Thanks to COVID-19 working from home or remote working may be here to stay. In effect, it may become the new normal. The quick transition that most organizations made during coronavirus lockdowns earlier in the year may have set up most businesses with the capability to manage a remote workforce.
Moreover, one of the biggest hurdles that organizations had when it came to having employees work from home was productivity levels. Yet, research has shown that remote employees can be more productive than workers who are in the office every day of the week. In addition, there are several ways and tools that can help organizations measure productivity in their remote workforce.
What is considered remote work?
When looking at the productivity of your remote workforce, it is important to be clear on who and what falls under the remote work heading. Your remote workplace may include employees who work from home on a full-time basis, contractors, freelancers, gig workers, those who moonlight with your organization, and even those who work from home just one day a week.
Productivity and remote employees
Collective research has found that remote workers can be up to 40 percent more productive. Some of the improved productivity levels are believed to derive from fewer distractions from co-workers as well as reduced commute time, which allows employees more time to devote to projects and tasks.
A poll from the International Workplace Group reported that 85 percent of respondents indicated their workplaces directly increased productivity through flexible work options. Moreover, two-fifths of businesses said they believed productivity could grow to 40 percent or higher. A key finding of the study is that different projects or tasks are better performed in different environments, which demonstrates the support of flexible workplace options.
Organizations with remote workers may also see less turnover than companies without flexible work options. Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work Report for 2019 stated that “Remote workers say they are likely to stay in their current job for the next 5 years 13 percent more than onsite workers.” Their research also found that more than half of remote employees would leave their jobs if their flexible work options were removed. Alternatively, those employees who were no longer allowed to work remotely would expect higher compensation to come back to the office.
One explanation for higher productivity in remote workplaces is employee satisfaction. Flexible work options allow employees to have more control over their work schedules and find a balance between work and home responsibilities. A Gallup poll found that 54 percent of employees would leave their jobs for one that offers them more flexibility. Simply put, more flexibility leads to higher engagement levels of employees. It is a higher engagement that directly impacts productivity. Gallup research uncovered lower absenteeism and higher profitability for those organizations with more engaged employees.
Remote workers also take less vacation time, which is likely to contribute to their higher productivity levels. A 2019 survey by Buffer found that, on average, people who work from home take just 2-3 weeks of vacation while 20 percent opted for a week or less.
Tips for improving the productivity of remote employees
Remote workplaces can employ several different techniques to help improve the productivity of their employees such as:
- Clear deadlines - Clearly communicate to your remote employees the goals and deadlines for their projects. By setting these standards up at the beginning of the work, remote employees are better able to work towards meeting the deadlines.
- Set KPIs for your remote team - Setting and tracking key performance indicators for your remote employees will help you see their productivity better. Remember that you don’t need to track every part of their progress, just the key or essential aspects that directly relate to your bottom line.
- Track progress - Check in regularly with your remote employees to gauge whether they need anything to help them get the project completed on time. You can use video conferencing or online collaboration tools to stay in touch and get updates from your remote workers.
- Employ technology - there are several different collaboration tools available to streamline work processes for remote employees. These include messaging apps, expense report software, online project management platforms, time trackers, scheduling, and other employee productivity monitoring software. You can also invest in a productivity tracker to help measure the work your remote employees do. These software solutions can measure a variety of things include keystrokes, take screenshots, and track the amount of time an employee spends actively working on a project or task.
- Create documentation of your process - By having online documentation for your remote employees, you can avoid a lot of downtime and frustration. By having an easily accessible library of documents for your remote employees they won’t have to wait on managers or others to have their questions answered or to move on to the next steps in a project.
- Remote mentoring - Helping your employees feel connected even if they work from home will improve their engagement and, in turn, their productivity. One of the ways that you can engage them is through a remote workplace mentoring program. There are still a number of benefits that can come out of a mentorship, even if it is done remotely. Thanks to technology, workplace mentorships can still survive and thrive in a remote workplace.
- Establish a policy - A work-from-home policy will guide your remote employees as they do their jobs from a distance. This can include your expectations and requirements including security measures, minimum internet speed, etc.
- Recognize work well done - Remote employees can already feel disconnected in your organization. Do your best to include them and show your appreciation for their hard work by recognizing them and calling them out on a job well done.
Wrapping it up
No matter what industry you’re in, remote working is likely going to be the new normal. Even though your organization’s transition to remote teams may have been a quick response to the worldwide pandemic, companies have been able to perfect their remote management skills over the past few months. This will make it easier to allow employees to continue working from home.
One of the biggest hurdles that organizations felt prevented such a rapid transition to working from home scenarios was productivity. However, research has shown that employees that are offered flexible work options can be just as productive if not more than employees who work out of your main office.
If you are looking for ways to strengthen and empower your remote teams, contact Together about how they can help bring your remote teams together.