Maximize your focus and stay productive in a digital world
Maintaining productivity levels among remote employees is an ongoing challenge. The following tips can help keep individuals and companies afloat in the new order of the world of work.
How was the running of the bulls for your teams? Do they feel stressed and isolated? Or has working from home turned out to be a productive revelation, without the need for daily commutes and with comfortable clothes? One thing seems certain: this global experiment in flexible working has changed our professional routines, probably forever
. In the PwC US Remote Work Survey, conducted in June, 39 percent of US executives said the majority of employees in their office were working remotely at least one day a week before the pandemic. However, roughly everyone who could work after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic decided to work from home.
The research found that three-quarters of executives considered the forced experiment a success, contrary to the expectations of many. Data collected at the start of the lockdown and during the most recent opening phase of the pandemic shows that productivity, despite an initial drop, soon improved during the lockdown and returned to normal. In March, 63 percent of business leaders were concerned that remote work could result in lost productivity, but by June, this figure had fallen to just 26 percent.
The final results show constant or increased productivity. That’s the solid line on the chart showing a rebound, which at first glance seems like good news, but those results hide a potential problem that shows up when you dig deeper into the data.
There is more variation around average performance in the weeks after the lockdown than before – the blue bands start to widen as restrictions are applied. This suggests that productivity has been supported by a cohort of outperformers (about a third of the total sample), who have disguised a drop in productivity among the rest.
These survivors have worked harder and longer than before in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, perhaps because they have benefited from fewer distractions or fed on the adrenaline rush of the crisis. Other employees indicated the difficulties were more difficult for them. Remote work is not suitable for everyone for practical reasons, emotional reasons, or a combination of both.
This creates stress and fatigue, which pose risks to engagement, performance, and mental health. “I feel estranged” is a familiar lament. The challenge for leaders is finding ways to address performance because they can’t trust the outperformers to keep making up the shortfall for much longer.
Understanding what’s going on helps leaders develop strategies that fit the needs of their business and their people.
The key question about the productivity data is whether it is sustainable as people start to return to work in the coming months, People will soon return to work as a result of companies switching over to remote work by 2022 as the effects of the current coronavirus pandemic are mostly faded. We don’t think it is unless leaders take direct action to address performance differences among employees.
To do this, they will need to invest in the underlying systems and processes that will help teams work productively and engaged. Here are five key points that companies and leaders should keep in mind when developing ways to make remote work a success and maintain performance and engagement.
Define the right set of KPIs
Effective remote worker performance management requires holistic metrics. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are not simply a matter of sales calls made or reports filed. Business KPIs that track both productivity (in terms of output) and effectiveness drive focus and accountability within the team, but wellness and collaboration KPIs should also be added. They can help predict productivity or provide early warning when people are feeling tense.
These wellness and collaboration metrics could include measures like the number of touchpoints between teams, people’s morale levels, or how well they’re coping with their workload. Well-being and happiness, of course, mean different things to different people, so the data is not a definitive measure, but it can open up a discussion for people to explain and explore (if they wish) the reasons why they don’t. they are.
Create a connected team
Regular meetings help keep a team connected and a sense of community, even when people are working remotely. In fact, our data suggest that remote workers are actively looking for opportunities to connect. We saw an increase in collaborative activity of more than 20 percent among Perform Plus users in the weeks after the lockdown.
Frequent touch points create opportunities to discuss performance, wellness, priorities, and any issues at hand, as well as celebrate successes. In the Perform Plus tool, daily 15-minute “huddles” allow participants to review the key metrics that matter most.
Enterprise software provider Sage’s UK workforce, which includes around 1,000 customer-facing employees, switched to remote work in March. They had also been using Perform Plus for over a year, and after the change, the tool helped teams retain their “community way of working” during the lockdown. “They may have been working from home, but there was still a close connection within the team,” said Jon Cummins, vice president of customer success and services at Sage, which is based in Newcastle, England.
The meetings that formed the core of the platform were held virtually. “This meant that ideas could still be shared and people could ask their colleagues how they were dealing with specific situations. It meant that a sense of isolation did not develop and permeate the business,” Cummins said. The results were encouraging. According to Cummins, “Productivity increased for customer service teams during that time, according to the customer satisfaction measures we used, and we saw the mood of the vast majority of our people improve or stay at a lower level. solid level.
Develop the role of leaders
Leading a remote team requires a strong emphasis on specific leadership skills, such as empathy, the ability to foster a sense of community, and employing digital skills that maximize the use of technology, and this must be recognized in training and development. of leadership. Team leaders may need specific training to successfully manage underperformers. For example, it is much more difficult to carry on a difficult conversation remotely.
“The challenge for leaders is finding ways to address performance, because they can’t trust the outperformers to keep making up the shortfall for much longer.”
Some leadership skills in a remote setting are less tangible but no less important. Remote workers need to feel empowered to do their best work, for example. Leaders will need to create an environment where teams take ownership of their work and their preferred work style when away from the office.
Organizations will need to adapt their leadership development strategy to create leaders who can bring out the best in their remote teams. This development strategy must also recognize the different demands placed on leaders in this new environment; adding recovery time to programs and monitoring the well-being of high performers will be essential in the coming months.
Build a positive acknowledgment practice
Regular recognition not only helps maintain a positive work culture but is also an important driver of productivity. Recognition becomes even more important in a remote environment where managers don’t have access to the physical and verbal cues they might pick up in the office, and there are now fewer opportunities to chat informally to provide recognition on the spot.
Leaders must identify new opportunities to express appreciation, tailored to people in a meaningful and genuine way. Technology can help here through techniques like gamification: performance leaderboards or prize competitions can encourage desired behaviors.
Use structure to deflect distractions
Even before the lockdown, research indicated that up to 30 percent of a team’s time was spent on non-value-adding activities. There is a risk that this percentage will increase in a new hybrid work environment as a result of distractions at home, childcare, and the tendency for some to feel burned out after a long day of virtual conferencing. Building a clear structure into team schedules, such as brief daily updates, focused time for specific activities, and breaks, helps support a dispersed team approach.
Technology has given us the opportunity to collect data on wellness and collaboration and make a connection between those data points and productivity. But it can do much more. The data indicates that not everyone found the lockdown to be a productive or happy period. That’s actionable information that managers can use to help people adapt.
The hybrid work model is likely to be a new reality and people will have to adapt as new work habits emerge. The winners in this new virtual world will be those organizations that successfully overcome the specific challenges of managing remote teams. The variation in productivity levels during the quarantine suggests that current performance levels are unsustainable because they depend on outperformers who are precisely above average, but the five points described will help organizations and their leaders maintain and improve productivity levels and involvement of all as we move into this new world of work.
FAQs | Sustain productivity in a virtual environment
How do you manage virtual work productivity?
There are a few things that can help manage virtual work productivity. First, make sure you have a good internet connection and enough bandwidth. Also, try to set specific times for working and stick to them as closely as possible. It’s also helpful to have a designated workspace where you can focus without distractions. Finally, make sure to communicate with your team regularly and keep everyone updated on your progress.
How can we ensure productivity in virtual teams?
There are a few key things that can be done to ensure productivity in virtual teams. First, it is important to set clear expectations for what each team member is responsible for. This can be done through task management software or by creating a document that outlines everyone’s responsibilities. Second, it is important to establish regular communication among team members. This can be done through video conferencing, chat software, or email.
How do you work best in a virtual environment?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to work in a virtual environment may vary depending on the individual and their specific needs and preferences. However, some tips on how to work best in a virtual environment include staying organized, communicating effectively, and setting boundaries.
How can remote work productivity be improved?
There are a few things that remote workers can do to improve their productivity. First, they should create a routine and stick to it. This will help them get into a groove and be more productive. They should also set boundaries for themselves and stick to them. This means that they should not work all day and all night, and should take breaks periodically. Finally, they should find a way to stay organized and focused.
How do you ensure the productivity of employees working from home?
There are a few things that managers can do to ensure the productivity of employees working from home. One is to set clear expectations for what work needs to be done, and when it is due. Another is to hold regular check-ins with employees to make sure they are on track. And finally, it’s important to provide adequate tools and resources for employees who are working remotely.
How do you engage employees remotely?
There are a few different ways to engage employees remotely. One way is to hold virtual meetings. This can be done through video conferencing software like Skype or Zoom. You can also use online tools like Slack or Google Hangouts to communicate with employees. Another way to engage employees remotely is to send out surveys or questionnaires. This can help you get feedback from employees about their work or their experience with the company.
How do you manage virtual employees?
There are a few different ways to manage virtual employees. One way is to use a project management tool like Asana or Trello to keep track of what they are working on and when they are due for their next task. You can also use video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype to hold regular meetings with them, and you can use tools like Google Docs or Dropbox to share files and keep track of changes.
How do you support remote employees?
There are a few things that managers can do to support remote employees:
1. Make sure that they have all the necessary tools and equipment to do their job from home. This includes a good internet connection, a phone line, a headset, and a quiet place to work.
2. Check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing. Make sure that they’re staying on track and meeting deadlines.
What are the three pros and three cons of virtual teams?
Increased flexibility and mobility for team members.
Increased ability to tap into a larger talent pool.
Increased ability to work from home or other remote locations.
Increased potential for communication breakdowns.
Increased potential for team members to feel isolated or disconnected from the team.
Increased need for effective tools and protocols for communication and collaboration.
- Strategy Business: Sustaining Productivity in a Virtual World
- HBR: A Guide to Managing Your Newly Remote Workers
- PWC: PwC’s US Remote Work Survey
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