As remote work is becoming the “new normal” for many organizations, it’s time to take some necessary steps to analyze and improve productivity in this new default work setting.
Numerous studies have emerged over the last two years on how work from home affects employee productivity — and, for the most part, the numbers speak in favor of the approach.
For example, a survey by Upwork reveals that one-third of hiring managers noticed a productivity increase due to remote work. Moreover, Owl Labs shows a whopping 90% of full-time workers report experiencing increased or the same productivity when working remotely.
However, a more recent study published in the journal Human-Computer Interaction focuses on the negative effects of remote work on employee productivity and general emotions towards work. The study concludes that the organizations’ role in creating a positive remote worker experience lies in understanding the employee mindset on remote work.
So, how do organizations foster a productive and positive remote work landscape?
There is no one straightforward answer, unfortunately.
However, there are 7 powerful strategies that, when applied, can cause a significant and steady increase in remote workforce productivity. This blog breaks them all down. So, let's get started!
1. Streamline communication
Effective communication is the pillar of productive teamwork, efficient brainstorming, and a great team connection. It is especially essential for remote teams that rely on consistent sharing to stay in sync and collaborate more efficiently.
However, it’s important to strike the right balance, as things can get out of control. After all, too much communication across channels can have the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for. And, sharing just for the sake of sharing can even lead to harmful information overload, which has a detrimental impact on decision making and overall productivity.
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple thumbs-up emoji to express an agreement to a proposal — which is far more efficient than an hour-long meeting. In fact, statistics on emoji use in internal communication show that 73% of people agree that emojis facilitate faster idea sharing among employees. In addition, 63% of respondents in a survey believe emojis support more efficient team decision-making — and only 35% regret sending an emoji in the workplace.
To create a productive remote team environment, consider streamlining your communication.
- Reduce the number of communication channels your teams use — Instead of multiple business chat apps, stick with one that allows several chat categories for multiple teams and purposes.
- Restructure your internal communication policy to fit the remote work setting — Define key elements such as frequency, channels, goals, and define when communication should happen. Also, keep everything on record and update all team members on all the guidelines.
2. Optimize company culture for the remote setting
One of the greatest challenges of remote work productivity is maintaining the commitment to the company culture and mission outside the traditional work environment. Therefore, it’s critical to reinforce key cultural aspects and ensure the team adapts to them remotely.
Let’s get a closer look at some of the ways you can redesign your remote company culture to increase employee productivity.
- Establish flexible work hours — To better serve employee work-life balance, which is the key driver of greater productivity.
- Offer substantial mental and physical health incentives — To support employee wellbeing and, in turn, increase their productivity.
- Create processes and actions that promote core company values — To reinspire employee engagement and commitment to common goals.
3. Encourage remote teams to take back control of their time
The remote work setting tends to blur the lines between work and life, especially if family members and pets are around. In addition, remote workers can quickly lose track of time, which hinders their focus, productivity, and general time management.
Organizations can assist their remote teams in eliminating unproductive habits and distractions. To maximize your remote team’s productivity, you can:
- Share resources on great time management techniques — Or organize workshops to offer actionable tips and best practices.
- Teach your remote team members how to maximize their most productive hours — If your organization supports a flexible work schedule, ask your teams to record their peak productivity time of the day and structure their tasks accordingly.
- Clearly communicate priorities — To help your teams plan and deliver the expected output on time.
- Instruct your remote teams to create and record daily, weekly, and monthly plans — To help keep themselves motivated and focused on goals.
4. Automate processes
One of the most significant obstacles to productivity, in general, is failing to optimize different processes continually.
To allocate more time to top priority tasks, organizations need to take a good look at all the potential time-wasters — i.e., repetitive, mundane tasks — and look for ways to automate them.
For instance, instead of wasting precious time manually processing your business finances, consider adopting an expense management software to automate multiple finance operations seamlessly. You can also invest in different software tools to help your revenue operations team improve communication and efficiency.
By reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks, organizations can help their remote teams achieve a more structured schedule, leading to a clear priority plan and thus, ensuring more focused, productive work.
In addition, streamlined workflows allow your team members to work smarter, not harder. As a result, they will unplug more easily after work. This, in turn, creates a better work-life balance. Consequently, when people feel recharged, they are more likely to put in their best work during work hours.
5. Simplify collaboration
Remote collaboration is one of the key priorities for companies looking to keep their productivity in an upstream flow.
But, remote teams may easily fall prey to thinking they need more tools and strategies to keep everyone connected and updated. However, the reality is that the complete opposite is true — remote teams tend to operate best under the less is more principle.
So, instead of wasting time keeping track of information across multiple platforms and conversations, reduce the number of tools and steps needed to achieve effective collaboration across your teams.
"Following this approach to employee communication, has boosted our organization's productivity and collaboration significantly" - says Alfie Hicks, a marketing manager from Trust My Paper.
Simply opt for a single online collaboration platform that supports all essential processes such as communication, progress tracking, deadlines, goal setting, and vacation tracking. Tools that integrate into the communication platforms you’re already using, such as Slack or Teams, can make the transition smoother. These collaboration platforms offer many useful integration tools, such as a leave tracker or email account management tools.
6. Limit the number of video meetings
Sure, your remote team members appreciate seeing each other occasionally via Zoom or any other video conference platform. It helps strengthen their team spirit and connection.
However, too much Zoom time is actually harmful, research finds. Namely, video meetings cause the so-called Zoom fatigue — which has an exhausting effect on the human mind and body. However, things like backgrounds for meetings can make them a bit more fun and engaging.
Specifically, Stanford researchers have found that people spending long hours in video meetings over Zoom or similar platforms are more likely to suffer:
- Severe exhaustion,
- Fatigue, and
- Reduced mobility.
These are only some of the harmful symptoms — all of them harm people’s ability to perform their best cognitively. Thus, consider cutting down on video conference time to eliminate Zoom fatigue. You can cut the regular video meetings and include remote employee engagement activities to develop team cooperation and have alternatives to regular zoom meetings.
Aside from the weekly check-ins, insist on an audio-only version for all meetings — this will lessen the cognitive load of your team members and allow a more positive and productive remote work experience. Instead, you can make videos by leveraging a video maker and use an encoder to reduce video file size so it won't slow your team's computers to convey messages clearly without taking up any extra time. They can even rewatch the videos whenever they need to revisit the message delivered through them.
7. Gamify the process
All work and no play lead even the most engaged teams to lose motivation.
This is especially true for remote teams because they generally have fewer in-person gatherings and informal chats with their favorite coworkers.
Consider introducing some fun into your remote workplace to boost productivity and engagement with your remote team members. For example, you can:
- Organize exciting competitions across teams or within a single team to spark enthusiasm and a bit of healthy competitiveness. Such competitions create a healthy work environment and improves employee engagement within the workplace.
- Establish an accountability buddy system and have team members choose their favorite coworker as an accountability partner to help keep them on track.
- Leave enough room for informal company activities and events. Encourage informal chit-chat in the company team chat, or create different channels for topic-specific discussions on various interests. It’s also a great practice to organize regular virtual games, happy hours, or charity fundraisers.
By allowing your team to recharge, socialize properly, and take time away from work — research finds — you create a more productive and healthy remote workforce.
Although sometimes challenging, achieving the highest productivity with your remote team is an endeavor worth pursuing.
All it takes is making some slight changes to your culture and management before your remote workforce starts putting in extra engagement.
Be sure to bookmark this article to refer back when optimizing the different aspects of your remote work culture to improve overall employee and financial productivity.