How to Increase Productivity for Your Remote Workers

Employee Experience 5 min read

Welcome to How We Do at Kazoo, our series where we share actionable insider tips to make the workplace awesome. Today, we’re talking with Kazoo Chief Marketing Officer Casey Carey about how remote work made him rethink team meetings, and how he updated his remote team’s work from home schedule to increase productivity for his remote employees.

Kazoo CMO Casey Carey shares how he increased productivity for his remote teamKazoo CMO Casey Carey’s experience ranges from advising small startups to leading a team at Google before he came to Kazoo. We talked with Casey about designing meeting schedules and a workflow to generate maximal time for focused, deep work. Here are the top 3 things we learned.

How to increase productivity: top 3 takeaways

1. Working in an office has its advantages. But it can also give the illusion of being collaborative while lending itself to unproductive meetings and unfocused communication. The Kazoo marketing team has recently been able to radically increase their focus by changing the way they structure meetings and workflow.

2. Despite working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Casey guided the team through their most productive quarter yet. That’s because the team took on radical new efficiencies in the way they set and communicate goals in a weekly team meeting.

3. The coronavirus crisis has forced the Kazoo team to get aligned and go all in on the technology they need to support their goals — whether they’re remote working or not.

Hungry for more? Dive into Casey’s full interview below.

How to increase productivity for your remote team

Kazoo: So Casey, what is your high-level approach to meetings and workflow? And has it changed since your team went fully remote in March 2020?

Casey: Earlier this year, even before the coronavirus crisis, we started making some big changes. We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but these changes would end up helping us make the transition to full-time work-from-home easier and much more productive. In fact, we just wrapped our most productive quarter to date, and I attribute it to making changes that allowed our small marketing team to “manage fast” and increase employee productivity.

I started with challenging myself by asking, “How do I set up my team members to do their best work?” And there were two areas where I felt like we weren’t achieving that: 1) unproductive weekly team meetings and 2) monthly and quarterly reports that were very time-consuming to prepare.

In both areas, I knew we needed to start managing faster, so we could reap the benefits of working with real-time information. And that’s exactly what we did. On March 30th we blew up our 2020 plan. On June 30th, we reported our most productive quarter to date.

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How did you transform the unproductive weekly team meeting?

Casey: Well, the problem was that our weekly meeting kept devolving into us reciting our to-do lists to each other, rather than using that time to actually move forward on any topic. It was like an annual performance review: Everybody wanted it, but nobody liked it or found it valuable.

Because they’re more project-based, marketing teams are inherently very collaborative, especially compared to say, an engineer, who often works very independently writing code all day. Collaboration is great, but it can also lend itself toward meeting fatigue.

So I started by asking the team, “What do you need to get out of this meeting?” We agreed that we only needed to discuss what was relevant to the entire team, instead of various projects. And, most importantly, we started focusing on our team goals, rather than focusing on the projects and tasks that help us reach them. These meetings used to take an hour, without many results. Now they take as little as 20 minutes, and are incredibly productive.

How do you use meetings to keep your remote team aligned?

Casey: We still need to collaborate on the projects and tasks that help us make progress on our goals of course. To accomplish this, we instituted what we call work stream meetings. Each meeting is focused on a unique, very specific purpose, and only the people involved in that project attend. 

There are numerous work stream meetings per week; it’s where the work gets done. Instituting these solved another problem, which is that it frees up our 1:1 sync-ups to share feedback, coaching and development conversations rather than merely talking about day-to-day work.

But even focused and productive meetings can lead to meeting fatigue, or “Zoom fatigue,” if you’re video conferencing too often. And I think COVID-19 helped to shine a light on this idea that, since we couldn’t just walk down the hallway and ask someone a question, we were in and out of these half-hour meetings all workday long. Which is not conducive to getting any real work done.

So to solve this problem, we implemented what are essentially “quiet hours.” We block 90 minutes per day, four days per week for deep work. If we need to send an email or a Slack message in order to move forward on a project during quiet hours, that’s fine. But the expectation is that you’re moving forward on your own projects, instead of using the time to respond to the needs of the rest of the team. The collaborative work, you meet face-to-face for later.

And how have you improved the process for your business reviews?

Casey: Before, we were doing monthly marketing reviews, and quarterly joint sales/marketing reviews. The prep time was 40 hours in total just for the monthly review, and 60 for the quarterly. It started to not feel worth the time anymore. We’d spend the entire meeting looking backward instead of forward. We worked really hard on pulling together the data of the past, but had no time leftover to tell the story of the future we wanted. Again — everybody wanted it but nobody liked it.

Now, we update and review all of our metrics on a weekly basis, and the entire team knows the state of the business. It creates an environment where everyone knows what’s going on, and therefore is engaged in where we’re going because they know where we’re going. And we’re still spending less time in meetings.

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How has your team responded to these changes?

Casey: Transition is always hard, but the whole team has embraced these changes enthusiastically. In fact, our last quarterly engagement survey — which was the first full quarter working from home — reported the highest results yet to date. 

What do you miss about working in an office together, and how do you try to stay connected with a fully remote team?

Casey: Most of us really like working from home because we don’t have to commute, and we can multitask. We can tidy up our home office between meetings, or take the dog for a walk in the afternoon. It does change the work-life balance conversation.

The one thing we really miss is a good brainstorming meeting in front of a white board. That’s hard to replace. But we do try to set time aside for personal conversation at the beginning of meetings, or ping each other with important life check-ins through Slack.

Kazoo is a tech company. How do you use technology to support your people and your overall business goals?

Casey: Yeah, we’re a tech company, but even we have trouble getting 100% buy-in to use technology! COVID-19 really forced us to go all-in with the technology that we already had, and to hold each other accountable for using it so we can all stay aligned.

We use a few key technologies to manage the business:

1) The Kazoo platform (of course) for managing objectives & key results (OKRs), goals, employee engagement, and recognition

2) Wrike for project management

3) Slack and Zoom as communication tools

4) Our business metrics dashboards, which are built in Google Data Studio

We knew it was important before, but in a world where we’re working remotely now, and are uncertain about who will go back into the office, and when, there’s no way we could keep everyone engaged and aligned without the right technology. That’s the beauty of it, really. We can all use it, whether we’re working from the office or not.

Want to read more from Casey? Check out his LinkedIn article, Winning with Talent: Build Your Marketing Team Based on the Intangibles.

Keep reading the How We Do at Kazoo series:

Achieve even more while working remotely with Kazoo

We hope these tips will help you increase productivity for your remote workforce.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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