The global pandemic forced countless companies to ask their employees to work from home in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, a large number of businesses are still not fully prepared for a remote workforce.
In this article, we take a look at the challenges managers face in maintaining remote employee productivity and suggest seven ways to maximise the productivity of remote staff.
Table of Contents
- Ensuring employees have the right technology is crucial for effective remote work, from hardware like laptops and noise-cancelling headphones to necessary software and internet connectivity.
- Shifting the focus from processes to outcomes is important, especially when workers are balancing family and work commitments; flexibility in work schedules and methods is key.
- Utilising online collaboration tools, such as document management systems, can foster effective communication among remote team members, although some may face challenges adjusting from face-to-face interactions.
- Streamlining workflows by consolidating various applications into one can save time and reduce IT hassles, enhancing remote employee productivity.
- Employee recognition, whether monetary or non-monetary, plays a vital role in motivation and productivity, especially in challenging times like a pandemic.
The Challenges of Effective Remote Employee Productivity
Effective remote employee productivity comes with its own set of challenges that both employers and employees need to navigate. Here are some of the key issues:
Lack of Access to Necessary Tools
Remote workers may not have the same access to office supplies, software, or high-speed internet, making it difficult to carry out tasks as efficiently as they would in an office setting.
Working remotely can create hurdles in communication. Important messages may be missed, or the nuance in conversations can be lost without face-to-face interaction, leading to misunderstandings or errors.
Distractions at Home
The home environment may be filled with numerous distractions like family members, pets, or household chores, which can impact an employee’s ability to focus on work tasks.
Isolation and Loneliness
Remote work can lead to feelings of isolation or loneliness for some employees, which can affect their mental well-being and, consequently, their productivity.
Difficulty in Team Collaboration
Physical distance can make collaborative efforts more challenging. Tasks that could be easily coordinated through a quick in-person discussion may require multiple emails or virtual meetings when working remotely.
Issues with Accountability
Without physical supervision, some employees may struggle with time management and self-discipline, affecting their productivity levels.
Remote work can pose security risks, especially if employees are using personal devices to access company data or if they’re connected to unsecured networks.
From unstable internet connections to software glitches, technical issues can disrupt the workflow and lead to delays or loss of work.
The blurred boundaries between work and personal life can lead to either overwork or underwork, both of which are detrimental to productivity and personal well-being.
Adaptability to Change
Some tasks and roles may not be well-suited for remote work, requiring either a change in the workflow or additional resources to facilitate remote productivity.
Recognising and addressing these challenges is the first step toward creating a more productive and efficient remote work environment. Here are seven ways to maximise the productivity of staff working remotely.
1. Equip Employees With The Right Technology
One of the first things to do when maximising employee productivity is to ensure that your employees are equipped with the right technology to allow them to function effectively when working remotely.
Depending on the type of work they do, this could be anything from providing them with a home office stipend to cover the internet service, buy office furniture, laptops, cameras, noise-canceling headphones to block out the neighbours dog – or any other tools that they need to create an environment in which they can concentrate and maintain a high level of workplace productivity.
2. Focus on Outputs, and Not Processes
For most companies, this is not typical remote working, but rather a crisis work-from-home situation that they are forced to deal with. Role definitions may begin to fall apart, leaving many employees unsure of where exactly their focus should be.
Determine what employees need to accomplish and emphasise objectives over processes.
Keep in mind that remote work in such a tense, uncertain landscape can leave both workers and management feeling stressed and unmotivated. Almost everyone is juggling work with a wide variety of family commitments in each of their homes.
That’s why you need to allow employees to accomplish their work in any way that they find the easiest and most productive.
You may also have to be more flexible in your scheduling so you can find more mutually agreeable times for meetings and such. Do your best to lean on virtual tools whenever possible to give your team even more space to complete assignments their own way.
3. Provide Easy Ways to Collaborate Online
This is a no-brainer if you want your team to be able to communicate effectively. You can use a social intranet document management system to allow your employees to easily upload and share files and documents. The team from Drip Digital use the tool Monday.com, among others.
Everyone on the team will be able to access all documents any time and from anywhere.
However, keep in mind that some remote employees may find it hard to collaborate effectively without face time at the office.
They are accustomed to discussing ideas and brainstorming with others, and making the transition to a social intranet can prove difficult for them. They also need the tools to access company data as part of organisational decision making and analysis.
Luckily, this type of tool also makes it easy for you to see which of your employees are contributing and engaged, as well as which ones might be lying on the couch watching Netflix instead of working.
4. Consolidate Workflows
If your business uses different applications for different tasks, such as accounting, email, blogs, document sharing, and time tracking, it’s a lot of software to purchase and install on your employees’ individual machines.
And, to make things worse, IT won’t be available if a problem arises. Also, it’s annoying and time-consuming to have to switch back and forth between apps while working on a project.
That’s why it’s essential to consolidate your workflows and procedures if you want to maximise remote employee productivity. You can use an app like Communifire to streamline all your tasks, and reduce software costs and IT maintenance – saving you both time and money.
5. Keep Everything Well Organised
Once you have moved your documents and files onto your social intranet, you need to ensure that everything stays well organised.
There should be no clutter, otherwise, a lot of time will be wasted when employees have to sift through countless files trying to find relevant information.
Organise your employees into segments for the different departments, projects, or any other subset that makes sense for your business.
This way, each group’s newsfeed will only contain relevant stuff, making the entire team more productive.
6. Increase Recognition for Employee Contributions
Everyone wants to be recognized for their contributions to the business. This is particularly true when staff are working remotely and are separated from the dynamics of team interactions and motivational leadership.
When you recognise employee contributions, you motivate the recipients and it serves as a signal to other employees of the type of behavior they should work to emulate.
Recognition doesn’t have to be monetary, it can be anything from development opportunities to public acknowledgment and tokens of appreciation.
You can come up with other creative ways to bestow low-cost perks on your hard-working employees.
Another great tactic to improve employee productivity is to gamify goal achievement.
Create a little friendly competition around the goals you’ve set so you can recognize achievement, reward performance, and acknowledge your employees’ great work.
This adds a strong motivating factor that is quite irresistible for a lot of people.
You can use tangible benefits like gifts, extra days off, and bonuses, or simply use peer recognition – any of these will work well to keep your employees engaged in striving towards maximum productivity.
7. Make Sure Remote Work is a Good Fit for the Employees
There are certain jobs and tasks that are well suited for remote work. Others are not.
For instance, copywriting, editing, graphic design, call-center, accounting functions, and sales are all perfect for remote work since they only require a computer, telephone, and Internet access, and arranging these things is easy enough.
However, other positions are not such a great fit.
This includes product development jobs and those that call for brainstorming and collaborating with team members, as well as jobs that require access to any specialized material or equipment. So take the time to determine if the jobs are a good fit for remote work.
Although remote work can be a lot more challenging than working at the office, you can use these tips to provide your employees with a professional environment and the tools they need to increase productivity while working in their personal space.