One of the casualties of working remotely is the visibility of productivity. Major segments of the workforce are now operating from home. The effortless, natural state of connectedness and visibility that comes from frequent, in-person interactions in the office space no longer exists. And, with greater flexibility of the workday, employees may be guilty of time theft—billing for hours when they are not actually working—whether it is conscious or not.
For many employers, it’s hard to know whether employees are less productive, the same, or more productive in our current work climate. Productivity—or worker output per unit of input—matters for a variety of reasons beyond simply getting more work done.
Increased productivity can result in the following benefits:
- Higher team morale. When everyone perceives that each individual is pulling their weight, employees are happier.
- Better quality work. This leads to superior customer service.
- Cost savings. Employees that complete their work more quickly can save the business money.
- Reach targets. Staff who produce greater quality and quantity will help the business achieve its goals.
To understand how productive your team is, and how to increase productivity and avoid time theft, you first need a way for employees to measure their hours of labour and activities. There are applications that can track time or mouse clicks to measure how long it takes to do a task. This way, you can see whether staff are coming in on budget for the time allocated to that task. The metrics on time tracking can also show whether different staff members are meeting expectations when doing similar roles, and if the training of new hires is effective.
In addition to time tracking, it’s important to address a number of factors that contribute to boosting productivity, and recognize factors that may reduce productivity.
Create a culture of productivity based on results
Employees are more productive when they feel that their work is meaningful, mission-aligned and appreciated. Business leaders who build a workforce culture that values completing tasks and goals, and then showing recognition for their employees’ work, will instill a sense of accomplishment.
This ramps up engagement and the motivation to achieve even better results. Ultimately, it’s better to shift from the mindset of focusing on employees filling up a 40-hour week with tasks, to focusing on results-based work within specific time frames and budgets.
Define goals and deadlines
Hand-in-hand with establishing a results-focused culture comes the practical business of defining clear and precise goals and deadlines for projects, and the micro steps and deadlines needed to complete them. Stating goals and deadlines also creates transparency, awareness and respect for all team members’ work, and is a reminder that everyone is working to accomplish a common goal, even if they don’t get to see each other in person every day.
Keep track of progress
It’s easy to lose track of the progress remote teams are making if there are multiple projects and hundreds of granular tasks happening all at once. Fortunately, there are excellent project management software tools that support communication and collaboration on complex projects, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Trello, Monday, Basecamp, and Asana.
Not only do project management tools help to define priorities, but they also provide transparency. When all members of a team have the ability to see the state of tasks completed, it helps prevent cascading effects of dependent tasks if a particular task is delayed. Transparency also highlights team members who are excelling, so they can be recognized, and called upon to help train others.
Set up a system for accountability
Once you have strong measurement systems in place for time tracking and project management, meet frequently with your team to review milestones met or missed to ensure accountability for results.
Strike up conversations around time-suck
For employees who are new to working remotely, or for those who may need a tune-up, hold regular conversations around creating beneficial work-from-home habits. Offer tips and tricks to beat the dreaded time-suck. Ideas for staying on task include:
- Prioritize tasks/projects for the day, week and month.
- Make a daily task plan and stick to it.
- Do the most difficult tasks first, while you are fresh and have the most energy.
- If you get stuck, reach out sooner rather than later for help to move past a blocker.
- Create a work schedule with regular hours.
- Define an “office space” where you can work with no interruptions.
- Track time worked meticulously to determine productivity.
- Turn off social media and email notifications and alerts.
- Install social media blocker software if you’re unable to ration it.
- Calibrate business IM to receive critical messages only.
- Schedule defined work and meal breaks to recharge, and a time to stop work.
- Try a virtual commute to help wind down at the end of the workday.
By making a commitment to these best practices for teams that work remotely, business leaders will be able to devote their time to getting tangible results and increasing their company’s productivity, rather than micromanaging the timesheets and work habits of their employees.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder & Managing Partner of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing IT consulting, growth advisory, and digital transformation services. As a strategic, delivery-focused leader, he works with organizations to change their thinking when it comes to technology, implementing solutions that achieve organizational efficiencies and improve the end user experience.
Known for his ability to see the big picture, Ashiq draws on his expertise to help organizations align their technology with their business goals.
Learn more about SolvedAF at www.solvedaf.com.
If you are curious to learn more, reach out to us for a chat.