In recent years, remote work has become increasingly popular among businesses of all sizes. The availability of remote capabilities, technological advancements, and societal changes have led to a significant shift in the traditional work model. In fact, it is predicted that the percentage of the U.S workforce working remotely will increase from 24 percent in 2020 to 30 percent in 2021 (Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2020).
Remote work has its benefits, such as more flexibility and autonomy for employees, lower costs for employers, and a healthier balance between work and personal life. However, remote work also poses several challenges, such as the potential for distractions at home, difficulty with communication and collaboration, and a lack of accountability.
One of the most significant concerns for employers is whether remote work negatively impacts productivity. In this article, we will explore the relationship between remote work and productivity, and provide tips for managing a remote workforce to maximize its potential.
Remote Work and Productivity
The debate over remote work and productivity has been ongoing for years. Some studies suggest that remote workers are more productive, while others argue that in-person collaboration is a significant factor for productivity. So, what does the research say?
A 2019 survey conducted by Remote.co revealed that 65 percent of remote workers feel more productive at home than in the office. Additionally, a study by ConnectSolutions found that remote workers tend to work an additional 1.4 more days per month than their in-office counterparts.
However, it is essential to note that remote work does not automatically equate to increased productivity. Factors such as a lack of structure, difficulty with communication and collaboration, and poor work-life balance can all impact productivity negatively.
Remote work can also lead to burnout if not managed properly. When employees are working remotely, it can be difficult for them to switch off from work, leading to longer working hours and a lack of work-life balance. This can lead to increased stress, decreased motivation, and a decrease in overall productivity.
Communication is King
One of the most significant hurdles of remote work is managing communication effectively. In a traditional office environment, communication is relatively straightforward- employees can walk over to their coworker’s desk and have a face-to-face conversation. However, in a remote work scenario, it is not always as simple.
To combat any issues related to communication, it is imperative that employers establish clear communication protocols. This includes choosing the right tools for communication, creating clear lines of communication, and scheduling regular check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Employers should encourage their employees to be proactive in their communication. This means being open and honest about any issues or concerns they may have, as well as keeping their coworkers informed of their progress.
Additionally, in a remote setting, misunderstanding can happen easily, and clearing things up via emails or chat may take more time or not always be effective. As such, managers should also have set expectations on the length of response time and guidelines for emergencies or urgent queries.
Managing By Objectives
Another key factor of maximizing productivity in a remote work scenario is implementing a results-oriented management style. This means focusing on the objectives of each task rather than the process.
When employees are working remotely, it can be challenging to manage them based on their hours worked. Instead, employers should set clear expectations for what they expect to accomplish and establish a timeline for completion.
By implementing a management style that is focused on results, employers can give their employees more autonomy and trust, ultimately increasing their motivation and productivity.
Remote work would not be possible without the technological advancements that have been made in recent years. Although technology can pose its challenges, it has also provided numerous opportunities for remote work to be more productive.
Employers should encourage their employees to embrace technology and use these tools to their advantage. This can include communication tools such as Slack or Zoom, project management platforms such as Trello or Asana, and time-tracking tools such as Harvest.
However, it is essential not to rely too heavily on technology. Employers should ensure that they strike a balance between technology and human interaction to establish a healthy work culture.
Maintain a Healthy Work Culture
One of the most significant barriers to productivity in a remote work scenario is a lack of connection and camaraderie. When employees are working remotely, it can be easy for them to feel isolated or disconnected from their team.
To combat this, employers should focus on creating a healthy work culture that fosters a sense of community and belonging. This can include scheduling regular team-building activities, promoting open communication, and encouraging creativity and collaboration.
Employers should also focus on creating a healthy work-life balance for their employees. This means promoting healthy habits such as taking breaks, exercising, and disconnecting from work outside of working hours. By prioritizing the overall well-being of their employees, employers can help to prevent burnout and increase productivity.
Setting Clear Expectations
One key element of remote work is set expectations between all parties. This means clarifying roles, responsibilities, clear communication lines, time frames for deliverables, etc.
By setting clear expectations, everyone knows what to expect, and completing tasks are more straightforward. Employers can use platforms to lay out expectations or workflows, which can be followed by everyone. This is especially important when handling remote teams because the lack of physical presence means that people may have different interpretations of what’s expected of them.
One significant advantage of remote work is that employees can work from anywhere, and this may mean they can work at different times than a traditional 9 to 5 office setting. This means you can have a more diverse team spread across multiple time zones.
Allowing employees to work at their most effective time means they’re more productive, which positively impacts their well-being, resulting in more positive energy during work hours. People can work around multitasking between work and personal obligations – which can improve overall life quality.
This also promotes a sense of trust between employers and employees, which is important for remote settings. Employees can choose their hours, clarify these hours, and still hold themselves accountable for task completion.
Employee validation is critical and can be overlooked in remote work settings due to physical distance. This doesn’t have to be the case. Managers can provide feedback and recognition via emails, periodic meetings, or on a group call expressing gratitude towards the entire team, as well as recognizing specific achievements.
Remote work allows for more flexibility around work and personal lives. However, managers should ensure that employees maintain a work-life balance – urging them to take breaks throughout the workday increases productivity.
Virtual wellness programs, such as exercise and mindfulness or health campaigns remind employees to prioritize their well-being. Being able to access this ensures that employees feel supported and heard by their employers, resulting in fewer sick days and a more motivated team.
Remote work can sometimes feel isolating, it is important to manage the expectations of the team and leaders to create a positive environment. Encouraging positivity and open communication, creating a safe space for feedback, and fostering a sense of community are crucial.
Misunderstandings can happen due to the distance and lack of face to face communication. This is why creating an environment of understanding, trust, and positivity is vital to creating a successful remote work dynamic.
Tools & Equipment
Remote work requires reliable internet connection, a quiet space to work, a comfortable chair, and a computer that can handle work needs. The lacking of resources can become a significant barrier to productivity.
Equip your team with tools, software and hardware they need to function well. This may come in the form of virtual whiteboards, upgraded internet speed, video editing software, etc. Importantly, make sure this is done efficiently and timely so that work can go on without any pause.
Remote work makes it easy for employees to divert their attention. They may check social media or balance family responsibilities while “working from home.” Being able to restrict distractions is a skill that should be developed by remote employees.
Employers can encourage their employees by instilling discipline, especially in mental preparation. This discipline involves preparation in creating an optimal workspace as well as implementing strategies that help focus better. These strategies can be creating to-do lists, breaking down large tasks into smaller, actionable items, incorporating the pomodoro technique, etc.
In conclusion, the relationship between remote work and productivity is complex. Although remote work can provide numerous benefits such as increased flexibility and autonomy, it can also pose challenges such as difficulty with communication and isolation.
To maximize productivity in a remote work scenario, employers should focus on creating clear communication protocols, implementing a results-oriented management style, embracing technology, maintaining a healthy work culture, setting clear expectations, being flexible with scheduling, employee recognition, promoting self-care, managing positivity, and providing the necessary tools and equipment.
Ultimately, the success of remote work depends on how well it is managed by employers. By prioritizing the productivity and well-being of their workforce, employers can ensure that remote work is a viable and productive option.