Productivity for hybrid remote teams

Show menu

Whether you’re back to thriving in the office, stoked to be working from home, or (most likely) juggling a combo of the two, you’re going to need some tips and tricks to stay efficient.

Hannah Louey

If there’s one thing that 2020 taught is, it’s that none of us wash our hands properly. Wait, that’s not it. The other thing that 2020 taught us is just how important productivity is. While many of us may have gotten by in a buzzing office, things were a bit different when we were stuck working from home, with just the fridge and TV for company and motivation.

While we may be edging our way back to a ‘new normal’ (live sport again, huzzah!) – the reality is that working from home is here to stay, with three out of four employees believing a hybrid working model may become the norm. 

Here’s our top five tips for hybrid teams, and some insider advice from our team members, on how we stay productive in a constantly evolving workplace.

1) Get. Yourself. Organised. 

Sometimes, the best tips are the most obvious ones, and while you may be scoffing at how straightforward this is, let me just remind you of the absolute fool who didn’t realise the importance of a filed inbox system and relied on just her MEMORY for two years’ worth of emails*. 

So, get yourself sorted before you conquer the world in your 9 to 5. Make sure your desk is tidy (to whatever standard that is for you). Buy that stationary you absolutely need. Clear your list and mental space at the end of each workday and consider what you’ll need to work on tomorrow. And perhaps most importantly – nail your to-do list. 

Hardie Grant Media account director Scott Elmslie reinforces the importance of a good to-do list: “I have multiple to-do lists on the go at any one time that I constantly update as needed. One may be an urgent priority list, while another list is less important but still necessary tasks, and a third is for when I have a bit of spare time at my sleeve.”

How does one go about nailing writing a to-do list? While there are many tricks out there, I find these three things always help:
  • Always go in with a plan of attack. Consider what your overarching goals are, and what you need to do that day to try to achieve them – for example, if you want to win a new account, then an achievable goal that day may be working on your pitch.
  • List the most important tasks you need to achieve at the top, working from most to least important.
  • As I have a lot of day-to-day deadlines, I diarise my to-do list, adding important tasks for future dates into my calendar so they’re ready to be added to my to-do list in the near future. 

2) Processes!

Nothing thrills me more in the workplace than processes that allow things to run smoothly and make my life easier. Whether it’s about workflow management, sales reporting or where to store important documents for your accounts, processes allow everyone to work to their full potential. 

If you’re someone who’s responsible for a number of very important moving parts, then setting up the correct processes allows you to keep track of everything regardless of your workload. Even better, it means that if you, say, win a last-minute holiday and need to go on leave immediately (hey, crazier things have happened!), then you can relax knowing someone can step in and easily take over.

Plus, as we all unfortunately experienced in 2020, work circumstances can change at the drop of a hat – and we’re more reliant than ever on good processes that extend to remote working and flexible hours.

So how do you go about creating a good process? First, identify what the problem or task is that you want to improve. Generally speaking, if there’s a problem in the workplace, a process will go a long way to solving it.

Second, work out how the task is currently being achieved, and what improvements could be made from it. One example may be that important tasks are the responsibility of just one person, and no one else in the team knows how to complete them – not ideal. Or perhaps the invoicing system isn’t structured, and getting them processed is largely reliant on people’s memories. Again, not ideal.

Third, determine how you can improve these processes to make them as easy as possible – both for people who may be stepping into a role, or for the everyday person who probably has another 100 other things to juggle on top of this task. 

The solution can often be really simple – it may just be writing a how-to guide on using a certain platform or software; creating job templates so everyone is aware of what’s required or where things are stored; or creating an online folder system that allows important documents to be stored in a central place easily accessible to certain team members. 

All three of these examples were created and rolled out by Hardie Grant Media due to remote working in 2020, and they’re proven useful time and again as we continue to improve working strategy for hybrid teams.

The final step is always to test and adjust, as required. Almost nothing is perfect on the first attempt, and it’s no different with processes. Listen to your teammates (more on that later), utilise the tools you have available (again, more on that later), and continue to adjust as required.

3) Tools

“A bad workman blames his tools” is an idiom used to describe someone who performs poorly and tries to blame external surroundings. To which I counteract with – have you ever tried to make a pavlova without electric eggbeaters? Sure, it’s possible, but it takes a heck of a lot longer and it’s not exactly a fun process.

This also applies to hybrid teams in 2021. It’s certainly possible to keep track of a number of spinning plates, commitments and projects without the right tools and platforms – but they will make everyone’s life a whole lot easier and more productive.

Since introducing a hybrid working model, Hardie Grant Media has been a big fan of Microsoft Teams – which allows us to communicate easily from home, interstate or even while commuting. 

Designer Kate Slattery comments that Teams has allowed the design team to continue working collaboratively even through the pandemic. 

“It has been all about Teams! We’ve used it to check in with each other, share documents and outcomes, discuss briefs and keep in touch. Teams has been a great way to communicate without filling up the inbox.”

Melbourne-based managing editor, Georgia Lejeune, echoes this sentiment. 

“Pre-pandemic I was working on accounts across both offices (between Melbourne and Sydney) and I found it really difficult to feel connected to the team in Sydney. Since working remotely has become the norm, the introduction of Teams (and video chat) has been so helpful for connecting with my wider team and with clients.

“It also means our meetings become more efficient and we can easily share links, do show-and-tells and integrate our online files into Teams groups to make everything more accessible. “

Of course, production tools don’t necessarily have to be centred around remote working. Salesforce is our sales database and has allowed our sales team – across both the Melbourne and Sydney office and across a huge number of publications and industries – to collaborate effortlessly, all by centralising their customer data on one platform.

4) Communication

Whether you’re working at home, in the office, commuting, or on Mars (well done on being the first person to reach Mars!), the absolute number one must-have for a productive team is good communication. 

This is equally important if you’re a manager who needs to check in on their team, or if you’re undertaking a task and you need to double-check with someone higher up to make sure that you’re completing it properly. Because there is nothing more frustrating (and unproductive), then finishing a – usually painful, arduous – task, only to find out that you needed to be course-corrected five minutes into the project.

With hybrid teams, communication is more important than ever, particularly for our creative teams that regularly need to collaborate and brainstorm ideas. While this may look a bit different to what we’re used to, it doesn’t mean it’s not effective. 

As Kate points out: “Instead of meeting in person, we’ve simply switched online. We continue to catch up to talk through any creative ideas and trouble shoot problems, as this has allowed us to maintain our productivity and work through any sticking points.”

5) Find what works for you

Productivity and what it looks like is different for everyone, so only you’ll know how you can best use your time. Some people find it’s best to turn off their inbox sporadically throughout the day to stay focused, but as someone who’s client-facing, that situation just screams of a Schrodinger’s cat inbox situation and the thought physically makes me ill.

My suggestions above may not work for you, but the key lesson is that we can all find ways to make our work lives easier and manage our time more effectively.

Effective use of our time is all the more important in 2021, where we can no longer rely on the safety nets of a buzzing office with everyone on the same schedule and in the same place. And while working in a hybrid team does have its own personal set of challenges, the reality is that it is likely to stay – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As Georgia points out: “I’m really enjoying this new hybrid working model. I enjoy collaboration so getting back into the office has been a priority for me, but I just can’t get past the productivity of having dedicated alone time at home.”

Personally, I’m loving the little extra lie-in the days I’m not in the office, particularly since I know that I’ve got the tools, set-up and processes in place to keep working as effectively as ever.

*Dear reader, it was me. I was that fool.

Hannah Louey is an account manager at Hardie Grant Media.

Don't miss our monthly content marketing insights. Subscribe to The Lead.