Smarter ways to help hybrid and distributed teams be productive and happy

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COVID has undoubtedly accelerated the move towards hybrid, fully remote and for some, geographically distributed teams crossing many time zones.

Softwares have played a big part in facilitating this.

Meetings in Zoom, communications in Slack and projects in software like Jira and Trello being just some of the well-known ways of managing work.

Time is a precious commodity

Regardless of where and how you work the commodity and unit of measurement we can’t make more of our time. We always want our time to be applied in the areas of great impact in the most efficient and effective way. 

There is always a lot to do in a company and in a team. Conversations with colleagues are how we would normally agree on what to focus on and what not to do. When you’re not in the same building these conversations become harder.

The two areas that can become a challenge in this instance is the quarterly goal and the weekly, fortnightly or monthly execution cycle that aligns with goals. Both goal setting and execution alignment require effective communication.

The symptoms of this not working well have become commonplace:

  • Frequent meetings to try and catch-up with managers and teams
  • Lots of interruptions and requests from lots of channels that creates work and confusion on which to do first and last
  • Lots of tasks on the go but never feeling like much is getting done
  • Missed goals and project deadlines

Do you recognise any of these where you are working?

The end result of this is you either don’t achieve what is needed or should have been possible. You work really hard to the detriment of work and your own health, in a way that is never sustainable.

Simple solutions to explore

The best way of approaching both the remote working and the productivity challenge is agile working. Start with setting better goals with clear and measurable outcomes using a goal-setting framework like OKR.

Objectives and Key Results provide the direction, alignment and focus companies and teams need to direct time in the most effective way possible, whilst giving management a pulse on progress, confidence and issues being faced.

Alongside better goal-setting ensure teams are skilled in using agile methodologies like Kanban. Here work is pulled once work has been completed and there is never too much work being done at any one moment and therefore no overload. Priorities from a backlog are agreed and teams are empowered to work to achieve it in the best way possible. 

A new generation of tools like OKR software ZOKRI has been created to combine frameworks like OKR and Kanban, to optimise outcomes and productivity.

What software like this does for remote teams is what walls and whiteboards sometimes do in offices. They make work visible. Everyone can see what is being worked towards and what is being done to achieve it.

The forums and cadences agile teams use to manage the work that is visible is to have really short daily stand-ups, a slightly longer weekly or fortnightly planning meeting, and quarterly goal and execution retrospectives. 

When work is visible you don’t need as many communication interruptions. Few interruptions again mean more time to focus and a workday that is balanced and sustainable.

This is a win-win for everyone.

Policies work as well

How teams lose time and how you approach protecting time is not just the job or processes like OKRs and agile working. It’s the job or policies on how and when we communicate as well.

For example, we have all got used to messaging and getting speedy replies to messages in our personal lives as well as work. 

For most, if you didn’t get a response within a few minutes and got a response at the beginning or end of the day, not much would change.

However, the time lost stopping working, answering the message and getting back in the zone to work again is significant. 

How often do requests actually have a level of urgency and importance attached to them?

Should these requests actually go on a workboard for consideration in the next forum that discusses work and priorities?

To see how your company communicates, especially in sending and responding to requests for information and time you will need to take a step back, observe and ask questions.

You might be surprised by what you see and find out.

Making time for relationships as well

The good thing about saving and using time more efficiently is that you also make more time for relationships.

You can talk to colleagues about non-work related things, build friendship bonds and community, all of which will make work more enjoyable.


This is a guest post by Matt Roberts, an industry leader in OKR practices and now aims to share his knowledge and expertise on efficient team management and performance. Matt founded his own OKR software that provides a framework for all levels of management and leaders.

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