As more businesses and their employees set base in the comfort of their own homes to continue daily duties, many realized the advantage brought on by simply working from home. Cloud support services really helped by adding further traction, as everything from databases to workflows were now being hosted on the cloud. Software development in Sri Lanka, for example, has long since been a keen proponent of hosted and centralized business processes – and this goes far beyond just application development. So, to now have businesses beyond mainstream tech reach for remote work environments isn’t just a change in the way people conduct their daily duties – but a massive revolution in terms of where our lifestyles are headed.
However, remote work, just like its conventional counterpart, isn’t infallible. It has its fair share of setbacks and shortcomings too. But for many, the pros outweigh the cons, which is why businesses both large and small alike are seriously considering the continuity of their remote work environments from last year. To maximize productivity and truly ensure that the decision to continue working remotely is a worthy return on investment, it makes sense to get a firm grasp on what is lacking, and rectify it at the soonest.
On the whole, remote work implies setbacks that range across the spectrum, from communication gaps to siloed environments. However, we’ll be focusing specifically on deadlines over here. With tens if not hundreds of employees working individually from home, it can feel like everyone’s stuck in their own little bubble. Even the most competent manager who depends on their team to complete tasks on time can feel apprehensive about not being able to monitor a team in person. So what can be done?
Alleviate downtime (as well as the nerves) by adhering to a few simple yet effective techniques to ensure your team isn’t just knocking items off a list, but is also left with time to dedicate to brainstorms and strategies for a truly dynamic work experience.
Remote or not, breaking an overarching goal into smaller ones has multiple benefits. For one, this provides a clear idea as to whether the project is progressing along the correct path, from the very beginning. Other than that, this can also encourage faster turnarounds from team members – especially where differing time zones and large distances are concerned.
Bite-sized goals can also be aligned together with those of other departments – especially if multiple business units are involved in one big mutual goal. Start by approving the first part of the process, thereby giving teams the signal that they can move over to the next mini-goal. With multiple departments involved, this can also ensure that each business unit’s deliverable is blending well with the others – something that can be quickly ascertained with a short meeting.
In the remote context, you can expect your team members to deliver much faster – even with limited communication (although this is not recommended). With in-person interaction already absent and nobody available to look over your shoulder, you need to make sure that any task, no matter how simple, is on the right track. Failure to do so can cause severe downtime, as processes may need to be redone from scratch. But smaller goals with shorter deadlines can help alleviate the risk of redoing/rectifying, as approvals are sought at every milestone of the project.
In the absence of in-person attendance, communication needs to be compensated via regular online meetings. Scheduled at a time that is convenient for all involved either on a daily, bi-weekly or weekly basis, catching up with one another on what each member is working on is a great way to keep everyone engaged in general. While this reduces if not eliminates feelings of isolation (one of the most common side-effects of remote work) it can also help shed light on any hindrances or concerns someone may be having while working on their allocated task.
However, this can also be highly beneficial when deciding on deadlines for tasks. While video meetings are necessary to supplant regular one-on-one meetings that would otherwise happen in the board room, deadlines can also be communicated through a basic text message or email. This calls for strong articulation skills (something that is now rising in terms of importance in the wake of remote work environments). Of course, concerns that are more complex are best conveyed via verbal conversation, but communicating one or two concerns that require succinct answers suffer no harm by means of a text or email message.
Nonetheless, formalizing final deadlines for each task is imperative, so that everyone on the team knows when to expect something to eventually roll out. This is even more important during periods of intense rush, when everyone gets extra busy to deliver something within limited time. Discussing possible deadlines with supervisors and getting clear approval for the very same will make all the difference between a smoothly progressing project – or a sudden, shocking halt when it is least welcomed.
It is always good practice to leave some extra space when setting deadlines, just in case. Likewise, remote work also benefits with this, especially when there are varying time zones involved. If you’re part of an offshoring team that services a client who is a few hours ahead of your normal time, chances are that they may expect something to reach their inboxes well before the day even begins in your country or region. This is where buffer times within deadlines come in, as remote workers will be able to submit something on time, if not before time.
Even if different time zones aren’t the case with your remote team, chances are that working from home is naturally more susceptible to myriad distractions. Whether it’s the kids or supervising a home renovation project, leaving some buffer space can help teams pace their schedules to attend to their deliverables in a punctual manner.
Remote work has been well embraced by the masses since it has offered unmatched autonomy and work-life balance, without a doubt. To maintain momentum, monitoring just how long it takes to get tasks done, in contrast to how long it took when working from the office, is a valuable way to determine savings in terms of costs, time and even effort. Workforce optimization suites have long since been in vogue by being an integral component in most forms of enterprise software, but more so in solutions that focus on customer/guest relations, as well as HR.
With the remote work revolution, however, workforce optimization can be repurposed from a fresh new perspective. Remote work has always been associated with significant savings in terms of costs, rents, storage and equipment. But instead of relying on this blanket statement, why not deconstruct the numbers from your particular organization and answer questions pertaining to how much, when and where? Whether it’s on a departmental or individual level, analyse statistics at scale to truly understand how much your company has saved – and thereby build an even stronger case for continuing a remote work system.
Workforce optimization works hand-in-hand with reporting/analytics tools, as well as full-scale business intelligence. By understanding how business processes have improved in terms of deadlines and overall quality, discern between what’s working and what’s not, to further gauge the potential for improvement and thereby make wise business decisions.
Imagine this – you start the day with the intention of getting really busy, so you can meet that deadline by evening. Once you log in, you realize that you don’t have access to the collateral you need. Without it, nothing can be done. But you can’t expect for access to be granted any time soon either – as your client team is on a completely different time zone and they have long since gone offline for the day.
At a time when businesses are part of a fast-paced and highly competitive environment, a situation like this can be a bottleneck to predetermined workflows, as well as revenue. Therefore it is crucial to establish a cadence of transferring necessary information once the many variables pertaining to a task are confirmed, such as deadlines, collateral required and whoever is due to be working on it. If needed, implement a companywide system for performing quick audits of whether collateral has been transferred/been given access to while discussing project-related concerns, so that nothing is missed out on the day of execution.
Granting access to data is made easier when all your collateral is stored under a single hosted environment. If your organization is an AWS partner, for example, you can enjoy access to any service housed under the AWS umbrella, while also making the most of customization options that can help you scale services up or down depending on your needs. Already relying on an outside vendor for certain processes? Integration options are also available, so you may not undergo the task of migrating everything from one platform to another – and possibly also work from a single application, thanks to plugins and APIs.
Centralizing vital data and other resources has already been mentioned above, since it can streamline role-based access controls at scale. But such centralization also has a variety of other benefits, for which it rightfully deserves its own dedicated space for discussion. Apart from the most direct and obvious (such as forgoing bulky equipment to maintain on-site servers), hosting in the cloud can also enable your team to use project management software. In turn, this can even eliminate the use of email for internal communication, as a central dashboard can allow real-time monitoring, as well as adding, editing and deleting tasks by team members.
Regularize things a step further by using a form-based system to enter a task or request. That way, all relevant information is gathered in the first go, and team members view every request in a consistent and familiar manner. Workflows can also be automated with conditional formatting, similar to how specific emails can be automatically moved to a special folder. With time, AI and machine learning can pick up on such preferences and suggest such automations for you, thereby creating added efficiency to an already transparent workflow.
From Gantt-based visualizations to Kanban, there’s a project management suite for practically every need out there. Don’t forget digital asset management either; while leading project management vendors offer a proprietary DAM service, third-party solutions can also be integrated for a smooth transition. The right project management and monitoring tool is necessary for Agile and/or Scrum projects, as teams need to accomplish much within a set period of time to deliver working products
Remote workspaces may not be a newfound concept, but its widespread adoption very much is. However, certain caveats still prevent remote work from reaching its optimum potential – something which most want to avoid, especially since they’re so pleased with the opportunity to work from the comfort of their own homes. The inability to reach deadlines is one such aspect. But this can be resolved by understanding why lapses in time may happen in the first place, within the remote context.
Communication gaps and inaccessibility towards important data create the biggest hindrances for team members to meet deadlines. But these can be circumvented in multiple ways, ranging from transparency in terms of overall project management, to even deploying workforce optimization routines for identifying where bottlenecks lie.
While enterprise-level technology can help teams stay punctual by leaps and bounds, it’s also just as important to adhere to the few elementary rules-of-thumb that can keep projects on track. Breaking larger goals into smaller ones, formalizing deadlines well before execution, and leaving some buffer time to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances are a few such basic guidelines that any team shall benefit from following.