Remote work is here to stay. Some of us are jumping with glee, others are itching for a full-scale office return. The truth is productivity when working from home can be elusive. Luckily, there are concrete things you can do to support productivity for yourself and your employees.
It can be hard to tell if working from home is impacting employee performance and productivity for your employees. How do you know if your people are working and not just netflixing? Without the line-of-sight visibility that comes with the office, you can’t ‘see’ what your virtual teams are doing.
Which is why we’re sharing 7 tips to support productivity when working from home; for you, your team and your employees. Based on research, science and HR expert advice, these tips will help you keep productivity high (even when you can’t see it).
Here they are.
We cover these in more detail further down in this blogpost, but before we do that, let’s address the elephant in the room.
The jury is still out on this one. According to CNBC, working from home may or may not impact productivity; it all depends on you, your employees and how you support your teams.
Some pre-COVID research on the productivity of remote employees suggested that working from home did result in poor performance. But only in certain conditions, such as when social interactions decrease.
Because despite the distractions, it turns out there are benefits of working from home. The home office means less co-worker interruptions and less impromptu meetings that interrupt workflow. No commute means the stressful hours sitting in traffic are gone, and there’s no more P.T.S. – public transport stress. These benefits can all contribute to higher productivity and output.
In a more recent survey from Citrix of over ten-thousand workers across Australia, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, more than two-thirds of workers said they are more productive working at home than in an office, with one in three citing the switch has made them less stressed.
Across the board, working from home statistics lean more towards this conclusion: working from home works. Employees can be more productive and happier—but only when you as a business support productive working and performance.
Many successful remote-managers establish some form of daily call – either one-to-one, or in their team. It’s important these are regular and predictable (eg. every morning at 9 am). A daily manager check-in gives employees a forum to surface any current productivity roadblocks. Plus increased remote-meetings creates more opportunities for social interaction.
There’s a few ways to do this, but the easiest is a weekly capacity check-in with the team. Whether this is at the start of each week, or on Fridays for the following week, doing this provides team-wide visibility over workloads.
For added effectiveness, display this capacity somewhere publicly like in a team spreadsheet or board. This way managers can see who might have too much on their plate, and employees have an easy outlet to share their workload.
We swear by these – we use them every day internally here at intelliHR. And we’re not alone – many revered workplace cultures (think: Canva, Atlassian, etc) heavily feature the morning stand-up.
Here’s how to do them: each morning host a Zoom call and have a ‘stand-up’ where all your team members share their top their tasks for the day, their capacity and roadblocks. This also gives other team members the opportunity to ask questions and follow-up on things. In our team, we use a digital whiteboard like this:
Your morning stand-up can also double up as your daily manager check-in and capacity check. Win, win, win.
Did you know just looking at plants boosts attention, increases serotonin and can improve wellbeing? You do now. In fact research from the University of Melbourne found just focusing on a rooftop garden for a mere 40 seconds skyrocketed concentration, attention and performance for students.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your employees is to swap some screen time for green time. Take 10 -15 minutes out in the garden, park or nature nearby. For those without access (eg. an apartment complex), even just looking at some indoor plants has the same effect.
Get some green time for more productive screen time.
Creating a team-accessible to-do list that captures everyone’s tasks and projects makes productivity visible for everyone. Managers can see who is working on what and when, without bugging their team every five minutes for updates.
There are heaps of different tools you can use to publicly record these to-do’s and tasks. In our team, we use the project management tool Asana to track our projects and tasks. You can achieve the same with Google Sheets or any other ledger.
Sometimes your computer screen itself can be the biggest distraction of all. Constant messaging notifications. Multiple documents reminding you of other tasks. An ‘urgent’ email — it’s so easy to get sidetracked. Worse so if you happen to get that email and then try to ‘clean-up’ your inbox.
One really simple tip you can use for yourself and encourage your employees to adopt is full-screen mode. In fact I’m using it right now, writing this article. Whichever program you are using — word, your internet browser, Excel – open it in full screen mode, and then hide your task bar. Doing this allows you to focus on the task at hand without the usual distractions of your screen.
You can use ongoing feedback to surface productivity blockers in your team – especially if you automate the process, and deliver the feedback right to managers’ inboxes.
On a regular basis, asking employees if they have any issues or problems that are preventing them from getting their work done can allow both HR and managers to unblock productivity. Maybe it’s a technical issue with software, or a communication breakdown between two teams.
Without a regular feedback culture these issues can go unresolved, leaving team members frustrated and unproductive.
Even though productivity when working from home might be hard for some, there are strategies you can use to help your team stay productive. With remote work likely here to stay, you may want to deploy some (or all) to keep output (and team morale) high.
Our 7 tips are:
If you need help implementing manager check-ins, feedback, or you just want your own HR expert to share insights like these, reach out. intelliHR is not just an HR platform – we also believe in giving you the best-practices to get recognised for your HR at your workplace.
And this month, we have a free offer to help you support Wellbeing at work. You can see more here.