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6 steps managers can take to enhance the productivity of their distributed teams 1

6 steps managers can take to enhance the productivity of their distributed teams

The worldwide switch to location-independent work demands that managers adapt their leadership styles accordingly. Here are 6 steps that managers can take to enhance the productivity of their distributed teams.

Worldwide, the percentage of people working remotely has risen from 17% in 2019 to 32% in 2021. More importantly, 99% of people surveyed in this period chose to work remotely for some part of their week. 

However, the shift to location-independent work demands a clear switch in the way managers lead their teams. As the manager of a remote team, how do you ensure productivity when you can no longer check in on your team physically? We’re here to help.

What we have learned

Flexibility is non-negotiable

A whopping 82% of workers surveyed said that that lack of flexibility is their mean reason for not accepting a job offer. 69% of millennials would give up on certain work benefits for a more flexible working space. Want to retain your star performers? You know what to do.

“Flexibility” refers to the ability of an employee to break free from the 9 to 5 window of traditional working hours. There remains little doubt today that the work-life narrative has taken a 180-degree turn post-pandemic. 

With this intermingling of personal and professional responsibilities, it is important that every team member has the flexibility to decide how, when, and where they work. 

Communication is essential, but so are boundaries

We understand that driving key results and outcomes requires you to stay on top of everything. However, it is equally important to not let the need for quantitative productivity eclipse your team’s quality of life. 

Disconnecting from work is one of the biggest challenges faced by remote workers, with employees feeling that they must always be “present”. While it’s a good thing to be available for your team at all times, watch the thin line between “available” and “intruding”. 

Our take: We highly recommend following the 9 to 9 rule – restrict all work-related communication between 9 AM to 9 PM. 

Here are some steps that managers can take in order to enhance the quality of remote work: 

1. Share your vision and goals

After all, there is no better motivation than a shared goal. Sharing your vision about the team’s short and long-term goals is a great way to get buy-in from your team members. It helps your team members find deeper meaning in what they do, and understand how they are contributing to the bigger picture. 

We recommend dividing this into two stages: 

Sharing the broader vision

By this, we don’t just mean the company’s vision and mission, although that’s a great place to start. Talk to your team members about the problem that you are solving as a company, service, or product. One of the best ways to motivate your team members is by helping them understand how their individual goals are aligned with the company’s goals. 

Sharing short-term goals

Having shared the common goal with your team members, the next step is to get them on board with the short-term milestones. Instead of simply assigning tasks, include your team members in the ideation and goal-setting stages. Set realistic timelines after consulting with your team to ensure timely deliverance. 

2. Find the right project management tool

From Trello and Asana to Jira and ClickUp, there are over a hundred project management tools today. The trick is to find a project management tool that addresses the specific needs of your team. Jira is considered one of the best tools for agile project management, whereas Trello helps teams break complex deliverables into individual tasks. 

Is your team struggling to find an overlap between too many time zones, or facing trouble with collaboration? Understanding the barriers faced by your team will help you identify the tool that is the most effective for you.

3. Encourage asynchronous communication

Managing multiple time zones is a problem faced by most remote teams. Asynchronous communication solves this by giving team members the agency to work according to their own schedules. According to Darren Murph, Head of Remote, Gitlab, “the first steps to maximizing productive remote workflows include understanding and embracing asynchronous work”.

However, leveraging the complete potential of asynchronous communication will require some homework on your part. Documentation is a good place to begin with.

Digital whiteboards like Miro or knowledge management tools like Confluence and Notion enable each team member to participate according to their schedule. Ensure that all relevant details are stored at a central place, available to every stakeholder in the project. Divide all communication into synchronous and asynchronous according to urgency and importance.

4. Cut down on video calls

Remember the good old days, when video calls were a luxury, to be used only for connecting with overseas clients or team members in different branches of the office?

Not every conversation needs to be a meeting, and not every meeting needs to be compulsory. As a rule, try and make attendance optional for all meetings. This enables all key stakeholders to prioritize their day according to their individual requirements instead of forcing them to attend each call.

We also recommend cutting down on recurring meetings. Perhaps a project required bi-weekly updates in the beginning but will run perfectly well with a weekly meeting now. Dividing meetings into blocks of 25 and 50 minutes instead of 30 and 60 is another simple, yet effective way to reduce zoom fatigue. Many companies like Citigroup reserve a no-meeting day in the week, where the entire organization does not schedule any video calls.

5. Encourage autonomy and ownership

It is now scientifically proven that an increase in employee autonomy increases productivity. Want a productive team? Resist the urge to micromanage. 

Instead of regularly checking in on your employees, define clear goals, milestones, and timelines. Remember that you hired your team due to their experience and skill set, and trust them to drive the results. If a team member has a specific skill or experience that is valuable to a project, encourage them to take the lead. When giving feedback, remember to give constructive, actionable points instead of mere criticism. 

Not only does this build trust, it also increases job satisfaction. As a result, companies see a higher employee engagement and retention. 

6. Invest in the right tech

Arming your team with the right tech and tools is one of the best ways to boost your team’s productivity. Here are a few ways in which you could empower your team by enabling them: 

Home-office setup

The lack of a proper workspace is a big hindrance to productivity. Help your team members overcome this hurdle by giving them access to a home office allowance. Whether it is in the form of an ergonomic chair, uninterrupted power supply, or a better computer, these small steps go a long way in helping your remote team maximize its productivity.

Tech-tools and software

Imagine asking an athlete to run in the wrong shoes. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? And yet, innumerable managers make the same mistake when they deny their team members access to certain essential paid software or applications. Most tools offer a limited period free trial – use this time to assess the value it can add to your deliverables. 


Today, thanks to the integration of AI & ML into every industry, we have tools to automate the most repetitive and standardized tasks. From invoicing and data entry to inventory management and capturing customer feedback, there are tools to automate most processes. Freeing your workforce from these mundane tasks will enable them to concentrate on more analytical tasks.

In the words of Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management, “Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” 

The way we work might have changed, but what remains constant is the role that good leadership plays in driving productivity in a team. Whether it is in terms of effective communication, taking ownership of tasks, or empowering and investing in your workforce, managers must lead by example.

Monica Jamwal

Monica Jamwal

Monica Jamwal is the Managing Director of Talent Solutions at Talent500. She has over 19 years’ experience across talent consulting, talent acquisition, process design, talent branding and recruitment operations. In addition, she has strong experience at strategizing, designing, implementing and delivering large scale green field recruitment projects in the areas of financial services and technology.

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