18th November 2020

Four Strategies to Increase Productivity on your Virtual Team

*This article was originally published in CEOWorld Magazine on October 27, 2020.

The pandemic has forced both fathers and mothers to juggle careers, childcare, and remote schooling. However, often mothers find themselves disproportionally with more of the responsibilities.

Overstretched and overwhelmed, productivity suffers.

According to a recent study by Qualtrics, 77% of men with children at home report being more productive compared to 46% of women. And, about one in five working mothers surveyed in the McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn Org Women in the Workplace 2020 Survey, say they are considering dropping out of the workforce, at least temporarily – compared with 11% of dads. Among women with children under 10, nearly 25% say they may take a leave of absence or quit altogether.

As a leader in your organization, here are four strategies you can implement in your organization to save time, energy, and retain your talented, valuable team members.

Elevate execution and accountability in strategic initiatives.

Ambiguous strategic priorities undermine individual and team execution. Be specific on what constitutes the successful obtainment of a goal. Focus on the results that drive revenue, innovation, and customer retention. Determine the qualitative and quantitative outcomes for each of your strategic objectives. Communicate to your team what they need to think or do differently to produce these results. You know you have been clear when your communication passes the “champagne test” – your team knows when to pop the cork and celebrate the successful achievement of the goal.

When you delegate a project to your team, precisely identify who has the “A” or is accountable for the successful completion of the project. Then ask yourself the following questions to ensure there is a clear understanding of what is expected by everyone on your team:

  • Is there a clear division of tasks?
  • Does each team member understand their specific task?
  • Does each team member know the process for reporting issues and results?
  • Are the deadlines clear?
  • Do you have a tool to support and maintain accountability? For example, dashboards, checklists, scorecards and regular, consistent check-ins?

Your virtual team has fewer opportunities to spontaneously interact and coordinate work. It is important to support and provide frequent and explicit opportunities for communication and project coordination.

Reimagine the workday and workloads to ensure consistent execution and fairness across the team.

Working at home, increased personal responsibilities and fewer social support systems – schools and childcare centers – has upended the eight to five workday for many of your team members. As a leader, it is challenging to ensure execution, consistent client service and fairness when there are disparate needs and work environments. Break your strategic priorities down into shorter sprints, either weekly or monthly, and have a candid conversation with the team responsible on how to triage, shrink or reimagine how work is completed. Ask your team to explore where the work can be automated, what work does not drive results or could potentially be outsourced to a third party. Consider different “work hours” for team members and schedule team meetings at a time that works for the majority. Gain commitment to reexamine how work is completed once a month.

Audit your meeting culture.

A shift to virtual work has resulted in a proliferation of meetings. Meetings to “catch-up”, “check-in” or “huddle”. Audit your meeting culture and assess the value, impact, and cost of each meeting. Use the questions below to guide your analysis.

  • Does the original purpose for the meeting still exist?
  • How does the meeting help the team achieve its goals?
  • How does the purpose of the meeting align with the team’s strategic priorities? And/or the company’s strategic priorities?
  • Does the meeting energize the team? Or does it suck the life right out of them?
  • Is the meeting a rehash of five prior meetings?
  • What will the team not be able to accomplish, create or build if they are in this meeting?
  • What is the salary cost of this meeting? Does the meeting generate at least the salary cost of the meeting?

Once you’ve identified the unnecessary meetings that drain your team’s time and energy, and your company’s revenue, quickly eliminate them.

Establish and use standard email subject lines to improve email communication.

Email correspondence increases in a virtual world. Unclear, sloppy email subject lines waste your team’s time. Important emails are hard to find, overlooked or forgotten. Schedule a meeting with your team to discuss standard email subject lines that streamline communication and support execution. Consider the following subject lines:

  • Action Required – DATE
  • FYI – 3rd Paragraph Client X Mention
  • Update: TOPIC
  • Reply by – DATE
  • NRN – No response needed
  • EOM – End of message

And, challenge your team to ensure that subject lines on all email messages reflect the current topic of the email message and clearly state the recipient’s next action step.

During rapid, systemic change you have a powerful opportunity to develop new productivity systems and processes that unleash extraordinary potential in your team members, drive revenue and elevate your customer’s experience.


Ready to learn more about your Productivity Style and productivity best practices that will work for you? Click here for our Productivity Style Assessment.

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Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc., a business consulting firm that partners with organizations, business leaders and employees to enhance workplace productivity, foster employee engagement, and build personal and professional legacies.

She is the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, and  just released, Own It. Love It. Make It Work.: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job. Order your copy HERE!  For more information, please visit,www.carsontate.com.