Nearly every job that can possibly be performed remotely was forced there during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Caught off guard, many employers and employees were unprepared for the resulting challenges. In some instances, productivity fell victim to this impromptu reality.
In the beginning, there was an expectation that the emergency would pass, and everything would return to business as usual. But periodic pandemic resurgence, employee health concerns, and reshuffled priorities have kept that return at bay. The business will never be the same old “usual” again.
Remote work is undoubtedly here to stay. At this point, companies should be embracing the concept, and employees should be back up to speed. But if you’re still seeing a lull, here are four ways to increase productivity in your remote workforce.
1. Champion Asynchronous Collaboration
When team members aren’t all located in the same time zone, working in real-time may be difficult to impossible. That means they need to be able to work on their own time to complete a project with their teammates. They need to collaborate asynchronously.
You need to champion asynchronous collaboration by providing critical tools, like project management software. It can’t be just any software, though. It must be a solution that’s flexible enough to bend to every person’s work style and time zone.
Because remote workers are out of sight, you may be tempted to micromanage how they’re doing their jobs. Doing so makes your job infinitely more stressful and certainly raises resentment among your team members. Project management software lets you manage from a respectable distance while keeping you thoroughly in the know.
Just because teams are working from multiple locations doesn’t mean they aren’t accountable. “Asynchronicity” is part and parcel of remote work, so you need to bring order to the potential for chaos. It’s the best way to boost team productivity while embracing individuality.
2. Help Employees Put Their House in Order
The unforeseen lockdown was stressful for many workers. Small homes, kids, pets, and a lack of privacy were obstacles to productivity. It made some employees long for even a tiny cubicle to work in again.
If you want to boost the productivity of employees working from home, invest in their office space. Make sure they have the equipment they need to work remotely, like an ergonomic office chair or a sit-stand desk. If possible, give them a door to shut at the end of the workday, even if it’s a folding screen.
Above all, ensure your remote workers have sufficient technology to do their jobs. High-speed internet, software, and hardware are mandatory. Otherwise, any drops in productivity and employee satisfaction and retention are on you.
You didn’t expect your team to work in the office without the proper equipment and tech. Don’t expect them to do so from home, even if you have to invest a little more money. The right tools remove the most obvious barriers to remote productivity.
3. Focus on Performance
Whether employees are remote or not, working from home or in an office in another country, it’s up to you to assess productivity. Instead of just checking how many hours employees are working during a certain period, look at the output. It’s what they produced during that time period that truly matters.
Employees who simply spend more time clocked in aren’t necessarily those who are getting more done. Conversely, those who are producing more output may be doing so in under 40 hours a week.
Compensation based on hours worked is indeed a time-honored employment tradition. However, there are excellent arguments for compensation based on achievement instead. Rewarding employees for output rather than time input is the far more logical path to productivity.
You recognize that some employees will be able to accomplish more than others in the same amount of time. If you’re still rewarding hours spent, it may be time to shift your focus. Reward top performers and provide guidance to those who need to achieve more in less time.
4. Re-Create the Water Cooler
It makes sense that many WFH employees are more productive than those who work in the office. There’s a lack of co-worker distractions like talking about weekend plans or spreading office gossip. But there’s still a crucial need for co-workers to gather around the proverbial water cooler, no matter where they are at the time. People want to work with people they also like to hang out with socially. Personal interactions build trust, and trust boosts productivity.
You need to give remote employees permission to gather socially and provide the means to do it. It makes sense that you use your project management software to stick to business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a virtual non-workspace where employees can relax and get personal.
Remember, too, that checking in with individual team members is more important than ever when they’re remote. If you and your colleagues are keeping in touch with them, they will feel connected and valued. Use the technology that allows them to work remotely to also let them socialize remotely.
Out of sight is never out of mind if you manage remote employees. That’s because no matter where they’re working from, productivity is the key to your company’s success.
Boosting productivity from a distance presents some unique challenges. Embrace this faraway perspective and try some creative ways to compensate for a new way of working. By giving individual employees what they need to perform in their own space and time, everyone will reap the rewards.