Remote work is in. Commutes are out. And it looks like virtual office life is going to stick around. According to CNBC research, 41.8% of Americans were working from home by the end of 2020. This year, about a quarter are expected to make the shift permanent. Plenty of companies are migrating most or all of their operations online for good. However, they’re discovering that remote work has its stumbling blocks. A major concern is efficiency. It’s tough to run a business smoothly when everyone’s separated. Fortunately, most organizations say they’ve managed to avoid significant snags thanks to workers’ adaptability. Yet tightening processes is never a bad idea. Below, we’ll take a look at a few of the simplest ways to improve your virtual team’s efficiency levels. Even if you only apply a couple of strategies this quarter, you should see fast, measurable returns. 1. Remove collaboration friction points. Collaboration happens naturally in an in-person environment. When everyone’s working in their dens, kitchens, and dining rooms, they’re less likely to connect. This can quickly devolve into miscommunication, redundancy, and lowered morale. To increase engagement and camaraderie, make collaboration a no-brainer. As PandaDoc points out, collaboration is at the heart of any high-functioning team. The document automation software recommends leveraging technology to ensure people remain accountable for projects and make cross-fertilization of ideas more accessible. Which types of tech advancements could help? Try adding a central knowledge platform that anyone can log into as needed. Then, explore options that will make everyone’s job breezier, such as a robust CMS, document and contract sharing software, and a communication app like Slack. Why you’ll be more efficient: Most people just do better when they have a connection with colleagues. Being able to reach a coworker in real-time shortens the time it takes to get answers and complete tasks. Plus, it boosts isolated workers’ spirits, keeping them productive. 2. Schedule supervisor-employee check-ins. When you were in a brick-and-mortar workplace, your company’s managers probably saw their employees several times daily. Remote work makes it more difficult for supervisors and the people they lead to have impromptu conversations. To sidestep this reality, ask team leaders to set up regular drop-ins via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These check-ins will allow workers to talk about their tasks and help managers get ahead of any concerns. They can also be opportunities for employees to share ideas brought to the table during executive online sessions. What if you have a very small, close-knit team? You may want to consider the value of daily or every-other-day teleconferences. These set meetings don’t have to be long to keep everyone focused. Why you’ll be more efficient: When everyone knows what’s happening on the ground, they can all work toward common goals. Plus, people will understand what’s expected of them and which tasks should take priority that day. 3. Give customers ways to reach you. At the onset of Covid lockdowns, remote workers often used a common phrase with customers: “Sorry we didn’t get back to you sooner. Everyone’s working at home.” At the time, customers were understanding. Now, they’re back to expecting more timely responses. If you haven’t put measures into place to allow customers to connect with you pronto, it’s time. For instance, you may want to redirect your office telephone to a different employee each day to catch incoming calls. Or, you might prefer to give consumers multiple ways to reach someone quickly, like through text or social media DMs. The last thing you want is for your customers to feel like you’re not available. Consumers have begun to switch brand loyalties during the pandemic, according to McKinsey and Company studies. Don’t give buyers a reason to start shopping around. Why you’ll be more efficient: When you can help customers with their problems or answer questions immediately, you won’t waste time in the resolution process. Therefore, you’ll free up valuable team resources. 4. Encourage employees to take breaks. Almost one-third of Gallup survey respondents who worked from home said they experienced high degrees of burnout. Part of the reason may be that you tend to blur personal-professional boundaries when you’re working virtually. Case in point: Many first-time remote workers haven’t quite figured out how to end their workday. With their devices available all the time, they can be tempted to check-in—when they should be mentally checked out. Rather than always focusing on productivity and getting work finished, urge your employees to get off the clock. If a trusted worker needs to take a four-hour break in the middle of the day, don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s becoming clear that most virtual workers aren’t slacking off or taking advantage of their positions. Why you’ll be more efficient: A relaxed, happy employee is always going to be more efficient. As an added benefit, time away from the daily grind can help people gain more perspectives. This, in turn, fosters creative problem-solving. 5. Source and hire thoughtfully. The longer your team works from home, the higher the possibility you’re going to have to source and hire online. Conducting remote interviews is a beast best tackled with thoughtful procedures. Otherwise, you can end up onboarding the wrong person and making life harder for everyone. When you’re faced with evaluating candidates you might never meet in person, you need to get innovative. It might be wise to set up multiple Zoom interviews with various personnel. Alternatively, you could arrange for a couple of lengthy interviews with several key team members. Just be consistent and make sure you’re hiring for potential first, cultural fit second, and experience last. A talented person who seems in sync with the rest of your team doesn’t necessarily need to have all your desired skills. Besides, some applicants’ resumes are bound to be marred by Covid-related employment gaps. Consequently, look for possibilities and passion when you can. There are a lot of budding superstars out there waiting for their big break. Why you’ll be more efficient: Hiring a remote worker through remote means takes time. However, you’ll see long-term gains and improved across-the-board productivity if you put the right people in the right roles. You may never have expected to run a crew of remote workers. Yet here you are. No worries: With a few tweaks, you can make sure you’re not sacrificing an ounce of efficiency despite having a virtual team.