ins, one-to-one meetings, or communication between the manager and the remote team. Additionally, without visibility, it can be difficult to track the progress of team and company goals and identify any potential red flags before its too late.
Without transparency and visibility, it can be challenging to pinpoint barriers within the team. For example, there could be collaboration issues between teams that affect performance, there could be a lack of information, or tool access to get the work completed, and there could be processes in place that hinder teams rather than empower them. Without full transparency and visibility, managers are unable to help their teams become the best version of themselves.
Using Company Analytics to Improve Remote Work Visibility
To gain insights and improve remote work visibility, you need company analytics. Company analytics can provide leaders, managers, and employees with valuable data that can be shared with teams and used to improve visibility.
You can improve the visibility of remote work by choosing what data to collect and how to use it effectively to make data-informed decisions. This can be broken down into productivity tool data, process data, slack workspace, time spent on work, and employee engagement.
It is important that you collect the right data for actionable insights. This can include:
- Collaboration on platforms: This can include Google Docs, in order to see where team members are actively contributing, relying often on, sharing with colleagues, and potentially becoming stuck.
- Time spent on tools. This data can be used to understand how time is spread across processes, and tasks, such as on different types of flow states like focused, distracted, and shallow work. It can also help to identify any potential issues with productivity like lack of deep work time.
- Engagement. This data can be used to understand how engaged employees are with their work. It can also help to identify any potential issues with engagement or motivation before things get out of hand.
- Time spent on video calls and in meetings: This can help to understand how much time is being spent on collaborative work and how much is spent on ad hoc, vs scheduled meetings. This can reveal potential distractive behavior.
- Punctuality: This can help to identify any potential issues with punctuality, or in short, avoids wasted time across the business.
Collecting this data can be done through a variety of methods, and it can be time-consuming. Flowtrace aggregates this data into one platform for a complete overview so you don’t have to.
Establishing Effective Communication
In order to improve remote work visibility, it is essential to establish effective communication channels. This can help to ensure that leaders, managers, and employees are able to communicate effectively and that there are clear channels of communication for specific areas of teams as well as company-wide.
There are a variety of communication channels that can be used, but some of the most popular include:
- Chat tools: Instant messaging platforms, such as Slack, can be used for near real-time communication. This can be beneficial for quick questions or updates. Although, avoid having too many channels that are irrelevant, as information could get lost and notifications could become more of a distraction.
- Email: Email is a common communication channel that can be used for a variety of purposes. Back in the day, it was used as a means of communicating everything and you should steer clear of that. You should use it to send updates, request information, or communicate with external parties. This method should be used to address one-way communication and wider group communication, if it’s for swift and actionable responses, then it’s probably not the most effective channel.
- Video conferencing: Video conferencing platforms, such as Google Meets, and Zoom, can be used for more in-depth conversations. This can be helpful for team meetings or one-on-ones. A good practice for Zoom calls and video meetings, in general, is to record the notes and send them out afterward to avoid any lost important information.
- Project Management Boards: Project management tools such as Asana, Jira and Trello have communication features built-in. These are best for actionable communication on tasks and documents, as it streamlines the workflow better on the same platform, rather than jumping from email, to Slack, to the board to edit.
- Internal wikis: These tools are best used for information which is needed more often, and doesn’t change day to day. You want to avoid the overheads of maintaining too much documentation and opt for time and accuracy. If the information is out of date, most of the efforts are lost as people seek the “real” answers elsewhere and hence the wiki loses its credibility.
When establishing communication channels, it is important to consider the needs of both managers and employees. For example, managers may prefer email for updates, while employees may prefer instant messaging for quick questions.
This can also be helpful for improving remote work visibility. This is because they provide an opportunity for employees to see each other and build relationships. Additionally, video meetings can be recorded and shared with those who were unable to attend.
Regardless of the type of meeting, it should have a structure and follow an agenda. If the purpose is for remote team building then this should perhaps be separate from one that is for goal-setting or decision making.
Asynchronous vs. synchronous work/process/communication patterns
There are two primary types of communication patterns for remote teams: asynchronous and synchronous.
Asynchronous communication does not require all parties to be available at the same time. This type of communication can be beneficial for those who are in different time zones or have different schedules. Work handovers should be built to support information exchange without the need to be online at the same time.
Synchronous communication requires all parties to be available at the same time. This type of communication can be beneficial for those who need to resolve issues quickly or need to have a more in-depth conversation. We often find brainstorming type of collaboration requiring people to be present simultaneously for the most innovative work.
Finding the balance between these two modes is always contextual and we recommend you seek to find the balance by adjusting workflows over time, in increments, rather than changing everything from one side to another.
Combine SaaS Tool Data Into One Actionable Platform
Tools like GitHub/GitLab/Jira/Asana/Front/Intercom/HubSpot/PipeDrive, are tools that individual teams use to keep track and conduct their work. However, if all of these tools are used, managers are not going to jump between each one to pull the necessary data, and information, let alone collate the data and analyze it, it’s too time-consuming and not presented in an efficient way.
Flowtrace pulls the essential data needed for all of these platforms and allows management to analyze it with ease, resulting in an improvement in work process outcome visibility. Once issues have been identified using Flowtrace, it becomes easier to access that specific tool to analyze more in-depth and implement a process fix or resolution.
For example, Jira analytics can identify the way your team collaborates across all functioning teams and finds the process stages where work gets held up. Flowtrace displays factors such as issues' age, type, resolution times, and the time it took them to close them. It also allows managers to see how different projects are progressing in each team and department, breaking down metrics into different functions and allowing for a real insight into team performance and bottlenecks.
Setting Clear Goals
In order to improve remote work visibility, it is important to set clear goals. This can help to ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives and that progress is being made.
Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Some examples of goals that could be set in order to improve remote work visibility include:
- Create purposeful cross-team projects to improve relationships and remove information silos. Make sure you define what the relationship in your context means and measure it with a tool like Flowtrace
- Increase deep work available for real work to take place. For example, increase deep work by 20% in 3 months.
- Reduce the number of meetings without an agenda. For example, increase meetings with an agenda by 70% in 3 months.
- Reduce the average time late from meetings by 50% in the coming 3 months. This will save time and incurs no costs to implement.
- In Slack, move siloed conversations from private and one-to-one chats to public channels to foster transparency. This can be measured with a ratio of public vs. other messages sent in your workspace.
- Using links to documents instead of uploading documents in Slack to improve information accuracy, collaboration and workflow. Using document links ensures up-to-date information and this is easily measured by the ratio of documents shared vs. document links shared.
- Use threaded conversations in Slack to improve information efficiency and effective communication. This way the context is stored and your workspace stay cleaner.
- Because engineering time is expensive, consider measuring cycle times (flow of work) across the product management and pull requests to ensure you don’t waste time and delay work deliveries.
- Out-of-hours work, multitasking, and multitasking in meetings are impacting productivity negatively over long periods of time. Consider setting goals to reduce these metrics as your business requires.
Setting various goals throughout your teams, allows you to understand, and visualize the effectiveness of any changes and processes that have been implemented. It also gives you the confidence to select the aspects of your business that need to be implemented to improve workflow, productivity, and communication first.
Understanding Roles Have Different Requirements
Different roles within an organization will have different visibility needs. For example, leaders are concerned about the entirety of the company, and managers may need to see an overview of their function along with their team. Team members themselves would need insights and feedback on their own interactions and their immediate team.
Not every role is the same and not every team is the same in your company. As far as company-wide analytics go, there is no one size fits all. For example, a sales team would likely have a higher external communication rate than a content writing team who collaborates on documents internally.
Another example: Engineering team vs Customer support - An engineering team would require more deep-work time and may use functional tools less often, and collaborate more. A customer support team has cycle times and needs to actively respond in a timeframe. They may lack meeting presence and affect various workflow metrics due to being active on inbound phone calls continuously.
Identifying how teams operate and function is the core to establishing effective processes, providing the right tools, and being able to fix issues. If you treat the company as a whole and every team the same, all teams will suffer, affecting productivity, making them disengaged, and severely affecting motivation.
Establish Trust from the Offset
Trust is an important factor in any relationship, especially when it comes to remote work. In order to build trust, it is important to be transparent and honest with employees. Additionally, managers should keep their word and follow through on promises.
By establishing trust from the offset, employees will be more likely to feel comfortable sharing information and working collaboratively. This can also be a key part of one-to-one meetings, where it allows individuals to raise concerns and provide honest feedback.
Improving remote work visibility can be a challenge, but it is possible with the right approach. By setting clear goals, understanding the needs of different roles, and establishing trust, you can create a system that works for your organization. Additionally, by using data-driven tools like Flowtrace, you can access every metric you need in order to manage visibility collectively.