Team Productivity

The Two Key Ingredients You Need to Build a Focused and Productive Remote Team

Cassie Phillips
January 30, 2017
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There are countless successful businesses that utilize remote employees due to its many advantages. Businesses with remote employees often have lower running costs because they don’t need to have large offices or reimburse employees for the commute costs. Hiring remote employees also enables access to a much wider talent pool since they’re not bound by the limits of geography.

Working remotely obviously has many advantages for employees, too. It’s an ideal option for many people because it affords them lots of adaptability and flexibility.

This adaptability and flexibility are vital to most remote team members. People who choose to work remotely usually do so for better work/life balance, for the flexibility or because they have other personal commitments which require them to have flexible working hours.

As both businesses and remote teams rely on these characteristics, it’s essential that businesses ensure their remote teams remain adaptive and flexible. Here are four solid ways to ensure this.

1. Use the Right Tools

One of the most important ways to ensure remote teams stay adaptable and flexible is to give them access to the correct tools.

These tools should enable remote employees to stay flexible by permitting them to work from anywhere at any time. They should also be able to see real-time changes to tasks and other essential information, and to communicate with each other and managers with ease.

Remote teams require software that allows them to see tasks assigned to them, share files, communicate with each other securely, and track their time and progress. Likewise, remote project managers need software which enables them to plan and manage their projects remotely; assign tasks to remote team members; keep track of each task, team member’s availability and work status.

But while there’s an endless array of tools available for remote teams and managers, there has to be consistency.

For instance, if team members are constantly switching between numerous programs, it can reduce their productivity by interrupting their activities and concentration.

It’s always preferable to use one piece of software with all the appropriate features instead of many different programs. Make sure you find software that can provide all the necessary features in as few separate packages as possible.

2. Create a "Results-Only Work Environment" or ROWE

Another innovative way to ensure remote teams don’t become too inflexible and rigid is to create a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).

Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson developed and explained the concept in their book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix Itwhich delves into how team members are measured by results, output or performance instead of the number of hours they work.

In short, ROWE turns the team’s focus from the clock to their contribution. If applied properly, it creates a strong output focus and increases team productivity.

ROWE also allows managers and remote teams to realistically assess their productivity and adjust the amount of work they do accordingly. This, in turn, leads teams to continually adjust to the amount of work that needs to be done and adjust how much they can do.

3. Allow “Take What You Need” Vacation Time

Although a “Take what you need” vacation policy seems counter-intuitive, it’s actually an excellent way to keep remote teams flexible.

Encouraging remote employees to take leave when they need to keeps them from getting burnt out or prevents them from leaving their jobs because of a clash between their work and personal lives. This is especially important when familial commitments or health issues require a large amount of career flexibility.


It’s important to note that a “take what you need” vacation policy only works in certain business environments. This policy works very well in businesses where there’s a strong culture of trust, where it’s easy to measure employee productivity and if employees have the freedom to structure their own time.

If your business fits these criteria, it may be a good idea to consider implementing this novel vacation policy.

4. Ask Your Team the Right Questions in the Right Space

Managers who work with remote teams know that communication is a crucial aspect of creating and maintaining a productive team.

However, communication on its own is not enough to prevent a remote team from stagnating. Managers also need to know whether the way their team works is efficient and productive.

If you as a project manager notice that some aspect of the work or business process is not a good fit for the team, you can change it. This will allow the team to change processes that aren’t suitable or effective.

Managers need a method to find out what is and isn’t working for their remote team. The best way to do this is to regularly ask each team member the right questions in a safe space.

As remote teams don’t share office space, it’s essential for their managers to set aside time to speak to each team member. It’s also critical that team members believe they can air their views without suffering negative consequences, so managers need to nurture their team members’ trust and create strong relationships with them.

Teams that discuss and deal with problems are much less likely to become rigid and lose adaptability.


Flexibility and adaptability are two of the biggest reasons people choose to work remotely, so it’s vital that businesses and managers find ways to keep their remote teams flexible and adaptable.

A work environment without these essential features may ultimately drive excellent employees away, harming the business in the process.

Q: Has your remote team tried any of these ideas to stay flexible and adaptive? Are there other things your remote team does to ensure it stays adaptable?

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