6 Strategies for Increasing the Productivity of Your Remote Workforce
⏱ Reading Time: 9 minutes
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of workers to adopt a culture of working from home. According to Statista, in 2021, the number of people telecommuting five or more days per week in the U.S. increased from 17 to 44 percent. The remote workforce is greater than ever!
While working from home comes with plenty of benefits, it also presents employers with its own unique set of problems. Leaving these problems unaddressed can lead to a decrease in the productive output of your remote employees.
The following article will provide you with strategies for increasing your remote workforce’s productivity.
1. Prioritize Employee Well-Being
Employee wellness refers to employees’ mental, physical, and financial well-being. By losing the office environment, employees may experience isolation, depression, and struggle to balance life and work. When work and private life happen all in one space the line between two can easily get lost. The remote workforce should be just that, force!
Research shows that 80% of workers would quit their current jobs for a job that emphasized employee well-being. Healthy employees not only feel happy, but they also stay motivated and more engaged. This eventually results in fewer sick days and prevents loss of productivity in the long run. Your employees’ well-being can be supported in a number of different ways.
Picture 1. Finding balance becomes difficult when work and private aren’t strictly separated
How does a remote workforce impact well-being?
Remote working often affects effect employees’ well-being in two major ways:
- Isolation and loneliness: When separated from the typical working/office environment, employees can feel desolate. Especially extroverts suffer from these tendencies because they thrive on social interaction. The feeling of loneliness and isolation can increase stress and cause disengagement. This consequently affects productivity.
- Burnout: Remotely working employees can often work for longer hours and feel like they must go an extra mile because they are not in the office. This ultimately results in a lack of work-life balance, leading to high stress and eventual burnout.
Ways to Support the Well-Being of Remote Workers
Establish boundaries between personal and work time. When you lack the physical break from leaving the office and commuting home, separating work from the personal time might be challenging. To demonstrate that they are just as diligent at home, remote workers might want to be responsive at all times. Employees should be encouraged to set up boundaries between work and personal affairs.
Provided employee assistance program: A staggering 65% of American workers state that they experience work-related stress. Companies can provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to their remote workers. This is an excellent and confidential service that helps employees with any workplace or personal issues. It may be beneficial to offer such services to the remote workforce who doesn’t have any other options for consolation.
2. Set SMART Goals
Setting SMART goals is one way to keep your team motivated and productive in the long run. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. Each of the elements in the framework works together to create a clear, carefully planned, and trackable goal.
As a result of using SMART goals, you can define the exact steps your team needs to take, the resources necessary to reach the objective, and the criteria for measuring whether the goal has been achieved. Smart goals eliminate the guesswork from completing the set objective and allow your team to focus 100% on execution.
Picture 2. Productivity increases when everybody knows what you expect from them
How to Improve Remote Workforce Productivity With Smart Goals
Businesses that use the framework of SMART goals are better positioned for success by making objectives specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. SMART goals enhance productivity by giving you a sense of direction and helping you organize and reach your intended target.
For example, according to Wanderlust Worker, as little as 8% of people attained their New Year’s goals. When people fail to meet their goals, it is usually because they are too vague, unquantifiable, unrealistic, and do not have a specific deadline.
3. Supply Your Workers With All the Necessary Tools
When remote workforce lacks the essential tools to do their job effectively, do not be surprised to see their productivity dive downwards. As the employer, it’s your responsibility to supply all the appropriate tools for your team. Some essential tools you will need for your remote team include:
Communication Tools (messaging, video conferencing)
In remote working, efficient communication is vital. Certain types of information require specific communication channels to avoid deviation and unnecessary delays. Standard communication tools include:
- Chat (Skype, Slack, Discord)
- Email Clients (Outlook, Gmail)
- Video and Screen recording (ScreenFlow, Camtasia, Loom)
- Video conferencing (GoToMeeting, Google Meet/Hangouts, Zoom, Skype)
Sharing confidential files via email comes with particular security challenges. A cloud-based file-sharing solution is the best for this. Some of the standard file-sharing tools include:
- Google drive
Time and attendance tracking
Monitoring remote employees can be challenging. There are various time and attendance tracking tools that can help you monitor remote employees. Some provide simple desktop solutions that allow employees to clock in and out with a mouse click. Others are more advanced and clock workers in by scanning their face, fingerprint, or iris. Here are some tracking tools you might consider:
- Time Doctor
The purpose of a project management tool is to keep track of the workflows, track productivity, exchange information, and identify when certain parts of a project lag behind. The most commonly used project management tools are:
- MS project
Picture 3. Ease into everybody responsibility with project management tools
4. Reduce Workflow Inefficiencies
Most people tend to measure productivity in terms of how many tasks were done. However, it is equally important to consider the consistency and accuracy of repetitive tasks. This is where workflows come into the equation.
Workflows are necessary to streamline repetitive tasks and reduce the room for errors. Workflow inefficiencies can result in a loss of resources that could’ve been avoided. Identifying workflow bottlenecks can be challenging, but fixing them will result in higher quality work getting done more consistently.
How to identify your biggest bottlenecks
To identify any slowdowns in your workflows, there two areas to look at:
- Performers: These are employees, third-party vendors, or any other people involved in the workflow in some capacity.
- Systems: These are software, technology, or programs that your remote employees use (uploading files, communication, etc.)
To recognize performer-based bottlenecks, check the time it takes for individual employees to perform delegated tasks. If specific tasks are regularly taking too long to complete, you might have a performance issue.
If your workflow process is delayed due to slow systems, uploading errors, or other technology-related issues, then those are system-based bottlenecks. Other obvious signs of bottlenecks include long waiting times and backlogged work. There are several methods that managers can use to eliminate workplace inefficiencies:
- Implementing Specialist workflow systems and tools
- Improve communication
- Match tasks appropriately to skills
- Get rid of unnecessary steps within a workflow
- Incentivize your employees
5. Keep Video Conferences Short and Meaningful
Video call is the most common way used by remote workforce to communicate with colleagues and hold meetings. However, evidence shows that video conferencing can cause tremendous fatigue. Video call fatigue, also known as Zoom fatigue, is the exhaustion one feels from overusing online video conferencing. Psychological reasons cause video call fatigue. The common causes of Zoom fatigue include:
It is customary to make eye contact when speaking to someone. The same applies when people are on a video call; they will want to look into the person’s eyes. Nevertheless, eye contact differs significantly when communicating via video versus face-to-face.
This brings about the fact that people will look like they are looking elsewhere during a video call despite their attempts to make eye contact. It may be frustrating for people to feel like they are not being listened to due to a lack of eye contact. This may ultimately lead to fatigue.
Similar occurrences include the other person not listening or not paying attention when you speak. You may notice that some people are looking aside or seem to be doing something else while you talk. As a result of people’s apparent inattentiveness, you may feel like you have to exert more effort to get your point across, which naturally results in fatigue.
Picture 4. Don’t OVERuse video calls
Prevention and management of video call fatigue
Some common ways to minimize video call fatigue include:
- Taking breaks during long video calls
- Having smaller conference calls
- Making participants mute their microphones when not talking
- Limiting video calls to those that are indispensable.
You must learn the value of having meaningful team meetings. Here are some of the ways to make your video meetings more productive:
- Familiarize yourself with video chat tools: Learn all the ins and outs of the video conferencing tool of your choice.
- Don’t be late: make it a habit to log into the meeting at least five minutes before.
- Do not talk over others: Mute your mic if there is any background noise and only unmute when it is your turn to talk.
- Invite the right people: Only include people who need to be in the video call. It is pointless to invite attendees who do not need to be there since this will waste everyone’s time.
- Set the agenda before the meeting: This will help you make the most of the video teleconference time.
- Give everyone a role: This makes the video meeting more collaborative, interactive, and inclusive.
6. Do Not Micromanage
Micromanagement is a management style where leaders or/and managers closely control and manage subordinates’ work. Micromanagers tend to be too focused on the finer details and are unable to delegate.
Micromanagement is a problem because it displays a lack of trust in subordinates and co-workers.
There are several reasons why employers tend to micromanage. Some of the reasons include:
- Assuring that tasks are done the way management wants
- Fear of losing control
- Inexperience in management
- Insecurities and poor self-image
- Unskilled employees in the team
- Extreme need for control and domination
Generally, micromanagement has a negative connotation. It discourages personal development and eliminates the feeling of autonomy and individual development. Rather than boosting productivity, micromanagement can slow down workers’ pace overall. In simple terms, micromanagement kills creativity and productivity in the long run.
How to avoid micromanaging remote workforce
When one is micromanaged, it hard to stay engaged, motivated, and productive. All the involved parties must have an actionable plan on how to deal with the micromanagement of employees. You can avoid micromanagement by:
- Master delegation: Delegation in itself is a valuable skill that you can master. And just like any other skill, mastery takes time. Seek progress, not perfection.
- Setting clear expectations: The clearer you set the project objectives, the better your employees will perform without oversight.
- Hire carefully: Hire A-players who perfectly fit the role requirements. You are less likely to micromanage someone who possesses the right skills for the job.
Ask employees about their preferred management style: This provides you with valuable insights into your staff’s preferences.
Managing a remote workforce comes with its unique challenges. Today’s pandemic environment only compounds the problem since going remote is more of a requirement than a choice. However, by using the strategies described in this article, you will be able to maximize the output of your remote workforce without compromising their wellbeing.
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